Just off of Lancaster Avenue at the Town Center at Wayne is the White Dog Café. It is nestled in a modern commercial setting, neighboring a children’s boutique cutely titled “Peanutbutter and Jane”, a financial firm and athletic stores just to name a few. The White Dog brings a very comfortable and distinctive fit to the complex–you realize this once you step inside the door.
The décor makes you feel like you’re walking into a warm, slightly cluttered home of a dog-lover. In an unobtrusive manner, there are paintings of all different types of breeds hung on their walls, used as if it were wallpaper. Dog pillows sit all along the couches that span the width of a dining room. I was reminded of an old Nantucket shore-house with all of the old-looking dark wood and nautical relics hung on the wall. The dining areas are kept quite dim, but not dim enough that you cannot see your menu; a candle sits on each table, providing an additional source of warm ambience. The restaurant seemed to cater to all-ages, as a wide variety of people were present, but overall drew more of an older crowd. Dress was slightly formal, bordering on dressy-casual. A lot of business professionals were out dining with their family and friends. The price of dining at the White Dog ranges from $$-$$$ depending on how hungry you are!
Luckily, I didn’t dine alone; my boyfriend was excited to join me for a nice Saturday night out on the Mainline. I have dined previously at the White Dog on two different occasions; each time was a good experience thus far, so as of yet I can’t complain. My father joined me on one of those occasions, and he told me that he very much enjoyed his dining experience. I must mention this to my readers, since he is probably the most discerning diner I have ever met in my life! Because he liked the food, the service and the overall experience, that is definitely saying something.
Getting back to my dining experience, I couldn’t help but overhear a customer next to me (we were seated closely) discuss his first experience at the White Dog with his wife. This man was probably in his late-50’s and his wife nearly the same. He commented that his burger was a bit overdone, but the fries were excellent. His wife’s Spicy Yellow Fin Tuna Tartare wasn’t too spicy and she told her husband that it was rather good. The White Dog houses contemporary American cuisine, which uses fresh and local ingredients (See: White Dog Café Dinner Menu – Wayne). Normally, eavesdropping isn’t the nicest of things to do at dinner, but hearing someone else’s opinion was very valuable to me. They seemed satisfied overall with their experience, and I was excited to try out the White Dog once again.
How is the White Dog sustainable?
Our waitress greeted us and asked if we had dined at White Dog before. She emphasized to my boyfriend, White Dog first-timer, that all of the animals that they used for food at the restaurant were treated humanely and that they are advocates for local farming; they only buy from farms within 50 miles of the restaurant.
Their restaurant newsletter, which I found atop the front seating podium, further explains their strong commitment to buying fresh ingredients from local farms. Advocating for use of local produce, they make a good point in their newsletter that on average US farming produce travels 1,300 miles to the restaurant dinner table, which wholly makes the thought using distance-produce an unattractive commodity. The use of local farms, besides providing the freshest ingredients without the expensive shipping costs, also helps sustain the local economy. The White Dog Newsletter mentions their use of Eco-friendly cleaning products and fair-trade coffee, tea and chocolate. On many fronts, the White Dog seems to live up to their sustainability principles.
They use 100% renewable energy at their two locations; both the University City and Wayne locations use wind power for their electricity. Markedly, the White Dog was the first business in Pennsylvania to fully get their power from a renewable source. Both locations religiously recycle, compost and recycle their waste fryer oil, which is then made into bio-diesel. A very interesting fact from the newsletter: “A portion of this fuel is used to heat the animal’s cages during the winter months at the Philadelphia Zoo.” Eco-friendly supplies are used at both White Dog locations as well. They use recycled products: from napkins to take-out containers, coasters to pencils. The White Dog takes their sustainable business practices incredibly seriously.
History of the White Dog
The White Dog was named for a beautiful story of a funny, old, eccentric woman that used to live at the address of their University City location in the 1800’s. Helena Blavatsky fell ill with some sort of leg-infection in her old age, which her doctors immediately thought she needed an amputation. After refusing an amputation, she kept to her bed and had her white dog sleep on her leg every night. Surprisingly, her leg-infection cured–with no doubt that the dog had something to do with it!
The restaurant went into business nearly 28 years ago at their University City location, very close to the campus of University of Pennsylvania. Judy Wicks is the founder of the White Dog Café, and as a social activist, she has really set the bar for how the White Dog operates its sustainability practices.
Now, on to the food!
What we ordered:
Kennett Square Mushroom Soup – (Grilled Amish Chicken, Truffle Chive Crème Fraiche): The soup had a very earthy taste with a hint of truffle. It’s possibly my favorite appetizer on the menu. It’s not too creamy, because you are really able to taste the mushrooms themselves.
Meadow Run Spiced Lamb Sliders – (Oven Roasted Tomato-Olive Tapenade, Feta Cheese, Tzatziki): The herbs were very fresh & crunchy, sized well enough to be a good appetizer. Since this was my boyfriend’s appetizer choice, he wanted me to share with you that he wished that he could’ve personalized his appetizer since he wasn’t entirely crazy about the tomato-olive Tapenade. Overall, he did say that they were delicious and that the lamb was cooked properly.
Dinner Special: Rib-Eye – My boyfriend’s entrée choice. He described it as: “the rib-eye was very tender and cooked to my liking, but the sauce took away from the taste of the meat.” I had a bite, and the sauce was sweet at the first bite, but then tasted sort of bitter. It was still good, but I could really empathize with my boyfriend about its strong taste. I guess we’re just both lovers of the natural flavors of beef as opposed to sauces that may cloak its taste. The rib-eye was topped with yellow and red tomatoes that served as a garnish and for extra flavoring.
Alaskan Baramundi – (Truffle Chive Gnocchi, Asparagus, Trumpet Mushrooms, Porcini Emulsion): Just the right combination of crunchy, fresh herbs with sliced mushrooms was atop the tender white fish, sitting on a delectable porcini sauce. The trumpet mushrooms were my favorite complement to the fish. The fish was very juicy and didn’t have an unpleasant fishy taste. As far as a fish recommendation, this is a must-try!
Truffle Fries – (Spicy Aioli, White Truffle Oil): Perhaps some of the best truffle fries, I’ve ever had, and you can call me a truffle-fry aficionado. I order them every chance I get, and I must say that these were the crunchiest, not too truffle-ly (since truffle oil can be incredibly overpowering) fries. I’d totally recommend ordering these! It’s a great side dish that is perfect to share with the table.
Overall, the dish presentations were beautiful as you can see in the photos taken above. I would be remiss if I didn’t recommend ordering the Lancaster Beet Salad. Topped with goat cheese, crispy polenta and crème fraiche, the beet salad has both red and yellow beets. Having ordered the salad on two prior dining occasions, both times the beets were incredibly fresh and juicy. I’m pretty positive that this takes the #2 spot on my list of best appetizers at the White Dog. If you happen to not be on the Mainline but instead downtown, I encourage you to try their University City location (3420 Sansom Street)!
The gentleman that was sitting next to me did say something else that really stuck with me, because it’s a statement that ‘foodies’ know not to take lightly and it’s why we’re so lucky to have great restaurants like this on our Philly Mainline. He remarked, “This could be in New York City.”
Next time, I’ll be exploring a more affordable option in Ardmore. Stay tuned and I’d love to hear from the readers. Share your own experiences with me!