The Doylestown Inn is alive again.
If you’ve lived in Bucks County for 10 or more years, you know that the Doylestown Inn on State Street has been kind of quiet. That’s about to change.
The Hattery Stove & Still, an upscale yet comfy restaurant, is opening on May 27, serving breakfast, lunch, dinner and a late-night menu 7 days a week. Once again, the Inn will be alive with good food, good spirits and good vibes, all thanks to a group of friends and business partners who had vision.
“The building chose us,” says Todd McCarty, who with his wife, Samantha McCarty, and business partners, Donna and Ronald C. Isgate, Esq. and Jody Quigley bought the Doylestown Inn in 2012. Initially, the plan was to sell the building, but they couldn’t. So they set about restoring the Inn, first by renovating the eleven guest rooms in March 2013.
But what about the restaurant? “The Inn kind of skipped a decade,” explains Todd McCarty. “The previous owners did all the mechanical stuff but they took out the bar and restaurant. The Inn had a long history of food and drink and it was time to bring that back.”
The building, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, was erected in the late 19th century and opened as The Doylestown Inn in 1902. “When we researched the property’s history we found that the building housed a hattery, a cigar shop, served as an inn, and operated as a speakeasy during prohibition,” explains Isgate.
“We decided to celebrate everything that this property has been throughout its life,” adds Shannon O’Neil McGuire-Rost, who with her husband, Daryl Rost, conceived the restaurant’s concept and oversaw the renovation. “It was important to all of us to build a destination for Doylestown that celebrates the town’s rich history. We’ve even built a jug into one of the walls to pay tribute to the Jug In The Wall — a tavern that opened with the inn in 1902 and operated until the late 1990s.”
The bi-level restaurant can seat 150, but it doesn’t feel that big. It is full of intimate, smaller spaces that feel cozier. The décor is “antique industrial,” honoring the history of the building with period pieces. The pumpkin pine floorboards are reclaimed wood. Look for an antique still, a collection of burlap coffee bags, a wall of vintage suitcases, dozens of cigar boxes, a player piano, a collection of period photos from around the region dating back over a hundred years, a circa 1920 ice chest, a “speakeasy” side door complete with sliding peep hole, and a custom-designed hat tree that rises from the lower level floor boards and spans two stories, adorned with vintage hats.
You’ll also see vintage hats, converted into lights, hanging over the lobby level bar. As you walk down the steps to the lower level, read the chalkboards covering the walls, with quotes from Bucks County luminaries, like James Michener and Pearl S. Buck. And check out the 1932 Oldsmobile complete with suicide doors in the design of the lower level bar. My favorite touch is the antique chandeliers which light the lobby level space. Each sports a price tag because you buy them.
The menu is fun too. Chef Hakeem Otenigbagbe and sous chef Andrew Douglas have crafted a menu they call “Modern American Tavern” as another nod to the site’s history. This is not your average tavern food, though.
For appetizers, try the Hot Potato Chips with Blue Cheese Fondue, Beer Battered String Beans and Trumpets, Deviled Eggs with Dijon Cayenne, or Wild Mushroom Toast with Chive Goat Cheese. For starters, you can choose the Golden Beet Terrine, Scottish Salmon Tartare, or the Grilled Octopus Confit (don’t worry; there’s a really delicious-looking Chopped Salad for those of you who want something a little more sedate).
Even the burgers and sandwiches are full of interesting twists. The Deluxe Burger comes on a brioche bun with tomato compote, shallot mustard marmalade and herb fries. There is also an Ahi Tuna Burger and Chipotle Shrimp Tacos.
For entrees, you’ve got some tough choices. The Chicken Pot Pie with a cheddar biscuit top, caught my eye, as did the Vegetable Bipimbap, a dish that I have only had in a Korean restaurant. One of chef Otenigbagbe’s specialties is the Steam Skate, served with fennel puree, hearts of palm, green and white asparagus, black trumpet mushroom and a gooseberry saffron sauce. For more fish, try the Crisp Skin Scottish Salmon or Grilled Branzino.
For the carnivores, there is a Grilled Filet Mignon, Lamb Chops and a Strip Steak. And even the pasta looks great: Three Cheese Ravioli with wild mushroom, plum tomato sauce, pecorino and marjoram and a Tagliatelle black pasta with shellfish, celery, cherry tomato, crumbled garlic bread, and a Pernod sauce.
For the inspiration behind the menu, look to executive chef Otenigbagbe (pron: O-ten-a-bob-ey). The thirty-four year old chef emigrated from Nigeria to New York with his family when he was 11 years old. After attending the French Culinary Institute in 2004, Otenigbagbe spent a year working for Thomas Keller at Per Se in Manhattan in 2005. After departing Per Se, he joined Chef Tom Colicchio at Craftsteak in New York, and then became a private chef until 2009 when he moved to Philadelphia to join Union Trust as a Sous Chef and then Chef de Cuisine. Until recently, he has been commuting to New York to work for BR Guest Hospitality while living in Philadelphia with his family.
What does he think of Doylestown? “This place is perfect. Everyone knows each other and it’s so family-oriented,” Otenigbagbe says. He’s also looking forward to locally sourcing ingredients for the restaurant.
For the bar flies among you, you’re going to enjoy the Signature Cocktail menu and the 14 draught beer taps in the lower level bar filled with good American craft beer.
You may also recognize some of the bar and wait staff. General Manager Cherri Horsman has recruited some of the best restaurant professionals in the area. At the opening party last night, this was clearly evident. The staff was attentive, friendly and professional. Although it was the first time the restaurant was in full gear, everything worked smoothly and everyone was pleasant.
As we made our way out, folks were standing out in front of the Inn, talking and enjoying the spring evening. There was a buzz, and I thought, how nice to see this sidewalk alive again. I’m sure the spirits of the Doylestown Inn past were also pretty pleased.
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