Alison at Blue Bell, Blue Bell

721 Skippack Pike
Blue Bell, PA

As of 11/09, Alison at Blue Bell has closed for good.

Rating: 4 silver spoons out of 5

Overview: Well-known chef Alison Barshak’s latest venture — an excellent contemporary American BYOB serving ambitious, creative fare.

Food: The menu at Alison, which is influenced mostly by Asian, Mediterranean and Southwestern cuisine, changes almost nightly and is consistently excellent. Some of Barshak’s more well-known dishes include the “Ginger Fried Squid with Wasabi Drizzle & Mango Slaw” and the “Chili Dusted Skate with Citrus Brown Butter, Cool Jicama & Avocado Salad”, but whatever you find on the menu should satisfy. The menu does have a slight focus on seafood, featuring specialties such as “Sauteed Halibut, Truffled Grits, Ramps & Hen Of The Woods Mushrooms” or “Wild Salmon, Asparagus, Mashed Potatoes & Bacon-Caper, Olive Vinaigrette”. Oh, and do save room for Amelia Dietrich’s desserts — perhaps the “Chocolate Torte with Peanut Butter Mousse” or the “Double Chocolate Brownie Sundae”?

Ambiance: Nice, bright room with an open kitchen. There are even a few seats (5) that the “bar” for a quick, casual meal. The 65-seat room can be a bit noisy and bustling at busy times, but is hardly overwhelming. It is located in an office park, which isn’t exactly in the center of things, but the seclusion has allowed them to recently open a patio for outdoor dining.

Service: The waitstaff has been helpful and very knowledgeable about the menu.

Value: Not cheap, but for the quality of food and the addition of BYOB, this is certainly worth the trip.

# of times we’ve eaten there: 2
Reservations: Yes – call early, they aren’t easy to come by
Payments: Cash

Last Updated: 6/2004

22 thoughts on “Alison at Blue Bell, Blue Bell”

  1. Fri night (4/18) dinner for 4 at 8:30. Restaurant packed, but table ready. Slowwwwwwwwwwwww service. Menus at 8:55. At 9:05, orders taken after asking busboy to find our server. Long wait for appetizer and entree. We didn’t ask or complain, but at some point hostess apologized for the wait. We were in no hurry, just hungry. Handling added tables outside may have caused the staff to be overwhelmed. As usual, the food was worth the wait. Just great! Still one of my favorites and will glady return as often as possible. Some things are just worth waiting for.

  2. March 5th we again dined at Alison At Blue Bell. Menu is consistently revamped and interesting. Quality and presentation, excellent. Waitstaff, as always, knowledgeable and pleasant. Since this restaurant opened, we dine at Alison’s easily once monthly and always look forward to returning. Entrees are ample and often one in our party finds no need to order appetizer. The pleasant ‘hum’ of background music is a nice plus and Alison most definitely stops to chat with her customers. When making a reservation, you’re told of the liquor license and corkage fee. We like having the option to BYO or buy a glass of wine.

  3. Returned to Alison’s Sat. night with 3 couples. It’s crowded, noisy, ugly and our table was not ready on time. I LOVED IT (as usual)! Why ? The food! Imaginative menu, and the best dinner I have had out in quite a while. Loved the swordfish. My wife raved about her dinner as did the others. How can one complain about $ 5.00 corkage after a restaurant gets a liquor license? Very fair. Bring better wine and you won’t notice. Ranks with Gilmore’s and Couchon with my best recent BYOB meals. Need to go out more often during the week, however, and avoid the Sat. night crush. 4 recent visits to Blackfish–2 on Sat(fair) and 2 on weeknights (very good) seem to prove the point.

  4. The thing about Alison’s is that they are no longer a BYOB. They now have a liquor license. They allow you to still bring your own bottle as a service and an added bonus to their guests who have joined them in the past. I think a $5 corkage fee is a gift. People don’t realize what an investment a liquor license is. You have the cost of the license itself, the inventory to stock the list, and all the insurance the state requires you to pay in case some idiot gets drunk at your restaurant, kills someone in a car crash on the way home and then sues you for letting them drink so much. (that’s a whole other story about personal responsibility) The point is, it’s a huge expense, which is why MOST restaurants don’t even allow you to bring your own bottle if they sell wine. Every bottle you bring is one you don’t buy from the restaurant, which basically causes them to lose revenue. They could sell your seat to someone who would buy wine from them. It’s not about being greedy, it’s about covering their costs and staying in business.

    And as far as a corkage fee at a true BYOB… if they have great stemware ie. proper glasses for red, white, champagne, and dessert wine… not to mention decanters, I don’t mind paying a dollar or two. I’ve been to some restaurants where they serve all their wine in glasses bought for $2 each at IKEA. I don’t want to drink my expensive wine out of a little dixe cup sized wine glass. Most people recognize this for the service it is and don’t complain about it. What’s a few extra dollars for a nice evening? People say restaurants are petty for charging a corkage… I say the people who gripe about it are cheap. It’s a hard business with not much return for your work (traditionally 5% profit on a well run business). Lucky for all of us that there are many choices out there for everyone… those of us discriminating and those of us not.

  5. I love BYOB’s but I don’t like corkage fees and rarely go to places that charge one–many places don’t so I go there instead. Providing glasses, stemware, etc. is just part of the business, deal with it. I would rather put the money for corkage fees into well-prepared food. BTW, the portions are ridiculously small. Need to stop at Wawa after dinner to fill up. Give people good value and knock off the greedy fees and peopel will return.

