Going back to The Whip

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Ever been to The Whip?

I was there before The Whip was The Whip. Then known as the Country Place Deli, the cinderblock square at the corner of Route 841 and Springdell Road in Chester County, Pa. lured an odd mix of cowboys and kids. The cowboys drank beer and threw darts in the back – a bar as dark as the inside of a tire. The kids ran in and out of the convenience store/lunch spot up front. Sometimes. we bought things. Sometimes, we just tried to see what the cowboys were doing.

Mostly, we grew up. I can trace many of my teenage milestones to the little burg of Springdell, Pa.

I played pinball in the corner of the deli, ordered turkey subs at the counter, rode my bike past the building, set off firecrackers in the backyard, drank chocolate milk in the parking lot, smoked a cigarette up the street, rode the school bus by in the morning, bought a case of Budweiser to go (after I was 21, honest). Oh, and got yelled at for playing pinball and all that other stuff. Dad didn’t want us hanging around the deli – even if we weren’t doing anything, or even actually hanging around the deli. We lived in the country, obviously, but Springdell was a community. Kids, yards, houses, people coming and going, stuff to do.

Less than a town, more than a crossroads and probably not fancy enough to be a hamlet, Springdell includes 17 or 18 houses and two businesses – an auto repair shop and the deli. Only it’s not the deli anymore. Amazingly, the pace transformed itself. Or was transformed. Owners Luke Allen and K.C. Kulp bought the joint, hired the Archer and Buchanan architecture firm and built the best English pub this side of Lambourn.

The Whip looks nothing like the deli. Rich, dark wood, a real front doorway, a bar that’s not formica and no back room. Not sure where the cowboys go these days, but they’d be welcome. The place opened in 2005 and packs in a crowd most days with a mix of quality food, drink and company. Wednesdays during the steeplechase season, The Whip shows race videos and you’re likely to be sitting next to the winning jockey at the bar.

The place probably always had character, but now it’s got taste, character and characters. And no pinball or cases of Bud. Most importantly, The Whip cares about more than business. A packet of information handed out at a recent event included several initiatives:

– The restaurant is committed to buying locally grown food. The Whip supports the national “Buy Fresh Buy Local” campaign, which encourages the purchase of produce and other food from local farms. Find out more at www.buylocalpa.org.

– The Whip went green by contracting with environmentally conscious companies Eco Products, Nature Works and Waste Oil Recyclers. Environmentally friendly products were purchased for the growing “to-go” business. The restaurant’s used fry oil is converted to bio-diesel.

And that’s a long way from the deli.