A new ‘Haven’ for southern Chester County02/07/2024 02:27PM ● By Caroline Roosevelt
On a recent Sunday afternoon -- part of a recently misty weekend when the warming temperatures gathered up the remnants of snow and our region was encapsulated in a giant cloud -- I found my way to a new restaurant nestled in the wooded, windy roads of Landenberg, and I am happy to say that for restaurant goers in southern Chester County tired of the same old scene, The Haven Social has already lifted that fog.
Self-described as a coastal inspired BYOB, this venture that was opened late last year by husband-and-wife duo Tim Bolt and Mary Schleuter is frankly so much more. I had been complaining to anyone who would listen that I was having a hard time finding hidden gems, which I define as something that deserves to be talked about, raved about, but hasn’t yet seen the light of day. Moreover, a hidden gem should be something special and new and not absorb the interior and culinary retread of well-entrenched historical references, as is too often the case in historic Chester County.
The Haven Social has already checked off two of those requirements. However, it appears it has seen the light of day and more, as they have had to change their reservation requirements to parties of six or more due to high demand. Yet, the notion of having to wait at the Haven Social bar with a drink until a table becomes ready is not the purgatory it normally is in many other area locales.
Upon driving into the parking lot of the restaurant, the large Roman arched windows already set the stage for something out of the ordinary in the landscape of Landenberg. I was immediately excited, my appetite was whetted, and I was curious for what was in store. Upon entering, I felt the time of day immediately shift from my 2 p.m. arrival time to about 8 p.m., as I was entranced by the dimly-lit interior and the scent of burnt orange.
I wove slowly through the mosaic of lush green couches towards the dark wood bar where the arched windows behind it had been repurposed to appear as art nouveau mirrors with flecks of gold in the patina. The harsh, mid-afternoon daylight did not break through, and, in fact, I felt as though I was arriving for my evening cocktail before a night out in a chic Manhattan hotel. Amy Winehouse’s “Back to Black” twinkled in the background, and a few larger parties lingering from the brunch rush were tucked away in their respective large party corners.
One of the unique features of The Haven Social is their BYOB policy that not only allows for wine and beer, but the opportunity for guests to bring their own liquor that can be paired with an enticing menu of Mary’s expertly created mocktails. I asked her what her favorite mocktail was, and she pointed me to the Sour Ginger -- a combination of apple kombucha, ginger honey foam, pineapple, lemon and dehydrated pineapple. The kombucha provided a welcome sour kick which replaced the need for alcohol, and the ginger honey foam delicately played with the rest of the flavors and reminded me a bit of a pisco sour. I found myself wanting to relive that first sip again and again.
In concert with the mocktail, Tim began to introduce me to a tasting menu that began with caviar deviled eggs. Whenever I see deviled eggs on a menu, I have to try them. In the last decade, deviled eggs have made a culinary comeback; they’re no longer the lukewarm dish your grandmother made that sits on the back of the family buffet table barely touched, but a good litmus test of the level of creativity in a restaurant’s kitchen.
This dish didn’t disappoint. Finished with a fluffy dollop of chive creme fraiche, each egg came crowned with a delicate pile of black caviar and a tiny chive stem on top and danced between what would remind me of a scotch egg due to the panko crusted outer layer and a savory meringue. It was an appropriate and tasty nod to the restaurant’s seafood inspired menu.
Next up came the lobster-shrimp roll. The Haven Social works with local fish mongers to use the freshest seafood on their menu and it shows. The first bite of my lobster shrimp roll squelched in my mouth with a tart, slightly briny, and very refreshing combo of lobster and shrimp. Whipped up with a brown-butter mayo, this take on the lobster roll is particularly indulgent. The buttery toasted roll and old bay seasoning thrust me immediately into visions of summers in New England. Don’t sleep on this roll. Even after finishing the formal iteration, I scooped up lobster remnants using the homemade chips served on the side. I left no crumbs.
The Haven Social also features a raw bar with oysters, shrimp cocktail, and yellowfin tuna tartar. Mussel bowls provide options for mussel and fries combos - including saffron cream, garlic white wine, diavolo (tomato and chili flakes), and coconut curry. Sandwiches range from the aforementioned lobster roll to Smoked Brisket, Nashville Hot Chicken, and their take on a burger, “The Smash.”
Sides like fries, crispy brussels, green beans, mac ‘n cheese, coleslaw bring a southern soul food element to the joint, and just an afterthought, save room for the Nutty Buddy Smash pie (peanut butter mousse with a nutty buddy crust).
As I ceremoniously dumped my napkin on the bar, fully sated, I can say I’ve found my hidden gem. The Haven Social brings a much welcomed, destination dining experience to Landenberg. Great for a date night, an intimate birthday celebration, or a totally deserved fancy brunch, it should become a must-visit spot on the local culinary radar.
Oh, and if you’re not a party of six or more, make sure to get there early, because it’s almost certain that you won’t be the only guests in line.
The Haven Social is located at 1215 New London Road in Landenberg and is open from Thursday through Sunday. To see a complete menu for brunch, dinner and mocktails, visit www.thehavensocial.com.