Café Fresko, Bryn Mawr

February 24th, 2004

1003 Lancaster Ave.
Bryn Mawr, PA

Cafe Fresko closed in February 2010.

Rating: 4 silver spoons out of 5

Overview: Elegant Mediterranean BYOB that is a welcome addition to the Bryn Mawr dining scene. With more interesting food than Lourdas, Fresko fills a major void on the Lancaster Ave. corridor. Cafe Fresko has some customer service issues (we had to wait 45 minutes, even with a reservation), but in the long run should thrive in this spot.

Food: Called Mediterranean cuisine, it is closer to Continental with Mediterranean influence. For starters, the cheese flambé appetizer was simple but palatable. As entrees, the pistachio-crusted rack of lamb accompanied by ratatouille and celery root puree was wonderful — the lamb was not at all gamey, and the other portions of the plate complimented each other favorably. Same goes for the strip steak on a bed of baby spinach with sundried tomato polenta in a red wine reduction — it was expertly done. The striped bass with almond butter served over wild mushroom crepes was another commendable dish. When tasted alone, the fish was a bit dry, but the savory flavor of the mushroom crepe came to the rescue, providing a sapid bouquet of exotic flavor.

Bread: Served with Hummus, perhaps the most openly “Mediterranean” aspect of the food. A nice touch…

Ambiance: Small, often very loud room that has been beautifully decorated… it must have cost them a pretty penny. Unfortunately, as with Spezia, this place has begun to attract a highly snooty main line crowd… the type of people who will push you out of the way and fail to apologize, as if it is their birthright.

Service: When we checked in with our reservation, the hostess cheerily replied “OK, thanks”, and then walked away without another word. Since we had a reservation, I mistakenly assumed this reaction meant our table would be ready shortly. Well, if shortly is 45 minutes later, I was indeed correct. Unfortunately, this was not an isloated problem — other diners have complained to me about the same long wait, also with a reservation. (They know how to take the reservation, they just don’t know how to hold the reservation…) What makes it even worse is that while you wait, the husband and wife team who serve as host and hostess are not very helpful. They are extremely pleasant and nice, just not helpful. (There is a big difference.) They insisted on seating a large group ahead of us even though we had been waiting 30 minutes longer than the group, and then tried to rationalize to me that they had another table for us (that was still occupied). On a weekend night, they would not seat us at my desired (empty) table because the waiter assigned that table was “busy”. (Needless to say, someone was seated there 5 minutes after us). Cafe Fresko has a long way to go when it comes to handling their customers needs and desires with courtesy and respect. Hopefully the owners will learn this sooner rather than later (and learn how to manage the reservation process), because it would be a shame to see all that wonderful food go to waste.

Value: Excellent entrees at $22-26, combined with the BYOB policy makes this restaurant, while not necessarily cheap for a BYOB, a very good value.

# of times we’ve eaten there: 2
Reservations: Yes, but plan to wait at least 30 minutes with one
Payments: Cash only

Last Updated: 2/2004

13 Responses to “Café Fresko, Bryn Mawr”

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  1. nancy says:

    i have been here twice. The first time we waited 35 minutes for our table. food was good but expensive and not nearly as good as Belrose which is not far! The second time I went, WHILE WE WERE HAVING DESSERT, the wife asked us to move to a different table so the owners’ family members could sit where we were!!! I will never go back again. The wife is rude and unhelpful. Go to Blackfish. Go to Belrose. Go to Theresa’s Next Door. All will provide wonderful food and a pleasurable dining experience!!

  2. Vicarious says:

    Cafe Fresko is a favorite, although we don’t get there as often as I would like. I recently discovered that it’s fantastic (and largely empty) at lunch time. My favorite is the lamb gyro, which is served with a choice of salad or fries.

  3. Katie says:

    My friends and I dined here a few months ago and the service was excellent. We made reservations for 5:30pm (when they open) and we were seated quickly as we were the first to arrive.

    The entrees were excellent and the desserts were great. Our server was nice and helpful.

