LaBan chat: Birthday dinner; Doylestown eats

Posted: March 01, 2012

Craig LaBan: I've been away, brewing up a storm in Belgium with a crew from Philly Beer Week (

Reader: I'm planning a surprise gathering for my husband's birthday and struggling to come up with a decent, and reasonably priced, option for nine people. I want to be able to make a reservation. Been back to Le Viet? We frequent Nam Phuong, but I need something nicer. Thoughts?

C.L.: Yes, I've been back to Le Viet many times since the review - it's become something of a family favorite. I think it's a great idea for a party that size. It has nicer ambience than most of the Vietnamese competition in the hood (including Nam Phuong), and I think the food is definitely on par. Call well ahead if you're planning Saturday night.

Reader: I look forward to your column every week. Each week I walk away salivating and disappointed. As a very busy working mom, it is difficult to get to Philly and/or the King of Prussia area for some of the great restaurants you and your guests mention. Would you kindly explain to me why restaurateurs fail to come to the Doylestown area? We have a very upscale and trendy area that is in desperate need of ethnic/varied cuisine.

C.L.: I really need to get to Doylestown more than I do. But there are not a lot of places that have intrigued me enough to make the trip more often, which is strange for all the reasons you've mentioned. I've reviewed Honey, Slate Bleu, mentioned Ristorante Il Melograno, etc. If you have any great candidates, e-mail me your favorites, and I'll put them on the list to consider.

Other reader suggestions for the Doylestown area: KC Prime in Warrington (steak); Cross Culture (Indian), Domani Star ( Italian), Villa Barolo in Warrington (Italian/wild game).

C.L: Thanks for mentioning Villa Barolo . . . another place I've been to for a family event. This is Chef Lo's place - he had Marco Polo in Elkins Park and is doing the same whole-fish, classic Italian menu up there just south of downtown Doylestown. It's a funny place, and better than you'd expect - especially if you stay with the whole fish.

Reader: FYI: New Belgium, the maker of Fat Tire, has narrowed its choices for a new brewery to Philly and North Carolina.

C.L.: Saw that in the Philly Biz News . . . that could be a real coup for the local brewing scene. Lots of jobs could be tied into a big brewery like that. Not sure on the timeline for deciding . . . but sometime soon.

Reader: Went to Doughnut Plant in NYC this past weekend, WOW!!! I know the buzz about Federal Donuts, and they are pretty good, but seriously not in the same league. Any chance we will see something like Doughnut Plant hit the city?

C.L.: I'd love to check out the Doughnut Plant myself sometime soon. As for a branch here, I have no idea, but if we can support all these cupcake crazies, I think there's room for more doughnut shops, too. Pie, too, please! (Looking forward to Magpie, set to open in June at 1622 South St.)

On that note, I'm calling this chat to a close. I'll be back next week.

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