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Is Coatesville in the Midst of a Restaurant Renaissance?

Photos by Ed Williams

Downingtown is on its way to becoming a culinary hotspot. Is Coatesville next?

As recently as five years ago, Downingtown wasn’t typically a place that came up as a destination when dinner plans were in the works. Now, the booming Chester County borough is home to a growing list for top-notch eateries that includes Estrella Tacos y Mas, Amani’s BYOB, Anthony’s Cucina Fresca and Station Taproom. But it was the addition of the French-inspired De La Terre BYOB late last year that had foodies and restaurant critics swooning. “We saw that Downingtown was growing, and we wanted to be part of that community,” says De La Terre’s owner and chef, Andrew Hufnagel.

The local reception was warm from the jump. Close to 100 eager applicants reached out to Hufnagel’s wife, Kassie, for server positions. Just shy of a year in, the couple commonly welcomes patrons from West Chester, Paoli, Bryn Mawr and Haverford. De La Terre’s menu changes seasonally and leans heavily on local purveyors like Chester Springs’ Birchrun Hills Farm, Unionville’s Farm at Doe Run and West Chester’s award-winning Éclat Chocolate. “When I’m walking through the tables, I overhear customers all the time saying they can’t believe this is in Downingtown,” says Kassie. “It’s been really nice to have everyone be so welcoming.”

Just off the Route 30 bypass in nearby Coatesville, Chadds Ford Tavern owners Phil and Kate Ferro have transformed the old Mr. E’s Tavern & Fine Food into something more befitting royalty. Established in early 2022, Kings Tavern is their “gem in the rough,” with remodeled dining rooms and a much-improved bar. Locals have taken to the diverse menu, with its 40-ounce tomahawk ribeye, lobster tails, tavern burger, Southern fried chicken, raw bar, creative cocktails, and complimentary house-made chips. “There’s something for everyone,” says Phil.

The Record Kitchen + Bar.

The Record Kitchen + Bar.

In downtown Coatesville, the Ferros have their hands in two more projects. Chester County’s first YMCA building is set to become Steel City Brewing, which will also supply beer to the Ferros’ other establishments. And three doors down, the former National Bank of Coatesville is expected to open as 30 Prime Seafood & Chophouse next year under Phil’s direction. He sees 30 Prime as the cornerstone for continued growth along the once-beleaguered downtown strip.

That growth already includes the Iron Eagle on Lincoln Bar & Grille (in what used to be the Coatesville Cultural Society) and The Record Kitchen + Bar, which is celebrating its one-year anniversary this fall. The latter’s name comes from the lively spot’s former occupant, the Coatesville Record newspaper. When Mark Sherman, Lane Udis and chef Arthur Cavaliere took over the building, they divided it in two; Splitting Edge Axe Throwing now occupies one side. The restaurant space is elevated yet urban, with framed newspaper pages paying tribute to the building’s history.

De La Terre BYOB’s Andrew and Kassie Hufnagel.

De La Terre BYOB’s Andrew and Kassie Hufnagel.

The Record’s menu offers everything from old-school meatballs and sticky pork ribs to a chicken calabrese sandwich and roasted branzino. But the headliner is the wood-fired pizza, offered at half price on Tuesdays. “We were excited to get in there and start early, even if nothing else was going on,” says Udis. “We knew we could create a community ourselves. The city only grows through projects like these.”

Born and raised in Coatesville, realtor Amber Turner is the downtown manager for 2nd Century Alliance, a private/public partnership that’s a major player in the city’s economic development. She’s witnessed the revitalization firsthand, and she likes what she sees. “There’s new life,” she says, noting that a jazz cafe is also in the works.

Adds Phil Ferro: “I really believe people will be fighting over all those vacant buildings and storefronts in the very, very near future.”

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