To fully appreciate the Yellow Springs Inn, it helps to understand how steeped in history this special restaurant and the surrounding village is: This bucolic gateway to the past first gained prominence during the War for Independence when General George Washington visited what was considered to be the country’s first military hospital. In the early and mid-19th century, the village housed a luxurious spa retreat which lured visitors from near and far. They came to bathe in its iron-rich “yellow” springs. Later, the spa was turned into a school for orphaned children of Civil War soldiers, and in the 20th century, the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts established a country outpost within the quaint hamlet.
The village has even been touched by Hollywood, when, in 1958, the now-named Washington House served as a production studio for “The Blob” which was filmed in nearby Phoenixville. In 1984, a culinary tradition started when a visionary restaurateur named Charlie Orlando moved into that same structure and opened his ode to quintessential country dining, The Inn at Yellow Springs. It was operational until 2005.
After his departure from the structural behemoth that is the Washington House, Charlie recently reopened in the much more manageable Jenny Lind House just down the road. It’s his original Inn all over again, only miniaturized: Each of the two cozy dining rooms offers 18th century opulence which emanates from austere oil paintings, bejeweled chandeliers; expansive Persian rugs. The space is an antique mirror image of his original restaurant.
Today’s YSI continues to produce the same inspired regional American fare as its predecessor, a classically fine dining approach by the kitchen’s personnel fixtures from before — Charlie’s wife, Barbara, who is still the chef; prep & cooking help comes from brother, Ricky and sister-in-law, Janet — just like back in the day.
The menu’s traditional aspects offer refined standards beginning with its starters, such as a meaty grilled portabello mushroom on a bed of spinach and stuffed with artichoke, sour cream and Parmesan cheese [pictured above], as well as a tempting hors d’oeuvre — duck and chestnuts in phyllo purses with a deeply satisfying mushroom Madeira sauce.
Entrees at the Inn reflect the locale’s natural Piedmont bounty with roasted game, meats and fish in hearty representation. Free range pheasant is a perennial specialty. Wild caught grouper gets a global spin thanks to its coconut cilantro sauce and lime couscous. On another dish, pecan encrusted Berkshire pork tenderloins are laden with the delicious taste of classic Americana, by way of Granny Smith apple chutney, sweet potato and seasonal vegetables [pictured below].
Barbara is adept at desserts, too. Bete Noire is a deeply satisfying flourless chocolate cake drizzled with a pearlescent crème Anglaise [pictured below]; the chocolate peanut butter torte is all that its name implies (scrumptiously yummy), and, if you don’t see it on the menu, ask Charlie if he can round up the ingredients to make the Inn’s famed Bananas Foster — “It’s the original Brennan’s recipe.”
This more intimate version of YSI — unlike its predecessor — is BYOB for now. However, Charlie is working on securing a liquor license so he can complement the gorgeous varnished bar that came with the building.
In the meantime, guests can bring their favorite bottles and enjoy them with their meal, inside and outdoors. The lovely front porch, with its dainty tables and spectacular landscaping, offers some of the best alfresco dining in the county. Very romantic!
The Village of Yellow Spring is a truly magical setting for any restaurant, and it is why the combination of delicious fare and an overall dreaminess of the surroundings help patrons to gladly accept the restaurant’s price points. Charlie isn’t shy about the cost of the forty dollar mélange of filet, crab & lobster cake or any of his other six entrees over $30.
With bold tariffs though, you will get two experiential intangibles to go along with the enjoyable food at the Yellow Springs Inn: One is an almost indescribable feeling of the aforementioned magic that exudes soothingly throughout the village, and secondly, the visitor feels a definite sense of the past; history that’s still very much in the making.
Find Yellow Springs Inn at 1657 Art School Road in Chester Springs, or online at YellowSpringsInn.com. YSI is open for dinner Wednesday through Saturday, from 5-9:30 p.m. Reservations are available by calling 610-827-7477.
Photographs credited to Nina Lea Photography.