Saturday, July 16, 2011

Review: Appetites on Main (Exton, PA)

Exton is a quiet little suburb, just west of the main line and north of West Chester. Route 100 (Pottstown Pike) is a busy commercial strip that cuts through the heart of Exton, and at the southern end of town there is a shopping plaza designed, apparently, to re-create a "Main Street" feel of an imagined yesterday. It is a rather pleasant place to shop and dine, even if it is kind of "Disney Does a Mall."

Almost two years ago, I visited "The Shops at Main Street" for the first time with FEEP (fellow enthusiast for eating pizza) Jr.  We were tired and hungry and saw no inspiring choices; we chose Appetites on Main (Click here for their website) more for the outdoor seating than for the promise of its menu; it looked like one more indistinctive hash slinger trying to re-create the food and atmosphere of a sports bar.

Against my better judgment, I ordered a cheesesteak. I had been eating at all the best places in Philly, such as Chink's, John's Roast Pork, and Tony Luke's, as well as the very fine local fare at West Chester's The Pepper Mill. Well, much to my astonishment, it was excellent! The roll was authentic, with some crunch and some chewiness. The meat and cheese (I think I got aged provolone) blended smartly with the grilled onions. With a side of freshly-made crunchy hot thick potato chips, it was a terrific if high-calorie meal.

About six months ago, I went back and dined inside. Once again I ordered the cheesesteak, and once again it was excellent. Someone in the kitchen knows the value of good ingredients and quality fresh bread. Bravo!

Over the July 4 week, I returned again with FEEP Jr. This time, I ventured out and selected the roast pork sandwich with broccoli rabe and aged provolone. FEEP Jr. ordered a deli sandwich and substituted a side of deep fried green beans for the standard chips.

FEEP Jr. enjoyed her sandwich and was kind enough to share the beans. Served with a tomato-ey mayo dipping sauce, they were a decadent delight.

The roast pork sandwich, alas, was a failure. The foundation was good -- a nice Philly style roll, lightly toasted. Sadly, that ends the highlights. The broccoli rabe was laid in the sandwich in long stalks. If you aren't going to chop it up, you have to cook it tender. But I could not bite through it, and it just pulled out of the roll on each bite.  I had to remove it and eat it with a fork. Sin number two was that they used conventional deli provolone, not the sharp aged stuff I had on my cheesesteak in a prior visit. Could that have been intentional? Worst of all, though, was the fact that the pork tasted, errrr, old.  It was not spoiled and I did not become ill later, but I guess it had been in the freezer too long. They must not get many orders for the roast pork. This was such a sharp contrast to the roast pork sandwich at John's Roast Pork in South Philly, where there is a simmering pot of incredible pork going all the time and it turns over like mad. On the plus side, the chips on the side were excellent.

I won't let this one failed sangawtich spoil this place for me. They've done such a nice job overall that I can overlook one bad meal.  I will drop them down from 9 stars to 8, and see what my next visit brings.

Appetites on Main on Urbanspoon

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