Address: 872 W. Lancaster Ave., Bryn Mawr, PA 19010
Rating: (out of 5 stars): ★★★1/2
Style: Upscale cafeteria and restaurant hybrid
Food: Brick oven pizza, sandwiches and salads
Atmosphere: Brightly lit interior with long communal tables
Parking: Metered street parking
Price Range: Most options are under $10
Unique Feature: Wide array of beverage options including La Colombe coffee, Naked juices and Old Philadelphia gourmet sodas.
The other day I was on a quest for delicious thin crust pizza in Philly. I went to Nomad Pizza on 7th between South and Kater only to find that they are still not open. I drove to the other side of the city to one of my favorite places, Zavino, at 13th and Sansom, just so I could yank on the locked door. (Turns out they open at 2 p.m. on Sundays.) Starving and defeated, I ended up going to the Le Pain Quotidien in front of which my car was parked. While I had driven by Crust in Bryn Mawr numerous times, I had no idea that the delicious thin crust pizza I had been craving was available minutes from my house.
Crust is the latest venture from the team behind Mediterranean Grill just next door. I had eaten there and reviewed it for Bryn Mawr-Gladwyne Patch back in the spring, so I arrived with high hopes. I had expected a sit-down restaurant with table service, but Crust is a hybrid cafeteria and restaurant. When you arrive you place your order at the counter but do not pay for it until the end of the meal. You grab drinks from the beverage case and sit anywhere you would like.
We grabbed Old Philadelphia black cherry and birch beers as well as a mini bottle of Pellegrino and took them to the long wooden table with a prime view of the kitchen. The sodas were very good. Neither one of us had had their sodas before, but the product was high quality. My black cherry soda was full of cherry flavor with plenty of fizz (some higher end sodas lack the bubbly quality and wind up tasting somewhat flat).
Our individual margherita and pepperoni pizzas arrived first. Both pies were perfectly portioned for one—there were no leftovers. The thin crust was crisp and golden on the outside and slightly chewy on the inside. The tomato sauce was full flavored and well seasoned. The mozzarella was creamy and delicious while the fresh basil provided a good herbal contrast. The pepperoni were enormous but sliced quite thin. While the slices weren’t spicy as the menu advertised, a sprinkle of crushed red pepper did the trick. The pizzas made here are more delicate and refined than the pies you find at most other places.
Our arugula salad with shaved parmigiano, roasted walnuts and honey glazed vinaigrette arrived last. The surprisingly deep wooden bowl held enough salad for three. The greens were fresh, the cheese salty, nutty and sharp and the walnuts and dressing slightly sweet. Each bite was a nice combination of sweet and savory with a cool and refreshing backdrop. This update of the classic arugula salad would make a welcome addition to any meal at Crust.
The service was decent. While everyone was quite friendly, it was difficult to know what to expect from a cafeteria/restaurant hybrid. Our food and utensils were brought out by our server. We were not given glasses of water. When we needed salt, pepper or chili flakes we had to grab some shakers at the counter. Our server did come to check on us periodically and eventually dropped off our check. We then took our check to the counter to pay for it. I was unsure of how much to tip as it was what I would deem quasi-table service. I also noticed a tip jar next to the register. As the prices are reasonable, I opted for the full 20 percent, as the difference between a lousy tip and a full tip was just a couple dollars. ‘Tis the season after all.