It’s a good sign that the rabbit hasenpfeffer is a staple at Junto right out of the gate. A York County native, owner MacGregor Mann had considered the family favorite—slow-cooked to fall-off-the-bone perfection—a wild card. But with the dish’s resounding success since opening day in May, it’s proof that his native Pennsylvania concept can work.
After eight years as chef de cuisine at the Garces Group’s Amada in Center City, Mann is challenging Pennsylvania Dutch cooking’s simpleton rep, elevating its execution and moving it to the fine-dining end of the spectrum.
The 33-year-old go-getter came to the area by way of Idaho, where his seafood-centric stint at Henry’s Fork Lodge cemented his appreciation for a locally stocked pantry. He also spent some time at Denmark’s world-famous, Michelin-starred Noma, an experience he likens to a “PhD-worthy” sabbatical.
A living testament to sustainable excellence, no matter what the time zone, Mann might be considered a vagabond chef. Yet he’s decided to settle in Chadds Ford. While researching the area’s history, he discovered that Ben Franklin had a social club by the name of Junto. Now, the chef is on a mission to take his cooking “back to the farmhouse.” Not literally, of course, considering the 42-seat, Cape Cod-style BYOB can be found in the Olde Ridge Village Shoppes.
Once inside, you’re immersed in oddly familiar, if sophisticated, flair. Rustic barn beams and hardwood offset tablecloths and candlelight. The coupling of upscale ambiance and down-home cooking is a provocative experience.
Junto’s menu may exude old-school charm, but the skills and resources behind those kitchen doors are those of a modern-day chef. The chicken corn soup, for example, arrives in a brothless bowl loaded with sweet corn kernels, smoked egg hunks, and corn crisps. In a eartbeat, a server appears with a French press in hand, plunging the cylinder down to make a hearty chicken broth, which she spills over the colorful ingredients in the bowl. The whole production is clever and captivating.
Other nods to Pennsylvania’s culinary heritage include thinly sliced Lebanon bologna and an apple snitz choucroute, crafted with house-made sauerkraut.
As we cleared our hasenpfeffer plates, making sure not to leave behind a speck of the steel-cut buckwheat or a smear of alfalfa cream, our proficient server asked if we’d entertain a sweet ending. Nudged in the direction of the shoofly profiteroles, we gladly complied.
For the record, just about anyone would be tempted by the trio of air-light pecan-and-buckwheat cream puffs pumped with clouds of toasted clove cream. Suddenly, new-age Dutch is so in.
THE SKINNY: Mann celebrates our state’s homey heritage with a farmhouse BYOB that makes the most of local, seasonal ingredients. The menu resonates with old-school German recipes, all elevated by the resourcefulness and expertise of their creator. The hasenpfeffer is dinnertime decadence; the chicken corn soup is clever and well-composed; and don’t miss the shoofly profiteroles—the ultimate mod-Dutch dessert.
details JUNTO 100 Ridge Road, Chadds Ford, (484) 574-8041, www.juntobyob.com.
cuisine: Elevated Pennsylvania Dutch. cost: Appetizers, salads and soups $5.50-$12.50, entrées $21-$65. attire: Stylishly casual. atmosphere: Farmhouse-style BYOB with warm, welcoming touches. hours: Dinner: 5-9:30 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday, 5-10:30 p.m. Friday-Saturday. Brunch: 9:30 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday-Sunday. extras: BYOB happy hour 3-5 p.m. Saturday; small-plates menu.