Brandywine Prime Seafood and Chops:05/16/2018 11:21AM ● By J. Chambless
Brandywine Prime is in a beautifully restored 300-year-old inn along Baltimore Pike in Chadds Ford.
One of the things that Michael Majewski likes best about his job as the general manager of Brandywine Prime Seafood and Chops is when customers find a menu offering that surprises them. On one recent evening, a couple from Chicago came in and enjoyed a meal highlighted by Wagyu beef. Some of the finer restaurants in Chicago might have this delicious, top-quality beef, but who would expect to be able to find it in a restaurant in charming Chadds Ford? The couple told Majewski that they were pleased with Brandywine Prime’s food and service.
What better compliment could a restauranteur ask for?
From the time it opened in February of 2007, Brandywine Prime has been a unique dining destination, a restaurant that brings distinctive American fare to the charming and historic Chadds Ford community. While local residents have the opportunity to enjoy the excellent American cuisine on a regular basis, the restaurant also appeals to the many visitors who are in the area to enjoy Longwood Gardens, Winterthur Museum & Gardens, the Brandywine River Museum, or one of the Brandywine Valley’s other leading attractions.
Nina Kelly, the director of marketing and communications with the Chester County Conference & Visitors Bureau said that Brandywine Prime is definitely one of those restaurants that the Brandywine Valley is proud to have―and a destination for many of the visitors who are in the area to visit some of the attractions.
“Brandywine Prime offers everything―the food, the service, the atmosphere,” Kelly said. “It’s perfectly located with the museums and breweries and wineries nearby.”
Not long ago, Kelly explained, the Chester County Conference & Visitors Bureau helped a blogger from Italy plan a visit to tour some of the Brandywine Valley’s top destinations. Brandywine Prime was one of the restaurants featured.
“Even folks in Italy love Brandywine Prime,” she said.
Kelly explained that Brandywine Prime also has great spaces for large gatherings like baby showers, rehearsal dinners, birthday parties, and banquets, so the staff at the Chester County Conference & Visitors Bureau will often recommend it to people who are planning an event in the area. Brandywine Prime has private rooms that can accommodate any party from between 10 to 96 people. They also offer catering services for everything from casual office lunches to large holiday parties.
The atmosphere in any part of restaurant is amazing. The building was long the home of the historic Chadds Ford Inn. It has been lovingly modernized to offer a comfortable dining experience. Brandywine Prime’s rustic charm and casual atmosphere can be attributed to the fact that it is situated in a beautifully restored 300-year-old inn. But it is chef Jason Barrowcliff’s superb traditional American fare―steaks, chops, and seafood―that brings an elegant and upscale touch to the restaurant.
“Everything is made from scratch here. We make our own bread. We make our own desserts,” Majewski explained.
Just like its name suggests, Brandywine Prime Seafood and Chops places an emphasis on prime steaks and chops and seasonally changing seafood selections that arrive daily. The menu features everything from center cut filet mignon to pan-fried Pocono brook trout to prime rib sandwiches.
Selections like the Wagyu beef, which is a prime cut of steak from cattle raised in Texas, make for a memorable dining experience. Barrowcliff is always looking for interesting offerings that would rival anything on menus in Philadelphia so that even people who’ve dined at the restaurant numerous times can find something new to enjoy.
“A large amount of our business is repeat customers, our regulars,” Majewski said.
The team that leads Brandywine Prime came with plenty of experience, which is one reason for the restaurant’s success and longevity in a very competitive market. When they opened Brandywine Prime, Majewski and business partners Dan Butler and Paul Bouchard set out to bring a different kind of dining experience to Chadds Ford. Majewski had worked in a restaurant in Wilmington just before he and his business partners opened Brandywine Prime, and they had a lot of ideas about what kind of restaurant they wanted based on all their experiences.
Majewski himself got his first job in the food industry when he was 16. After high school, he majored in economics in college, and later taught math and served as a soccer coach. In the early 1990s, he was working at Griglia Toscana while also teaching and coaching, when he met wine expert Frank Splan. Majewski eventually apprenticed with Splan. He traveled extensively to Italy, France, Germany, and California, learning all about each stage of wine-making. Today, he uses that experience to refine Brandywine Prime’s wine lists, which are extensive.
When it comes to evaluating wines, he said, every person’s opinion is valid.
“I was an economics major in college,” he explained. “In economics, as long as you have an opinion and can back it up, it’s not wrong. Wine is really the same way.”
Majewski said that he enjoys running a single-owner restaurant where an owner is in charge of everything that takes place. He explained that when he was growing up and the family went out to dinner for a special occasion, they would never go to a chain restaurant. The family would instead go to a local restaurant that had an owner who was almost always there to ensure the quality of the food and service. Brandywine Prime wants their customers to have that same experience, and Majewski likes being able to deliver that personal touch that his own family experienced when they would eat out. The hospitality at Brandywine Prime is befitting the building's past as an historic inn.
When they opened Brandywine Prime, the owners knew that they couldn’t manage the restaurant in a more rural area in the same way that they would run a restaurant in a city, even though the city of Wilmington isn't all that far away. There can be some advantages to having a restaurant in a rural area. For example, Jason Barrowcliff, the chef at Brandywine Prime, can grow his own vegetables and raise chickens on a nearby farm. The flavorful bison carpaccio that is featured at Brandywine Prime is made of bison raised at the Bison Run Ranch in Unionville.
It’s an advantage for Brandywine Prime to have such a convenient location along Baltimore Pike, situated in close proximity to Longwood Gardens and other Brandywine Valley attractions. But the location comes with its challenges, too.
“The heavily traveled road has its good points and its bad points,” Majewski said, explaining that the motorists on that stretch of Route 1 zip by at 55 miles an hour, too fast to really be enticed by the village's offerings.
Another one of the reasons for Brandywine Prime’s success has been the willingness by the owners to adapt and change based on what customers want and expect.
“In the restaurant business, you have to be able to two-step,” Majewski explained. “You have to keep your eye on what customers want, and on the restaurant business. I don't have the future mapped out.”
The staff at Brandywine Prime has played an important part in the restaurant’s ongoing success. There are between 45 and 55 people employed at the restaurant, depending on the season. Many of the staff members have been there for years, including three people who have been with Brandywine Prime since it first opened more than 11 years ago.
“I think we do a good job of finding people who fit,” Majewski explained. “And when they fit, they stay.”
Brandywine Prime Seafood and Chops is located at 1617 Baltimore Pike in Chadds Ford. For more information or to make reservations, visit www.brandywineprime.com or call 610-388-8088.
To contact Staff Writer Steven Hoffman, email [email protected]