Hemingway’s is one of two attempts in Collegeville to make a successful restaurant where a previous one had not succeeded. In my time in Collegeville, the site where Hemingway’s is has been a brew pub and then Juno’s, a sports bar. To me, the brew pub should have succeeded: the cavernous space lent itself to a raucous, casual atmosphere. Likewise, a sports bar could have succeeded here, it seemed to me, but the food was average and the place suffered from never having a quorum of fans to make it a place where you wanted to go.
Now Hemingway’s is making a go of it here with a different concept. They are going high-end, with white table cloths, an emphasis on seafood with a raw bar, and a price point in the teens and twenties. However, the space is going against this concept. First, the tucked away location, which is likely the main reason why nothing has succeeded here, doesn’t help get word out that the place actually exists. Second, the makeover of the space is only half-hearted, with the exposed timber at odds with the white tablecloths, and the waitstaff in slightly sloppy polos and khakis doesn’t connote fine dining.
When we went on a weeknight, we were one of two occupied tables, the other oddly occupied by a family, when this place doesn’t really seem like a family place. We decided to go for an appetizer described as Dipping Fries, accompanied by dipping sauces flavored with jalapeno, paprika, and lemon pepper:
As you can see, the size of the sweet potatoes don’t really fit with “wedges” let alone “fries”: these were more like slabs. That being said, they were tasty, though the dipping sauces could not really be identified without knowing what they were. Further, there were just so many of them that we couldn’t get through more than half without fearing that we’d be full by the time our entrees came out. Finally, is this really a fine dining appetizer?
For my entree, I chose onion crisp chicken with sauteed spinach and mashed potatoes topped with onion crisps and a mushroom demi glace:
The plate was something of a mess. Onion strings cannot go wrong, nor can mashed potatoes, so those were tasty. Strangely, the chicken was the smallest component of the dish — barely a breast it seemed — and it was overcooked with little to no juiciness left. The spinach seemed an afterthought, with little to no flavor and cooked into a congealed blob.
Certainly, we didn’t opt for the seafood options, which it seems the restaurant wants to be known for, since the prices were far more than I wanted to spend, so I cannot speak to that part’s quality. I will also say that I don’t understand the Hemingway tie-in: there were no decorations that referred to the author, and I didn’t see how the food tied in (though I guess one can tie Key West to seafood, though one could tie almost any place on either coast with seafood).
By the time we left, a few more tables were occupied, but nowhere near enough to fill the space. As with any restaurant, I want Hemingway’s to succeed. However, to do so, it seems to me they have to find more coherence and a more appropriate price point, especially since so many options at that price point in Phoenixville and King of Prussia exist that do it well.