  4. Jordan says:

    My wife and I eat here frequently and I must say that the food and the dining experience has been superb every time. The dishes are always well prepared and extremely tasty, and the young chef is very good at what he does and should be acknowledged for his excellent culinary skills. I disagree with the writers above who say the food and service is not good. My wife and I feel that this is by far the best restaurant in the area and we always leave having a great dining experience. The purpose of going out to eat is to have a relaxing dining experience, not to have someone hovering over you, and the servers do exactly what a server is meant to do…they provide great service and are not overbearing. Kudos to Chef/Owners of this place for a job done. You will definitely see us again soon and we have spread the word to our family and friends.

  5. Joe B says:

    my wife and I eat here nearly once a week–we have had an excellent meal every time. The ingredients are always fresh and tasty and the chef does nice things with them. the octopus is the best anywhere west of south street souvlaki, maybe athens itself.

    this is a european taverna experience: those who found the service inattentive are simply expecting something different. here, you are left alone to enjoy your food. if you choose wisely from the wine store across the street, it is the best valued meal in town.

  6. Anne says:

    Our service was inadequate. The server did not come back to refill our water glasses or pour our wine. We waited a significant amount of time while he was clearing other tables which were empty and resetting tables before asking us if we wanted “anything else” and did not ask us if we we would like a cappucino, latte or tea. He also never came to ask us if everything was okay during our meal. As commented above by another reviewer he was definitely inattentive.

    The eggplant puree served as part of the one appetiver we ordered was extremely bitter making it pretty much inedible. The lentils accompanying the grilled octupus appetizer were undercooked and crunchy. Both appetizers as well as our entrees were overpriced for the amount and quality of the food.

    The braised short rib and fish entree was average. The brown sauce on the fish was unremarkable. We shared the pear and almond tart. The almond flavor overpowered the fresh pears and the tart crust was soggy.

    The chef came out numerous times during the course of our meal and simply stood there and surveyed the room which both my dining companion and I found to be annoying and unnerving. In addition the owner and his wife sat down to dinner at a table directly behind our table and made at least several trips back and forth to the kitchen before sitting down to eat. The waiter left their dirty dishes to sit on the table most of the time we were eating dinner.

    We were not impressed with the food or service at this restaurant and do not intend to return. I would not recommend this restaurant.

  7. l and m says:

    Great meal – and very good service.

    The Pappas’s have combined in heartwaming fashion old world charm with new world creativity.

    Our appetizers of PEI mussels and Fresko salad set the tone for a splendid meal. The rack of lamb – delicately coated with a pistacio crust – was nestled next to unusually elegant garlic mashed potatoes and a warm eggplant compote and was displayed regally atop a Greek port reduction. At the other end of the spectrum, the whole branzino, which was nicely accompanied by swiss chard in a beurre blanc sauce melted in my mouth.

    The challenge for this young chef, who has displayed solid and creative skills, is to continue to maintain his current level of quality and attention to detail while expaning his creative acumen.

    We’ll definitely return.

  8. Scott says:

    My wife and I have eaten at Cafe Fresko since it opened just over 3 years ago. On average, we eat there 2 or 3 times each month (which works out to somewhere between 20 and 30 times each year).

    I highly recommend this restaurant to anyone who desires an excellent all around experience. I have read the reviews that have preceded mine and I am certain that anyone who had a less than perfect experience had the unfortunate luck to catch Cafe Fresko on a rare off night. I suspect that most people who have good experiences do not think to write reviews (I know that I have not written one until now), but if they did, I am confident that the overwhelming opinion would be positive.

    I am a stickler for service. In my opinion, Cafe Fresko has some of the best waiters on the Main Line. I recently had the unfortunate luck to find that I had a flat tire after dining at Cafe Fresko. Not only did the wait staff do an excellent job serving me that evening, they even pitched in to help me change my tire. They are dedicated, pleasant, and professional. The hostess/owner is one of those people who truly understand how to make people feel at home. Each time we see her, we have no choice but to smile. In fact, when I have had a particularly hard week, the place I enjoy going most is Cafe Fresko because I know that I will have a great meal and I will be served by people who truly enjoy what they are doing.

    What good would great service be without fabulous food? Cafe Fresko has that in spades. The Chef is constantly inventing new dishes and perfecting his classics. The lamb chops are outstanding as are many of the specials that are offered throughout the year. When things slow down, the Chef is often seen in the dining room making sure that all the customers are happy.

