Bowman’s Tavern: The same yet new

A thing can be new, but stay the same too.

Bowman's Tavern signThat’s what is going on at Bowman’s Tavern, one of our favorite weeknight hang-outs, since James Seward and Michael Livelsberger took over the reins in February of this year.

James and Michael know a good thing when they see it. When they heard from the grapevine that the owners of Bowman’s were ready to retire, they checked the place out.

“From the first time we looked at the place, the wheels started turning,” says Michael. Great location, little nearby competition, a parking lot that was always full and some good P&L reports convinced them this was a good deal.

They also knew that Bowman’s had a loyal customer base and a great staff (one often goes with another), not to mention a very popular entertainment lounge, overseen by local impresario Bob Egan. And although the restaurant’s location has had several incarnations over the years, this most recent one has been very successful and drawn a nice crowd of folks.

Mark and I — being part of that loyal customer base — were a little nervous when we heard of the transfer of ownership. We grilled Dan, one of our favorite bartenders at Bowman’s, about the new guys.

Dan, who is honest but discreet, said it was good. Things were good. No big changes and new owners who appreciated what they had going there. In fact, as regulars, we were hard pressed to find any differences. Same casual menu, same laid back atmosphere and same great staff.

James is running the front of the house and Michael is in the kitchen. They met when both were cooking at Bobby Simone’s in Doylestown. Michael, who moved into the area five years ago from Hanover, PA, has cooked in some good places around Bucks – Triumph Brewing Company, the Freight House, as well as three years at Bobby Simone’s. James, in addition to his cooking experience, was general manager at Chambers.

There will be changes, but the good kind. The menu has recently been updated (June 19) and there are a lot of new, good things on it. Yes, some of the old Bowman’s standbys are gone (goodbye Wienerschnitzel, sniffle, sniffle) but gone are a good many of the fried items and in their place, fresher, “lighter” and more “homemade” dishes.

Michael and James have big plans for a restaurant garden to supply some of these fresher ingredients. Raised beds in the back of the restaurant property will produce tomatoes, herbs, radishes, squash, chili peppers, Brussel sprouts and more. What they can’t get from their own garden, will come from local farmers whenever possible.

“Everything should be seasonally driven,” explains Michael. “If it’s not growing around here, I don’t want to use it.” He wants more fresh, vibrant vegetables and as much “homemade” as possible, so for example, all dressings are now made in house.

Sunday night we found our way to Bowman’s to check out the new menu. Don’t worry. Some of the old favorites are still there. A shrimp cocktail (with homemade Cocktail Sauce), fried mozzarella (with a house marinara), buffalo wings, and chicken tenders (with homemade honey mustard) remain as classic bar appetizers.

Bowman's cheesesBut try out these new offerings: House Marinated Mixed Olives with roasted garlic, shallots, thyme, rosemary, orange peel, and chili flakes; Smoked Portobello & Spinach Dip; Macaroni & Cheese with cheddar, grana padana, and truffled bread crumbs; House Smoked St. Louis Pork Ribs (very good); Bruschetta with vine-ripened grape tomatoes, basil and fresh mozzarella on crostini; and house made Tavern Potato Chips, served with a cheddar and Yuengling Lager fondue. The appetizers range from $5 to $12.

On the soup menu are the House Made Chili, a French Onion Soup and a seasonally inspired house made soup. For those nights you want to go light, the salad selection is varied from a House Salad, the Bowman Salad, with accents of fruits, nuts and goat cheese, a classic Iceberg Wedge, a Chopped Salad and an Heirloom Tomato Salad, including a mixture of heirloom tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, basil, baby arugula, balsamic vinegar and extra virgin olive oil. The salads are all $7 – 10.

When you peruse the sandwich and entree choices you might notice a few things. In addition to Bowman’s favorites like the Classic Grilled Reuben, the Hot Roast Beef Sandwich, and the Philly Cheese Steak and good burgers, you’ll also find a Bowman’s BLT – with house smoked extra thick cut bacon, arugula, Jersey Beefsteak tomato and horseradish mayo. This is not your mother’s BLT.

Or the Pulled Pork Sandwich, made with smoked pork shoulder, served on a brioche bun. On the entree side of the menu, there is the Smoked Organic Lancaster County Half Chicken, served with sweet corn grits, broccoli rabe and a peach BBQ glaze. Are you starting to see the pattern here?

Someone is having a lot of fun with a smoker, and that someone is chef Michael. Come in on a Wednesday night for the Prime Rib special, which is smoked over hickory and apple wood for over two hours.

Michael also has plans for spare ribs and pork bellies. And there is another grill – a charcoal and wood fired one – with a rotisserie, which he plans to use for Cornish game hens and such. As Michael says, “Some people like cars. I like cooking equipment.”

Bowman's grilled flank steak specialMy husband, a steak lover, was happy to see the “Steak and Chops” entrees, including an 8 oz. Flat Iron Steak, an 8 oz. Top Sirloin “Coulotte Steak”, a 14 oz. Bone in Pork Chop, a 12 oz. Delmonico and an 8 oz. Filét, all served with mashed potatoes, seasonal vegetables and a peppercorn demi glace.

But the entrees are varied with everything from Parmigiana (veal, chicken or eggplant), to a Seafood Stew, Pan Roasted Salmon, Crab Cakes, Mustard & Herb Crusted Calves Liver, Homestyle Meatloaf and a Fresh Vegetables and Linguine dish. Keeping the hominess of Bowman’s original menu with an upgrade in ingredients and style.

The desserts will continue being alluring and the wine list has been upgraded. Look too for a Happy Hour every week night from 4 – 6 pm with drink specials and Bob Egan’s great entertainment 7 nights a week.

To see the new menu – which James says is a work in progress – click here. See their website for the entertainment schedule. They also have a Facebook page.

Bowman’s Tavern
1600 River Road
New Hope, PA 18938
Phone: 215.862.2972

Monday – Thursday: 11:30 am – Midnight
Friday – Saturday: 11:30 am – 1:00 am
Sunday: 11:30 am – Midnight

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  1. […] Last spring I sat down with the new owners of Bowman’s Tavern, James Seward and Michael Livelsberger. In addition to “lightening” up the menu (less fried), they are big supporters of sourcing local, including plans for a garden on site. If you are regulars at the restaurant, you’ll notice the difference. Not only is chef Michael cooking more seasonally, the sophistication of the dishes has stepped up. Recently I had a delightful appetizer of burrata, sweet roasted beets, dabs of basil pesto, little rolled up balls of prosciutto all on a bed of Blue Moon Acres microgreens. To read more about Bowman’s, go to: Bowman’s Tavern: The same yet new. […]

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