By AML Publisher
Photos courtesy of Courtney Apple Photography
Click here to view an online photo gallery of White Dog on AroundMainLine.com’s Facebook page.
It is, without a doubt, the most anticipated restaurant opening on the Main Line. And Friday night November 12th at 5pm, as the very first patrons excitedly entered Wayne’s White Dog Cafe, the Rolling Stones ‘Start Me Up’, piped throughout the restaurant. There was plenty of emotion in the room. The affable owner Marty Grims, of White Dog Philadelphia, Du Jour and Moshulu fame, buzzed around greeting friends, families and customers. There were high fives, hugs and plenty of praise to go around. And for very good reason. After three years of arduous planning, Grims most ingenious restaurant venture had arrived. White Dog Cafe in Wayne is here—and here to stay.
The story of White Dog started three years ago when Grims eyed the property, directly across from Anthropologie in downtown Wayne, as a possible site for a Du Jour market.
But after Grims acquired Philly’s White Dog Cafe from founder Judy Wicks in 2008, that strategy shifted. “We thought it was just a natural fit for the White Dog to come to Wayne, that it made sense for the Main Line,” said Grims.
And many would agree that the brainchild of one of Philadelphia’s most respected and most successful restaurateurs makes a whole lotta sense. The timing of the restaurant, which sat with a ‘Coming Soon’ sign on Route 30 for over two years, had kept the Main Line community in a constant buzz. Curiosity peaked during the last few weeks—with speculation and dozens of posts on area food blogs, and locals on Facebook and Twitter counting down the days until White Dog’s doors would finally be open.
‘What took so long?’ was the million dollar question I propose to Grims, as we sit down just a few days later. “Two years ago there was a lot of uncertainty in the market place and I think people were worried. I think it made a lot of sense for us to get past all that,” said Grims. “In addition, it required an extensive amount of time, obviously, to go through the whole development process—from design, concept and construction. We worked with many artists—the creative process took longer because so much of the interior work here and material was custom made for us. There is an extensive amount of reclaimed millwork, antique chairs, antique accents, reclaimed wood from a barn in Vermont. It’s obvious when you see the space that there is a tremendous commitment to the design here.”
Grims explained the approach to creating a new space. “Our idea was that White Dog Philadelphia has a lot of small dining rooms. So we carefully considered the design process. I wanted a restaurant that felt like a restaurant that had been on the Main Line for thirty, forty years. That when someone walks in, it did not feel brand new. I want my customers to walk in and feel like they are dining at a friend’s home,” stated Grims. Hence, when Grims designed the restaurant, it purposefully took on the flavor of eating in a home—with each of the four rooms of the restaurant exuding their own distinct personality. There is a den, a garden room, a library and kitchen—and dozens of doggie accents to explore and appreciate.
In order to realize this dual vision of home-restaurant, Grims hired one of the Main Line’s most renowned residential home builders, David Semerjian (www.davidsemerjianbuilders.com), to construct the restaurant. The custom millwork, fit outs and residential ‘punches’, as Grim describes them, needed a talented eye of that only Semerjian could bring to the table.
Grims and Semerjian have been close friends for years and have collaborated on other projects. The goal, as Semerjian explained, was to translate the commercial space into the feeling of four inviting residential dining rooms that offered rich discoveries on each and every visit. “White Dog is something everyone should see and experience. I’ve been there half a dozen times since it has opened and it’s been a different experience, even for me, every single time. The way the restaurant is set up lends itself to so many different things. It’s not just a dinner destination. It really makes it something very special for the Main Line.”
Barbara Balongue of Villanova’s Balongue Design Studios (www.balongue.com) was hired to outfit the interior. Balongue is one of the preeminent design studios on the Main Line. Boasting over twenty successful years in business, she has completed the interior design for all of Grims’ restaurants and hotels. In this case “the philosophy was to have White Dog feel like it has been in existence for the last hundred years—like an old worn shoe or finely pantinaed antique. And I think it does that as soon as you walk in,” enthused Balongue.
Balongue and Grims analyzed the space together from the inception of the project and once they decided the restaurant would indeed be White Dog, Balongue was tasked with discovering dog-themed accents. Balongue’s preppy and whimsical décor came from not only around the country but around the world. “The whole design concept was to reinvent White Dog and take it to the next level while celebrating what it’s all about. Everyone who visits White Dog will have these subtle experiences and surprises.”
You really must experience the outcome for yourself in order to believe it. You enter the White Dog through a front vestibule fashioned after an English telephone booth. What follows is the Den which boasts a gorgeous, mahogany coffered ceiling, needlepoint dog pillows, and a striking wall of special commissioned oil paintings of various breeds. The curved bar sports clever, custom light fixtures assembled from antique wine bottle dryers and vintage green wine bottles (look closely for the teeny, white paw prints). Grims describes it as the ‘heartbeat of the restaurant.’ “It’s a space that is vibrant and inviting, the bar area makes it very welcoming when you walk in. I love the fact that White Dog is an environment where you feel at home meeting your friends and neighbors,” said Grims.
The first room to the right is the Garden Room with chicken-wired ceilings—a subtle ode to the farm-to-table White Dog philosophy. It’s without doubt the most casual, feminine space of all the rooms with floral prints, bright pastels, antique lighting fixture, and antique wooden shutters that were found in North Carolina. The Garden Room also opens out onto an outdoor patio for dining during the warmer spring and summer months.
