Caroline, off the grid09/01/2023 03:17PM ● By Caroline Roosevelt
The 38th annual Mushroom Festival will grace the hamlet of Kennett Square and sprawl along State Street on September 9 and 10, and as a contributing writer for the Chester County Press whose editorial focus is heavily weighted on arts and entertainment, I was tasked with developing a guide for out-of-towners on where to eat while in town. At some point, you’re going to get tired of mushroom bisque, so what else is there?
While State Street holds the attention of most of the established restaurants in Kennett Square, perhaps you want to get a little off the grid. Maybe you want to experience something a little less curated.
If so, read on.
On a surprisingly mild Saturday in July, I ventured out to a couple of spots outside of my usual rotation for the express purpose of experiencing something new among the familiar. I’m not a foodie, and I am not looking for the perfect flakey crust or the newest spot with the freshest iteration of a balsamic drizzle. No, I wanted something that was good, that was local, and indicative of the varied facets of a community with a unique blend of deep cultural influences tied directly to agricultural roots.
I began my culinary journey at a food truck. I chose El Poblano II, situated in the gas station parking lot of Star Gas Station at 700 Cypress Road. I’ve driven by it many times, watching the smoke from the grill billowing across my car windshield as I pass by, but today, I stopped to place an order of grilled chicken with spicy barbeque sauce.
As I was ordering, an older gentleman in a convertible rolled up with half a cigar in his mouth and asked if there were any sausages today. I felt like he was an omen of good things to come.
I watched my chicken sizzle on the grill. The sole operator of the stand, a young man in a blue apron, placed it into a takeaway container with rice and my sauce. I was ready. There were other options, and visuals as displayed on a banner in front of the grill. I took my order and headed to my second location.
The next stop on my “been meaning to check it out” list was Guadalajara Express, at 520 South Union Street, located in a small Hispanic shopping center across from the Kennett High School that also offers a grocery store and a bakery. Unlike the previous joint, this restaurant is dine-in, with an option to take out. Like many of the smaller Mexican restaurants in the area, Guadalajara also doubles as a butcher shop.
I entered at 4 p.m., usually a slow time for restaurants, but this place had a gathering at every booth. I walked up to an order window and was greeted by a friendly face on the other side. I ordered tacos Al Pastor and chorizo tacos, with salsa verde on the side. While waiting for the order, I posted up at a small bar stool area to the right of the window while a tela-novela played on a TV to no one in the corner of the restaurant.
After ten minutes, my to-go order was brought to me at the bar, and I made my way to my final destination, Anson B Nixon Park for a veritable feast.
If you want to escape the chaos of State Street this Mushroom Festival, I highly recommend a picnic in the park and some solid Mexican food. Anson B. Nixon Park has been a staple of the community for years, and I’ve always enjoyed it for the diversity it welcomes. From pickleball, to birthday parties, a great playground where I take my daughter often, and the frisbee golf crowd, you get to see so many people enjoying their hobbies. As I unpacked my lunch on the picnic table, I was treated to a photo shoot of a quinceanera (a young lady in a billowing ball gown posed with five young men in matching pink shirts, cowboy hats and cowboy boots).
The food was great and plentiful -- exactly what I’ve come to expect and appreciate about the authenticity of the local Mexican fare. I will say, the spicy BBQ sauce completed my grilled chicken, and the pillowy street-taco style of my al pastor and chorizo tacos hit the spot. While I’m a carnivor at heart, I would like to mention there are several vegetarian options at both of these locations.
You really can’t go wrong in this area when choosing a small local dive for tacos. As we celebrate the Mushroom Festival this year, let’s give a nod to the immigrant community that makes this all possible and imbues Kennett Square with a one-of-a-kind infusion of Hispanic influence.
If you’re looking for some other locations to try out that represent the entrepreneurship and culinary expertise of the Hispanic community consider the following:
Bakeries and Butcher Shops
Alondras Bakery, 113 West State Street
Baker Magnolia, 207 Magnolia Street
Cafe Evergreen (I will count this as a bakery as they make their bread in house but this is also a fantastic Columbian cafe with a full menu and great coffee/smoothies/juices), 216 South Mill Road
Carniceria Camargo, 207 Magnolia Street
Deisy’s Cake Shop (excellent tres leches cake I order every year for my birthday), 315 West State Street
Mario’s Bakery, 520 South Union Street
Panaderia Lara, 625 East Cypress Street
Hnos Lara, 710 West Baltimore Pike
La Pena, 609 West Cypress Street
La Mixteca, 700 West Cypress Street