  6. Didn’t know they had gotten a liquor license. In that case foreget the keg of beer. If they are providing wine and beer they have a right to charge a corkage fee; however, I must agree that $5.00 on a $2.00 bottle of beer seems a bit high. Don’t foreget to add a bit extra to the tip since the staff is not getting anything on the $40.00 wine you didn’t order and probably gets none of the corkage fee even though they have to serve the wine.

  7. The BYOB culture in this area has made corkage fees rare in most restaurants that allow BYO. In other cities, this is not the case obviously, but in Philadelphia requiring this is sure to turn diners away because there are plenty of places to go without corkage fees.

    The original poster Lin fails to mention that this corkage fee is because AaBB now has a liquor license! That makes a huge difference, because paying $5 for a bottle of wine instead of restaurant markup is a great deal, and the food at Alison makes it worthwhile.

    $5 for each beer is a bit excessive though — perhaps they should change that to per 6 pack.

  8. I have been a member of an area Wine Tasting Group since 1979. Several times a year I visit an area BYOB. Each and every one of the restaurants we visit charges us a corkage fee. We have paid corkage fees since the 70’s! We expect a fee, because that has always been our experience. I am not sure why this corkage fee seems to be such a surprise to many of the diners posting reviews here. Perhaps it’s because Alison at Blue Bell never charged a fee previously? What human being likes change, right? I appreciate the fact that since Alison at Blue Bell now has a liquor license, we continue to have the freedom of choice…the choice between bringing our own wine and making a selection from the unique collection of wine and beer now offered there. I certainly prefer to pay a small corkage fee when I want to enjoy my own wine, than to have that choice (and fee) taken away completely!

  9. Next time you go bring one of those small kegs of beer — that should show them. A large jug of wine might also make it.

  10. Just called about a reservation and was informed that there is now a 5 dollar corking fee ,including for each bottle of beer opened. That seems excessive to me,especially since we usually go out with 2 other couples and the men are beer drinkers. The “corking fee” adds up when charged per bottle.

    Since the prices for meals are fairly high, who wants to add another 60 or so to have bottles opened?

  11. We gave a very postive review only back in june about Alison’s and need to retract my comments. We went there with some friends very recently and I’m sorry to say that the meal was a disappointment. We are not foodies but given the cost of dinner I would be at the very least be misleading to encourge others to visit Alison’s.

  12. No complaints about the food. Great interesting fish as it should be done, but the location has the ambiance of a pizzaria. Last complaint, and what I don’t understand is the lack of training of the waitstaff in handling wine. How hard is it to teach that wine glasses aren’t to be fiiled to the top. Last time, our waitress didn’t know how to open a champagne bottle. She asked another waitress who then showed her the wrong way. I ended up teaching both of them. I know it’s byob, but it isn’t that hard. Alison needs to come out of the kitchen from time to time. It’s why I prefer to open and pour my own at most byobs.

  13. WE moved from the resteraunt scene in philadelphia so allisons is about the only choice . The food assuming allison is in the house is mostly verry very good . that said we do not go . Allison has crammed the joint with tables . Typically very small portions even small eaters must order soup to nuts . In are experience any idea of sharing a app was commonly met with attitude . Service can be rushed To bad take a couple tables out give a pinch more value lighten up the service with a couple of smiles and graciousness and voila you would have a fine resteraunt

  14. Keep up the good work! We like Alison’s becuase it is a nice eatery in Montgomery County, -close to where we live. I’ve heard Alison mention that she brought in a new chef. We’ve noticed positive changes in the menu -more sauces, more meat, maybe more french, -and we like it!

  15. I recently dined at Alison and was not at all blown away, in fact I became very ill the next day. I know many people rave about this restaurant and I have read the other reviews on this site, but frankly I don’t see it. The appetizers and presentation were fairly average and our entrees did not arrive at the table the way we had ordered them. We also thought the lighting in the room was bit too bright, which some people may like, but we prefer a more intimate atmosphere. We have eaten at many other BYOBs in the area and for the money we feel that there are at least several other much better choices, such as: Majolica in Phoenixville, Alba in Malvern, Sola in Bryn Mawr, and Gilmores in West Chester. This is not a restaurant I will be returning to anytime soon and I would not recommend this place to my friends and family. It’s a shame too… we were really looking forward to having a great night out, not a day spent in the bathroom.

  16. Dear Alison,

    My evening began with a smile as soon as I walked in the door and saw some long time friends and colleagues enjoying a birthday dinner with their daughter. Obviously, they have very good taste in restaurants. Our Butternut Squash soup was smooth and creamy and was made even more incredible by the occasional crunch of the pumpkin seeds added to the bowl. Superb. Just for the “halibut” I ordered the halibut which was perfectly cooked and served with sliced portobello mushrooms. At dessert, we discussed the pleasures of blood oranges with our server, who explained how to choose the best of these seasonal fruits in the store. We ended our meal with a serving of your blood orange sorbet…exquisite! I shall continue to visit to partake of Alison at Blue Bell’s delectable dishes. Thank you.

  17. We have been to Alison’s several times and have never been disappointed. Her staff is very knowledgeable, friendly and always attentive. The space is confined but most of our neighbors have been nice – even if you hear all they are talking about and vice versa. The starters are fabulous and there is always something new on the menu. The price is well worth the flavor – every time. Restaurant perfection – always consistent, always delicious.

  18. We have been to Alison’s for dinner about 6 times and found it to be consistantly good. The Halibut with Grits is delicious as are the desserts. I highly recommend going! This is my husbands absolute favorite restaurant and he is VERY picky…enjoy!

  19. Consistently outstanding! Eaten here 5+ times for both lunch and dinner and you just can’t lose at this place… Beyond creative food. Try the softshell crab at lunch. Save room for dessert! I hope they bring back the walnut sticky bun ice cream sandwich…

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