Once a New Yorker, always a New Yorker. How could anything compete with the biggest of apples, the city that’s famous for its insomnia? At least, that’s what I thought before I moved to Villanova, Pennsylvania, a small suburb of Philadelphia, to start my undergrad years.
Once a New Yorker, always a New Yorker? Famous last words.
Just a stone’s throw from the City of Brotherly Love, on what Delaware Valley natives affectionately know as the “Main Line,” Villanova looks like any other Northeastern suburb chock full of yellow school buses and Ugg boot owners. And while it may be less than half an hour from the restaurants, culture, and nightlife of downtown Philly by train, unassuming Villanova and the surrounding towns offer an impressive array of eateries and entertainment.
After my four years on the Main Line, I, like any self-respecting Nova student, could wax eloquent about Pat’s and Geno’s (rival cheesesteak joints, for the uninitiated) or an awesome show I’d seen at Penn’s Landing or the Trocadero. But some of the best times I had were right down the street from my residence hall, not under the bright lights of the big city. (Take that, UPenn and Temple!) Read on to learn more about locales that have been Villanova haunts for time immemorial, as well as more fledgling—but no less beloved—sites of student revelry.
Best 3 a.m. omelet
320 W. Lancaster Ave. Wayne, PA // 610.687.1575
One simple word—“Minella’s”—resonates with Villanova students of all generations. This twenty-four-hour diner is no stranger to the late-night post-bar crew, but it’s equally appropriate for Sunday brunch when your parents and grandma show up at your dorm for a surprise visit. Extra points if the staff recognizes you by the end of your undergrad tenure.
Best pancake breakfast
292 E. Conestoga Rd. Devon, PA // 610.687.1345
This quaint breakfast nook is a family affair, and the Devon location is the original of what are now seven locations. The chocolate chip pecan pancakes are swoonworthy, but you can also order cinnamon bun French toast if you’re feeling extra decadent. Savory-minded diners will be equally impressed with the array of omelets and breakfast sandwiches.
Best socially responsible cup o’ joe
Gryphon Café & Coffee Roasters
105 W. Lancaster Ave. Wayne, PA // 610.688.1988
With its local and organic offerings, the Gryphon appeals to those square-spectacled, hipster-leaning Villanovans. Upperclassmen who’ve outgrown the library scene can often be found hitting the books at one of the well-worn wooden tables. An array of flavorful teas and coffee creations, along with a light lunch menu, complete this cozy spot.
1125 W. Lancaster Ave. Rosemont, PA // 610.527.4488
You can pretend to be healthy and order the Harvest Cookie (cranberries, walnuts, raisins, honey, and coconut baked with whole wheat flour and rolled oats), but let’s face it: what you really want is the Peanut Butter Milk Chocolate Cookie. Or the Triple Chocolate Cookie. Or maybe the Snickerdoodle. Whatever your sweet tooth desires, you don’t have to venture far from campus to get your fix.
Best carb fix
Great Harvest Bread
128 E. Lancaster Ave. Wayne, PA // 610.975.0200
Carb lovers, rejoice! The savory (Spinach Feta, Tuscan Herb), sweet (Cinnamon Swirl, Apple Crumb), and sensible (Honey Whole Wheat, Low Carb Multigrain) loaves emerging from Great Harvest’s ovens every day are simply heavenly. The bread makers even offer customers a free slice from their daily selection upon each visit. Make a meal out of it—they also have fantastic sandwiches and paninis.
Best Parents Weekend dinner out
1149 Lancaster Ave. Rosemont, PA // 610.525.1851
It’s inevitable—you will end up here with your parents at some point during your four years at Villanova. With a menu featuring everything from respectable burgers to build-your-own pizzas (and an admirable beer list to boot!), Mom and Dad will take comfort in the fact that they can put some real food in your poor, cafeteria-nourished little body.
Best ice cream
Handel’s Homemade Ice Cream & Yogurt
576 Lancaster Ave. Berwyn, PA // 610.640.1606
A bit more of a trip, but well worth it—their ice cream is handmade on the premises every day. The utterly staggering list of flavors includes Tin Lizzy Cheesecake Chunk, Peanut Butter and Jelly, and Twixter. What are you waiting for? Make friends with an upperclassman who’s got a car if you have to.
Best late-night campus delivery food
829 Lancaster Ave. Villanova, PA // 610.527.3606
One of the first local phone numbers a Villanovan adds to their contacts. This takeout joint is practically on campus (it’s within walking distance from several underclassman residence halls), and it’s predictably ideal for late-night noshing when cafeteria food just won’t do. Hoagies abound on their menu, but they also boast an impressive selection of pizzas and make a darn good batch of gravy fries.