    As for cost, Cafe Fresko is a great value for what you get. By no means is Cafe Fresko inexpensive and at least for me the cash only policy can sometimes make it seem more expensive than it really is (I usually use plastic to pay for everything). That being said, I have never once left feeling that I overpaid for the experience.

    Last, but not least, the wine list is the best around (as long as you have a good cellar).

    If you have not tried Cafe Fresko I highly recommend you do. I hope this excellent restaurant becomes a staple of the Main Line for years to come.

  9. Russ says:

    We had three couples in our party for an early (6:30pm) Friday night dinner. One of the couples had recommended Cafe Fresko and therefore I did not voice my basically complete dissatisfaction with my dining experience. The only positive was that we were seated on time, but that was a gimmie being that only 2 other tables were occupied. Our waiter recited the specials and three of our party ordered the entree special. After about 10 minutes he returned to inform us that they had run out of the special.Three tables occupied at 6:30 and they are out of the featured entree. The night went down hill from there.
    1) Inatentive and unfriendly waiter.
    2) Very small portions.
    3) My entree, sauteed striped bass, was mushy,cold and bland.
    4) None of our party voiced any positive comments and I felt most were not impressed but with held negitives as I did.
    5) Over priced even for a BYO

  10. Stew Keener says:

    My girlfriendand been there 5 times and have had consistently excellent food and service each time. It isn’t cheap but relative to what is out there, worth the price. The hostess/owner is friendly and makes an effort to remember you. Highly recommend. BYOB

  11. Sam says:

    This is one of my favorite places to have lunch. Food is consistenly delicious. Dinner is good as well, just a bit more crowded so expect to wait.

  12. ed kessler says:

    While I’ve only had one lunch, it was quite clear that this kitchen really knows how to use herbs and spices. They are well blended so as not to hit you over the head with a single flavor.

  13. administrator says:

    From JXR (2/05): I dine out at least 3 times a week in the Main Line and Philadelphia area, and this is by far the best BYOB I have gone to so far. The decor is beautiful from the dome ceilings to the murals on the wall, it creates such a fine dining experience for all. The customer service was superb. When we walked in the hostess, who appeared to be one of the owners, gave us such a warm, friendly greeting that we felt as if we were family. We were seated immediately, and were greeted by a server who was as equally nice and attentive. Our appetizers were a nice preview of what was to come. The tuna tartar was to die for, and we all were in agreement that the saganaki and the meditteranean pizza contained the best tasting feta what we have ever eaten. All of our entrees were superb and seasoned to perfection. I would definitely recommend their feta cheese encrusted NY strip with winter vegetables and any of their fish entrees because all of them from the salmon to the bronzino were so fresh and abundantly flavorful. It is obvious that their chef knows what he is doing because the Meditteranean and French influences in the savory dishes are nothing short of genius. The desserts were also great. We enjoyed a mouth watering creme brulee and a traditional greek dessert called baklava. This is one of those “must go to places”. If you want to enjoy amazing Meditteranean/French influenced food that is moderately priced, as well as to receive great service than you should definitley make a reservation.

    From Joan (2/05): Initally when I walked in, I had high expectation after seeing the beautiful decor of this restarant. However, the Hostess is overwhelming dotting and the waitstaff is rude and unaccomodating. I understand that the restaurant has limited seating, however, my feeling was that they would like you to leave as quickly as possible making it impossible to enjoy your dinner properly despite the pricey menu. All these issues would have been overlooked had I been satisfied with the meal. My entree was undercooked, cold and not tasty. I would not eat at this restaurant again nor would I recommend it to others.

    From Jack (2/05): This is the best restaurant of it kind. I would recommend this restaurant to anyone who is looking for excellent tasting food. It may be a little extra than what you usually pay for but its well worth its cost. Best restaurant on the main line. The atmosphere is great and the inside decorating is fabulous and gives you a warm feeling of comfort.

    From Anonymous (1/05): Good decor in a cute neighborhood spot is ruined by the poor customer service at this BYOB. Both our appetizer and my entree came out cold, and when I complained about my meal (in addition to being cold) as being bland, I was told that there was “nothing wrong with it” and for that reason, they would not exchange it for another. The hostess was apologetic, but obviously more concerned about her chef’s ego than her customers (and unwilling to take the entree off the bill). Without customers, however, I believe she won’t be in need of her pompous chef for very much longer.

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