I’m a Philly girl, through and through, and proud of it. So I’m always a little embarrassed when friends and family ask for a restaurant recommendation in Philadelphia, and I come up blank, especially since there has been such an explosion of incredible restaurants in the past ten years.
My standard excuse is that Bucks County is my beat. As it is, I don’t have enough time to visit (or revisit) all the restaurants in Bucks that I would like. M.O.M.’s is a perfect example.
I vaguely remember when the former Maxwell’s on Main operated over four years ago at the same location but I didn’t have any fond memories that drew me back. To be honest, I haven’t paid much attention to the new M.O.M.’s that Brian and Nate Hugill opened in January 2010 with their friend and chef, Bobby Marchesano. I knew it was a fun place to meet up, with a good craft beer selection, but knew nothing of the food.
So when M.O.M’s asked me if I’d be interested in doing a tasting, I was curious. I’m always a bit uneasy when I am comped a meal. There is certainly a sense of obligation to write about it, and to say something complimentary. I don’t see myself as a food critic, so I don’t write critical reviews. If I can’t find enough good things to say about a place, I just won’t write about it.
Thankfully this was not a problem with M.O.M.’s.
Imagine finding a piece of New Orleans in the center of Doylestown. Warm, Southern-style comfort food with interesting twists all over the menu. Sweet, smoky and with a touch of spice. Creole ingredients like crab, crawfish, sweet potatoes, andouille sausage, grits, collards, smoked pork and bread pudding. I had no idea this was going on at Main and Court Streets.
As I sat waiting for the first course, I sipped my beer and took in the surroundings. Browns, ochres. Exposed brick. Tin ceilings and warm, wood floors. Leather-covered seats and intimate lighting. Indie rock mixed with Patsy Cline and Johnny Cash. Marchesano and the Hugill brothers renovated the place themselves going for a “casual, laid back” feeling, explains Marchesano. “We’re all here to have a good time. It’s why we decided to call it M.O.M.’s.” Laissez les bons temps rouler, for sure.
The first dish to arrive—the amuse-bouche—was certainly an indication of what was to come. Goat cheese, and beer and bacon jam on grilled toast, served over dressed spring greens. A tasty morsel, indeed. The first course, a Warm Lobster Arugula Salad, also balanced warm and cool, soft and firm. Almonds and thinly sliced pickled cucumbers provided “crunch” and shaved radish and a lemon vinaigrette added a tart note.
Albert, my knowledgeable and entertaining waiter, let me know that Chef was giving me a taste of the season to come as he transitions from the warm, heavier food of winter to spring. Some of the dishes stay on the menu year-round, like the gumbo and blackened swordfish. But Marchesano brings in the seasons with local vegetables and cooler creations.
Next to appear was a pan-fried Crab and Crawfish Cake served on a celery and green apple slaw, with andouille sausage mustard, topped with fried celery leaves. I have never had fried celery leaves—and I don’t even like the taste of celery—but I was hooked.
Blackened fish dishes, once so ubiquitous in fine dining restaurants, have never been a favorite of mine. Much too often the fish arrives dry and over seasoned. But not so at M.O.M.’s. The Blackened Swordfish was spicy but not overpowering, and released steam (steam!) when I cut into it with my fork. The swordfish was perfect—not too dry and not underdone. It was served on top of the house’s special barbecue sweet potato and crab meat hash, and garnished with chive oil.
By this time I was pretty happy. I also realized that beer is what goes best with this food. I was imbibing a Bell’s Smitten Golden Rye Ale, served from the tap, and one of dozens of craft beers from all over the country available at M.O.M.’s. Sorry if you’re a Chardonnay drinker; this is strictly beer and bourbon food (by the way, M.O.M.’s also has a very nice selection of bourbon).
But we weren’t finished. Maple Glazed Pork Belly—crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside—came next, surrounded by cheddar and jalapeno grits, garnished with crispy fried onions. I had to bring half of this home, partly because I was quite full at this point, and partly because I would be in trouble with the husband if I didn’t.
To finish, I had to choose a dessert. Should I go with the Bread Pudding with Caramel Sauce and Rum Raisin Ice Cream? Or the Sticky Date Cake with whipped cream (Albert’s favorite)? Or choose from a selection of oWow Cow Creamery ice cream? To stick with the Southern theme, I decided on the bread pudding, also a favorite of my husband’s. It was one of the best bread pudding desserts I have ever had.
So how did this nice Italian guy from Brooklyn come to cook creole so good? Marchesano gave me a bit of his culinary background. While he was at the Culinary Institute of America, he did an internship at Mr. B’s Bistro in the heart of New Orleans’ French Quarter, one of the finest creole restaurants in town. Of course his first introduction to good cooking, like so many chefs I’ve interviewed over the years, came at the elbow of his Italian great-grandmother. He worked at fine dining restaurants in San Francisco, New York and Chicago. When he was in NYC, he met Brian and Nate Hugill at a bar and the three became friends. In 2005, they opened a restaurant together on the Lower East Side that specialized in cheese and charcuterie. But Nate, a Bucks native, came back to the county to raise his family, followed by Brian.
In 2009, when Marchesano was working in Chicago, Brian and Nate persuaded him to come visit and look at a restaurant opportunity. “They told me it was in Philly,” he says drily, which after a long car ride from the airport, he realized was not the case. Fortunately, Marchesano decided to stay and the new Maxwell’s on Main, or M.O.M.’s, opened in early 2010.
Although the menu is full of warm creole cooking, there is a good selection of fresh salads and interesting flatbreads too, not to mention a list of appetizers—like fried pickles, mini corn dogs, fish tacos, and BBQ pork and sweet potato quesadillas—that all go quite well with a beer or two.
Marchesano has his trusted local sources for vegetables and meats too. He buys wild pork and exotic meats from Fossil Farms in Boonton, NJ. Sunflower Produce in Quakertown supplies him with mushrooms and ramps in season. He’s even working with John Fezzuglio at oWow Cow Creamery to develop custom ice cream flavors for M.O.M.’s like carrot cake, and molasses. Marchesano also smokes all his meats and portabello mushrooms in-house. And when it’s time to make a real blood pudding, Ilg’s in Chalfont is happy to supply the key ingredient.
Stop by M.O.M.’s for “American fare with a pinch of the South.” Whether it’s just for a bite to eat and a craft beer—ten always on tap, as well as bottled—or a warm and filling dinner.
Maxwell’s on Main / M.O.M.’s
37 North Main Street (corner of Main & Court Sts., across from the courthouse)
Doylestown, PA 18901
Open 7 days a week; Brunch on Sundays
Appetizers: $6 – $12
Entrees: $14 – $34