After the Garden Room, patrons will enjoy discovering the Library located in the center of the restaurant. It boasts paneled mahogany walls with curved mahogany ceilings. A main large window facing Route 30 flanked by whimsical, dog-patterned drapes works seamlessly with a warm, gold and maroon color theme. Whimsical flying books hang suspended by invisible wire over the center of the room. “It’s a surprise element everyone loves. We took the concept of the library and flipped the idea of keeping, traditionally, books on the shelf and instead have them in the air-floating” explained Balongue.
After the Library, the next room to experience is the bright, white welcoming Kitchen that is paired next to the restaurant’s functional kitchen. It has reclaimed oak wood floors, reclaimed mill work on the ceiling and a large series of dog photography on the right hand wall. It takes its design cue from a residential kitchen that Grims was particularly fond of. Gleaming copper pans are arranged on one wall, the ceiling beams are from a New England barn. It’s the largest, yet most minimal, of the four rooms—you can imagine Martha Stewart approving of its understated preppiness.
The new location continues Judy Wicks’ original philosophy of sustainability. The menu reflects contemporary American cuisine while embracing the farm-to-table ideal by sourcing ingredients from dozens of regional farms. Even the beers must be brewed within 300 miles of the restaurant.
As White Dog’s executive chef, Grims brought in Zach Grainda, a ten year company veteran who has worked at Passerelle and Moshulu. The 32-year-old Havertown native has spent the last year working at White Dog in Center City and developing relationships with farmers across the region. Lancaster Farm Fresh Co-Op is a key resource for Grainda along with Chester Springs’ Birch Run Hill Farms, West Chester’s Shellbark Hollow Farm, Branch Creek Farm out of Perkasie, Lititz’s Meadow Run Farm, and Blue Moon Acres based in Bucks County and New Jersey, among others. “I am giddy when it comes to food. It excites me. With White Dog, we are showcasing all the hard work and pride of our local farmers and what is in season. I’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback on my wild Alaskan Coho salmon in the few first days, but that (salmon) season is about to end and I’ll be creating a new late fall dish in its place,” enthused Grainda.
White Dog is serving brunch on Saturday and Sundays, lunch Mondays through Fridays and dinner seven days a week.
Dinner entrees include a $15 Green Meadow cheddar burger (served with smoked bacon mayo, grilled red onion, Bibb lettuce from a New Jersey farm and house cut fries—an early favorite of customers), a $27 balsamic roasted Meadow Run pork chop (accompanied by sweet & sour peppers, olive oil mashed potatoes), and a Painted Hills 14oz rib eye with black pepper crust, brussels sprouts and grilled onion bread pudding for $44.
A bar menu boasts Di Bruno Brothers trio of olives (blue cheesed stuffed, marinated kalimatas and ‘sexy’ olives); fabulous fried pickles, with Lancaster dill pickles, red chili mayo, and garlic bread crumbs for $5 ideally paired with a draft of Victory Prima Pils.
A brunch highlight courtesy of chef Grainda is the big stack of pumpkin pancakes with Kaufmann Farm apples served with brown sugar mascarpone and maple syrup at $10. And a lunch standout–that vegetarians will flock to—is Thai spiced wood-grilled tofu with stir fried vegetables, a miso honey glaze and steamed Jasmine rice for $14.
With the triple threat ‘A Team’ of Semerjian, Balongue and Grainda, Marty Grims has without a doubt delivered the most intriguing new dining experience of the western suburbs. Looking back on the process, Grims is confident that he has conceptualized a restaurant that offers something most extraordinary. “We want the White Dog to be the Main Line’s quintessential restaurant. We want White Dog to be a part of the community. There is certainly a sense of satisfaction now with this project. I think we got it right.”
Fun Facts about White Dog Wayne
Opening Date: Friday, November 12th
Owner: Marty Grims
Executive Chef: Zack Grainda
Cuisine: Contemporary American
Dinner Menu: Click here to view White Dog’s current dinner menu.
Farm-to-Table: White Dog resources dozens of local farms across the Delaware Valley.
Builder: David Semerjian Builders (www.davidsemerjianbuilders.com)
Interior Design: Barbara Balongue/Balongue Design (balongue.com)
Hours of Operation:
Lunch: Monday – Friday 11:30am – 2:30pm
Brunch: Saturday & Sunday 10:30am – 2:30pm
Dinner: Monday – Thursday 5:30pm – 10:00pm; Friday & Saturday 5:30pm – 10:30pm; Sunday 5pm – 9pm
Bar Menu: Monday – Thursday 2:30pm – 10:00pm;
Friday & Saturday 2:30pm – 10:30pm Sunday 2:30pm – 9pm
OpenTable: Click here to make a reservation for White Dog Wayne on OpenTable.
Upcoming Events: AroundMainLine.com will be hosting our holiday party for Wednesday Night Whinos at White Dog Wayne on December 8th. Click here to RSVP on Facebook.
White Dog Cafe is located at 200 West Lancaster Avenue, Wayne, PA. Visit their website www.whitedog.com, for reservations visit their listing on OpenTable or call 610-225-3701.