Monday, July 5, 2010

french quarter bistro: where beer and the big easy meet

French Quarter Bistro may not rival the most sought-after sensations of The Big Easy, but it does trot highly respected versions of regional, Cajun-inspired classics that have been established for the past nine-year-old as the area's best soul food.

Owner/chef Mark Vanhorn had always been in the restaurant business prior to introducing Royersford to his New Orleans-styled eatery. Back in 2001, he wanted to "be different" and bring something new to his Montgomery County community, which was years' prior to the nearby neighborhood's rebirth as stomping grounds for many corporate restaurants.

Situated on Main Street, Vanhorn's French Quarter Bistro boosts a casual environment pleasing to any craft beer connoisseur with "food that stands out for a craft beer place," he said.

With 12 rotating taps, which currently includes Yards' Extra Special Ale, Oskar Blues Mama's Little Yella Pils, Duvel's Green, Dock Street's Summer Session and Bear Republic's Racer 5 IPA, Vanhorn also stocks a full bottled beer case, promoting the latest new, limited and rare releases, and also, just premiered growlers, where you may get any draft beer to go.

A few months back, the beer-centric establishment hosted a craft beer festival, which was "the busiest day of nine years," said Vanhorn. With over 20 breweries active, the day affair paired gourmet sliders with every beer, sculpting a miniature foodie festival for all anxious attendees.

French Quarter Bistro's Jambalaya Throwdown was additionally a crowd-pleaser, structured similar to that of a Bobby Flay competition, where LePan Catering, of Phoenixville, measured their flooded Creole plate against Royersford restaurant's acclaimed rice platter of chicken, Andouille sausage and tasso in a spicy tomato sauce.

"Our specials are what drive people in," said Vanhorn, who conceptualizes all of the entrees himself. "We tend to do many dishes with a Cajun influence, while also including a local influences, as well."

While the lobster macaroni and cheese—served with warm water rock lobster tails with smoked tasso, elbow macaroni in a creamy cheddar cheese sauce, and a topper of in-season fried tomatoes—is undeniably a top-notch choice for local comfort food, what creates customers to repetitively return is the never-frozen, hand-crafted beef burgers boosting from the menu.

"We get our meat from a local butcher," said Vanhorn. "It is never frozen and always has our personal touch."

From burger specials smeared with toppings like house-made barbecue sauce, Colston Bassett's Blue Cheese, Creole mustard and caramelized onions, French Quarter Bistro regularly premieres new piled patties with varying condiments.

Better yet, in honor of grease-infested, bad-for-you bar food, French Quarter Bistro offers a weekly $2 deep-fried burger special, which accompanies a lineup of deep-fried pickles, crawfish tails, stuffed mushrooms and Cajun pierogies.

French Quarter also proudly received honors in the last nine years for possessing the best ribs in Chester County, which Vanhorn daily prepares to their fall-off-the-bone glory on his beloved smoker. Other mouth-watering pleasures smoked to perfection include his pulled pork, simmered in homemade barbecue sauce or slow-roasted in brown gravy, and sausage samplers, including alligator, wild boar and chicken apple.

Catering is made available, too, by French Quarter Bistro, which the skilled owner suggests that can do provide food for parties as little as 15 people to as many as 300 guests.

While the local eatery is a haven for those who honor the best of craft beers, they are sure to not forget about those who prefer to swirl their spirits, spouting a signature, Cajun-infused Bloody Mary that is a "little hotter than what many are used to," said Vanhorn.

For more information on French Quarter Bistro at 215 Main St., Royersford, join their Facebook group, which regularly posts specials, or call 610-792-7292.

Also published in this week's Phoenix newspaper.