Eat Your Way Through the Brandywine Valley’s Mushroom Soup Trail
These 11 restaurants and cafe serve the region’s best mushroom soup.
Napa, Calif., has its famous wine trail. Madison, Wis., has one devoted to artisan cheeses. There’s even a pie trail in Indiana. Yet, somehow, in Kennett Square, Pa.—the self-proclaimed Mushroom Capital of the World— they haven’t yet created a mushroom trail.
So I’m taking it upon myself to give mushrooms the status they deserve. Much like the subject matter, a few of the stops on this trail are practically hidden from view. But I’ve done the digging. All you have to do is hop in the car and go for a ride in the countryside.
Located in quaint downtown Kennett Square, Portabellos is known for its cream-based soup, with a splash of Madeira wine. Chef Brett Hulbert also does a reishi mushroom version as a soup of the day. And don’t miss the exotic crepes, with mushrooms sourced from the local Phillips operation. This decadent starter is one of my favorite mushroom dishes in all of Pennsylvania.
115 W. State St., (610) 925-4984.
Talula’s Table is an acclaimed food market and restaurant. Its thick, rich cream-style mushroom soup is one of the best I’ve tried. Sit at a communal table and order your soup with a multigrain roll on the side. The slightly herbal multi-mushroom blend is almost the consistency of a puree. The mushroom mac and cheese is also a winner.
102 W. State St., (610) 444-8255.
Just a short stroll down State from Portobellos, the popular Philter coffee shop and cafe serves an unexpected treat: one of the best clear-broth mushroom soups you may ever taste. They prepare their own stock, which makes this the leanest soup on the trail. And though it may be low in calories, its flavor and fragrance imply otherwise.
111 W. State St., (610) 444-7687.
The historic Kennett Square Inn is a favorite dinner spot on State. Built in 1835, it’s typical of small-town inns of that period. Many locals consider its mushroom soup among the best in the area. It is a fine example of the cream-based variety—but middle of the pack in light of the stiff competition.
201 State St., (610) 444-5688.
I didn’t know the Hilton Garden Inn on Route 1 had a restaurant, until I tasted its award-winning entry at the Kennett Square Mushroom Festival. This cream-based soup got my vote at the 2015 competition for its intense flavor, not-too-thick base, chunks of shitake and white mushrooms, and hint of herbs. It’s available seven days a week.
815 E. Baltimore Pike, (610) 444-9100.
Just down the road at Two Stones Pub, they combine roasted crimini, shitake and oyster mushrooms with a touch of herbs in a delicious cream-based soup. They also top it off with goat cheese and shitake “bacon,” making it the most unique soup on the trail. It comes with a slice of house-made whole-grain bread that complements the soup nicely. Pair it with a beer from Delaware County’s 2SP Brewing Company for a winning— and affordable—combination.
843 E. Baltimore Pike, (610) 444-3940.
Besides its beautiful grounds, fountains and conservatory near Kennett Square, Longwood Gardens offers a notable cream-based mushroom soup in its 1906 restaurant. It’s the same version in the Café, minus the shallots and chives.
1001 Longwood Road, (610) 388-1000.
East of Kennett Square in Chadds Ford, Pa., the Mushroom Café is a tiny space that offers a soup with some big flavors. Its base is light and creamy, without being over-the-top rich, and it has a well-defined mushroom essence.
880 Baltimore Pike, (484) 885-4556.
Housed in an old dairy barn, the Gables at Chadds Ford offers a cream-free French onion spin on mushroom soup. It’s chock full of shitake, maitake, crimini and oyster mushrooms, and topped with a crouton and cheese. Hearty and delicious.
423 Baltimore Pike, (610) 388-7700.
Tucked away in an old bank building in West Grove, Pa., Twelves Grill & Cafe quietly concocts one of my favorite mushroom soups in the area, its chunks of shitake and crimini swimming in a not-too-thick, not-too creamy broth. This one is topped with succulent lump crab meat and fragrant truffle oil—an extravagant touch, to say the least.
10 Exchange Place, (610) 869-4020.
The Woodlands at Phillips Mushroom Farms may have more mushroom products than any retail shop in the world. The inventory at this circa-1828 home includes spicy wild mushroom pasta, Maitake tea, and exotic fresh mushrooms direct from the farm. You’ll find frozen mushroom soup and dried soup mixes, too—and don’t miss the exhibit out back.
1020 Kaolin Road, (610) 444-2192.