Best Super Bowl (or general college boy) food
819 E. Lancaster Ave. Villanova, PA // 610.519.0300
Order the Liquid Fire boneless buffalo wings. Make a bet with your buddies as to who can consume the fastest. Proceed to tear up, sweat profusely, and beg for the side order of Macaroni and Cheese you need to have on hand.
Best first date on a budget
Peace a Pizza
1125 E. Lancaster Ave. Rosemont, PA // 610.581.7010
Conveniently attached to the aforementioned Hope’s Cookies, this pizza joint specializes in unique slice concoctions. With variations like the Carnivore (ground beef, pepperoni, bacon, sausage, and ham), the Green Goat (pesto, goat cheese, plum tomatoes, and arugula), and, of course, the Philly Cheesesteak, all will find something to satisfy their cravings.
Best classy date night restaurant
124-126 N. Wayne Ave. Wayne, PA // 610.293.9909
For the couple whose work-study jobs are a bit more lucrative, Teresa’s is the place for a romantic evening close to home. Their delicious—and affordable—Italian fare is complemented by a full-bodied (pun intended) wine list. And if you’re feeling a bit more casual, Teresa’s Next Door errs toward the Belgian with its impressive collection of beers, plus cheese and charcuterie selections.
Best bar to start the weekend
863 W. Lancaster Ave. Bryn Mawr, PA // 610.527.5870
This local watering hole is best known among Villanovans for its Thursday night special: $3 Long Island Iced Teas. Arrive early if you want to get the best seats in the house—the wraparound booths in the front window are the most comfortable places to converse with friends and to avoid the crush of people later in the night.
Best greasy food to eat while out on the town
The BRGR Joint
1011 W. Lancaster Ave. Bryn Mawr, PA // 484.380.3465
During my illustrious undergrad career, this burger mecca was open until 3 a.m.—perfect for those late-night wanderers seeking the next stop on their journeys after the local watering holes closed at 2. While the dining room only stays open till 10 on weekends now, delivery still goes until 3, meaning you can enjoy your OMG Brgr (11—count ’em—11 patties) from the comfort of your couch.
Best post-night-out breakfast sandwich
968 County Line Rd. Bryn Mawr, PA // 610.520.2221
The name says it all—Bagel Factory offers all varieties of bagels, breakfast meats, and assorted other fuel needed after a night on the town, with the necessary helping of grease and then some. Bonus? This laidback eatery is located directly across the street from the most popular off-campus senior apartments. Some things are just meant to be.
Best shopping, hands down
King of Prussia Mall
160 N. Gulph Rd. King of Prussia, PA // 610.265.5794
Once you enter this commercial mecca—affectionately known as “KOP”—you quite literally do not have to leave. Boasting everything from a Chick fil-A to a Tiffany’s, this shopping sprawl vies with the Mall of America for the honor of “largest mall in the United States.”
Best place to see the next Jason Mraz
2 E. Lancaster Ave. Ardmore, PA // 610.645.5269
This laidback artist’s paradise prides itself on showcasing up-and-coming talent from all over the Main Line. Open to patrons of all ages (aka no pesky over-21 rules!), MilkBoy features open mic nights, benefit shows, and darn good coffee, too. They even have a second, smaller location attached to the Bryn Mawr Film Institute (see below)!
Best place to see a movie that will win an Oscar
Bryn Mawr Film Institute
824 W. Lancaster Ave. Bryn Mawr, PA // 610.527.9898
This small theater only shows four movies at a time, and chances are none of them will be the latest Ryan Reynolds flick. This nonprofit community organization strives to maintain diversity in the pictures it houses, and even holds Open Screen Mondays to allow area filmmakers a chance to screen their own films for free.
Best snack spot disguised as a minimart
215 W. Lancaster Ave. Wayne, PA // 610.688.7313
Once you’ve had a Wawa within driving distance, life without it is just a little bit emptier. Cravings for a freshly made sandwich (the Gobbler being a Thanksgiving-time favorite) from their fancy touch-screen system, or even for a cool smoothie in the summertime, simply can’t be filled. Oh Wawa, when will you come north to us proud New Yorkers?
Tara Powers is a 2010 graduate of Villanova University. Though she’s returned to the Manhattan jungle, she still finds herself dreaming of Nudy’s pancakes, Wawa hoagies, and Hope’s Triple Chocolate Cookies on a disturbingly regular basis.