Another Perfect 10—Plus Two
With an emphasis on local, Twelves Grill delivers great food—just what one would expect with this chef’s pedigree.
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Twelves Grill & Café
10 Exchange St., West Grove, Pa.
Grilled flat iron steak
When Tim and Kristin Smith decided to open a restaurant, they took their idea to the bank. Their restaurant, Twelves Grill & Café, a BYO in West Grove, is housed in a former Sovereign branch.
Built in 1883, the three-story stone structure has also been home to the West Grove Independent, the post office, the Temperance Lodge, the West Grove Library and the offices of the West Grove Borough.
The Smiths gutted the landmark. But there is little doubt as to its former use. The 17-foot-thick vault, with its ornate brass door, still stands front and center. It’s used as a coat room, and its safety deposit boxes make nifty receptacles for the wine bottles of frequent customers.
“We talked about taking it out, but there’s 32 inches of concrete and 7 inches of steel,” Tim Smith says. “It was not an option.”
The giant safe squeezes the dining room into a slender space along a wall punctuated by large windows with deep sills. A smaller room is tucked away on the opposite side of the building. Yet despite the divided spaces, diners are never overlooked. Our server was attentive, funny, warm and informative—though she hedged at recommending any dish as her favorite. No wonder. The food is that good.
Seasonal, often local ingredients are intriguing, yet they stop short of being trendy. The same is true of the technique. Smith, a graduate of the Art Institute of Philadelphia’s culinary program, previously worked at The Back Burner, the Farmhouse, The Gables and Dilworthtown Inn, all known for solid offerings.
Smith has been a longtime supporter of the localvore and organic movements. Now that his neighbors are Amish—he lives close to Lancaster County, in Cochranville—he’s more devoted to supporting local agriculture. Bacon and some cheeses, for instance, come from Green Meadow Farm in Gap. Smith shops at farmer’s markets and orchards up to five times a week in season.
The restaurant is decorated in shades of copper, gold and bronze—the color of money. But dollars and cents did not inspire G’s Cheese Bread. It is named for Smith’s sister, Gretchen. When Smith lived with her, she would make him a nosh with goat cheese, tomatoes, honey and sourdough bread.
Though Smith plays with the combination, there is always a G’s Cheese Bread on the menu. On our visit, it was a toothsome combination of blue cheese, salty shaved prosciutto and figs drunk with Port wine, all piled on grilled sourdough.
A wedge of lemon lent bright flavor to four panko-crusted oysters, whose textured coats were wonderfully gold and crunchy. We swirled them in the black pepper aïoli, which was made with sour cream, mayonnaise, lemon juice and shallots.
Prince Edward Island mussels were small but nevertheless sweet—spicy, too, thanks to the chunks of homemade andouille sausage. My favorite part, however, were the tender ribbons of pale fennel that bobbed in the white wine broth alongside slivered garlic and shallots.
You would expect the mushrooms that crowned the croustade to be silky and full of earthy-nutty flavor, and the mélange of shiitake, portobello and crimini lived up to expectations. Crumbles of biting blue cheese and pancetta added a full, rounded taste that filled the mouth. We would have loved more mushrooms.
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