Photography By Jim Graham

Food & Drink

Eating By The Numbers

Twelves Grill & Café

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It’s easy to guess what Tim and Kristin Smith’s lucky number is. The husband-and-wife team own and operate Twelves Grill & Café (10 Exchange Place, West Grove, Pa., 610.869.4020; www.twelvesgrill.com, BYOB) in the former Sovereign Bank Building. Their first date was on November 12th; later, they chose November 12th for their wedding day. Tim’s birthday is January 12th, and Kristin’s is the 12th of February.

Fortunate, too, are the guests who eat at Twelves. Renovations of the 1883 structure took advantage of the building’s interior architecture—the bank vault now serves as the coatroom—and brought a clean, chic style to the space. What could have felt ponderous and imposing instead feels open and welcoming. Large windows, well-spaced tables, brick walls with a hint of peach, and all-white dishes and teapots in interesting shapes create a contemporary feel.

General Manager Kristin Smith runs the front of the house with a welcoming smile. She is quite familiar with what local diners are looking for, having worked at Buckley’s Tavern and Chadds Ford Inn, and as manager of the dining room and special events at Simon Pearce on the Brandywine.

Executive Chef Tim Smith got his culinary degree from the Art Institute of Philadelphia in 2002 and then cooked at area restaurants including the Dilworthtown Inn and the Farmhouse Restaurant at Loch Nairn Golf Club. Most recently he was executive chef and general manager at the Back Burner Restaurant in Hockessin, Del. Tim has a steady hand in the kitchen, a commitment to local produce, and just the right amount of creativity to keep things interesting without being contrived.

Butternut squash soup with cinnamon croutons and roasted apples was an auspicious beginning for a recent lunch. Chicken salad lettuce wraps featured tender chicken, grapes, mandarin oranges, walnuts, and Granny Smith apples (although “wrap” was a misnomer—it was easier to cut everything up than to try to fold it into the lettuce leaves). A house-roasted turkey sandwich was delicious with fresh tomato and cucumber, spread lightly with lemon mayo on multigrain bread. Next time I’ll take more people with me so we can try the open-face portobello on foccacia, the daily “local egg inspiration,” and perhaps the grilled chicken and apple sausage.

Side dishes didn’t disappoint, either. My dining companion and I thoroughly enjoyed a generous bowl of house-made kettle chips, deliciously crispy without being greasy. As someone who sampled potato chips from Philadelphia to Erie as research for my book Pennsylvania Snacks, I feel uniquely qualified to make such a judgment!

Twelves also offers a kids’ menu. Parents will recognize “Ants on a Log” as celery sticks with peanut butter and raisins (“Fire Ants on a Log” is a variation with cranberries instead of raisins). Cheese sticks and apple slices, veggie sticks, and a small salad round out the thoughtful appetizer selection for the smaller set. Main dishes are standard kid fare—PB&J, chicken fingers, hot dogs, macaroni & cheese, and burgers.

Seafood is front and center on the dinner menu, with entrees of arctic char, rainbow trout, and pan-seared scallops. Meat lovers will have a tough time deciding whether to choose lamb chops with juniper berry and red wine sauce, center cut pork chops, steak, or the restaurant’s signature burger.

How to improve on a good thing? Rolls should be warmed before they’re served. Wooden chairs are too smooth—my friend and I kept sliding forward in our seats. And it would be nice if the building’s history appeared on the menu, not just the Web site.
Twelves is open for coffee and pastries starting at 9am. Enjoy a tasty treat, then stroll over to the sunny Avon Grove Public Library in the West Grove municipal building just a block away.

Whether you stop by for coffee, lunch, or dinner, your visit to the Smiths’ new venture will convince you that double boxcars is your lucky number, too.

News You Can Use: There’s hope for anyone who has despaired over the one-year wait for a dinner reservation at Talula’s Table (102 West State St., Kennett Square, 610.444.8255; www.talulastable.com): It looks like Aimee Olexy and Bryan Sikora plan to open a 60-seat restaurant nearby at 116 E. State St. Co-owners/chefs Guillermo Tellez and Rob Boon at Northbrook MarketPlace offer a nine-course BYOB dinner for $75 per person at their 22-seat communal table in the former hayloft….Terence Feury has left Maia Restaurant and Market (789 East Lancaster Ave., Villanova) where he had been the co-executive chef.

The Hunt Spring 2009  Issue

This article was published in Food & Drink from the Spring 2009 issue.
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