As a child growing up in Toughkenamon, Pa., chef Ray Maxwell often rode his bike by the Brown Derby (1470 Baltimore Pike, Toughkenamon, Pa., 610-268-8252). The Baltimore Pike restaurant had been celebrated since 1934 by diners who visited for lobster tail, prime rib and Italian dishes. It served generations until it closed in 2014. Now it’s back. Maxwell and partner Aaron Luna resurrected the Derby in August. “It’s unbelievable to me that I own it,” Maxwell says. “I pinch myself every day thinking about it.”
The restaurant was founded when Toughkenamon’s location between Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., made it a hub for food distributors. Businessmen needed a spot for three-martini lunches and expense-accounted dinners.
Maxwell has crafted a menu that pays homage to the past via offerings such as lobster tail, flounder stuffed with crab imperial, Black Angus filet mignon and big, buttery baked potatoes, as well as crab ravioli, chicken Parmesan, chicken Marsala and eggplant lasagna.
“I definitely want to continue the tradition of the Brown Derby because that’s why it’s been here so long,” says Maxwell, who’s also worked at the Chadds Ford Inn, Mendenhall Inn and Dilworthtown Inn. “But I also want to make it more modern.”
Twists include poutine: fries topped with white cheddar cheese curd, mushroom demi-glace and shaved prime rib. There’s also lobster mac-and-cheese and calamari. “I want people to know we’ve taken a piece of history and continued the tradition of it,” Maxwell says. “But in a new way.”