When a landmark restaurant gets a new owner, everyone wonders, “Will they change the place in some awful way?” Have no fear. The Temperance House in Newtown opened again for business last September, and everyone looks pretty happy. “The Temp” is back.
The first time we had dinner at the Temperance House, and I studied the menu, I thought, “Hmmn. Pretty traditional – shrimp cocktail, mussels, grilled Caesar salad, crab cakes, steaks. Ho hum.” But wait, the salmon is pecan-encrusted, with an apple cider glaze, and cranberry chutney and roasted sweet potato. The seared scallops are served with andouille sausage and a béarnaise sauce. There is something different going on here.
Let’s start with the bread. Three kinds of rolls, all warm and soft, accompanied by olive oil with spices. “Please, Lord,” I prayed, “Keep me from eating the third one.” (We split it). Also worth mentioning, my vodka martini was just right.
For a starter, we shared the Grilled Wedge Salad. It was as it should be (other restaurants take note). Thick blue cheese dressing with big chunks of cheese, cherry tomatoes, and a smoky taste, thanks to the grilling. Classic, but done right.
I ordered the Chicken Wellington for dinner. Chicken Wellington? Moist chicken breast with brie encased in puff pastry, surrounded by a mushroom sauce that I tried to scoop every last drop up with my fork (wish I had saved that roll). Once again, classic comfort food but done right.
Mark got one of the specials, sushi-grade tuna served on sweet jasmine rice with seaweed. A bit of a departure from the traditional menu but done well too.
Who is the Temperance House?
When I did the interview for this story, it was like sitting in someone’s living room, shooting the breeze with good friends. Executive Chef Arturo Bermudez (Arti), Kevin Tate and Bobby Replogle all met while working at a previous restaurant. They were frustrated and knew they could do better. All they needed was the right building in the right place. They found the Temperance House and fell in love.
As they spoke about the Temperance House, you could see their shared passion – for people, for the building and for the history that is the fabric of the Temp.
They each bring different talents, experience, and personalities to the table. They all agree that Chef Arti is “the most calm, collected chef we’ve ever worked with.” Arti smiles and agrees. “I’m always happy,” and you can feel how his energy balances the team.
” We wanted to create something that was beyond ourselves and do something for the community.”
You’ll find Kevin at the front of the house welcoming dinner guests or moving through the restaurant and talking to customers. Kevin, with his warm, interactive, and easy style, smooths any problems and takes care of people – customers and staff alike.
And then there’s Bobby. He was the first Temp staff person we met when we stopped for a drink one night. Extraverted and with a warm smile always ready, he oversees the tavern and beverages for the restaurant. He’s got a good heart, too. When we met for the interview, both he and Arti were participating in “No Shave November” to raise awareness for prostate cancer, kidding each other on the progress of each others’ beards.
Passion for people
As the friends searched for the right location, their goal “was to create something that was beyond ourselves and do something for the community.”
“We want to be happy,” explains Kevin, “and we want to make people happy. We’re not here to make lots of money.”
And that attitude is visible in the staff too. I noticed immediately that everyone we encountered at the Temp was professional, friendly, and down-to-earth. That’s an interesting combination, and not easy to pull off. Lots of places have “friendly” servers, or professional servers, but the kind of folks who look you in the eye, and really connect with you are rarer.
But when I sat with Arti, Bobby, and Kevin, it all clicked. That’s who they are, and it sets the tone for the restaurant.
“I don’t want my staff to wake up and say, ‘Oh no, I have to go to work,’” says Kevin. “The staff feels they are a part of this and they are looking out for the benefit of the business.”
“The building itself has dictated the menu.”
It’s all about the building
Another shared passion is for the building itself and its long history. Opened originally as an inn in 1772, it has had many incarnations, including many years when it did not serve alcohol, hence it’s name.
“It’s an awesome building,” says Kevin, “with such history. And no matter what happens, we will now be part of that history.” In fact, he adds, the building itself has dictated the menu.
Arti agrees. “It’s all about the building. My style tends to be more modern, but because of the building the menu needed to be simple, traditional, and classic. But done well.” For instance, the seared scallops, he explains, should be crunchy on the outside and soft inside. “If it’s going to be simple, then you have to do it right. It’s all about techniques.”
You may also notice an Italian influence on the menu – Gnocchi Gorgonzola, Lobster Fettucine, Seafood Risotto. That’s because Chef Arti grew up in a Costa Rican village populated by Italians who emigrated at the turn of the 20th century. After going to culinary arts school, and working in the resorts in Costa Rica, he went to Toronto to learn French techniques.
“Everything here is made from scratch,” Arti says. For instance, the Pork Board (on the tavern menu) is all made in-house. Arti hand butchers everything, and uses everything. “We don’t kill animals for just the breasts or loins. If we are going to kill them, use everything.” While the menu may be traditional and classic, look to the specials where Arti has some fun. The kitchen is still fine-tuning the menus, so be prepared to be pleasantly surprised.
In the tavern
“When we did our research we found out that people didn’t want the Temp to change, they just wanted it better,” explains Kevin. They also noticed that folks in the bar wanted good pub food, not just the typical bar staples.
So you will find an interesting and tasty tavern menu including the popular 12” Italian Hot Dog, Hummus Two Ways, Potato Poutine, Mussels with garlic butter, tomato sauce or Thai seasoning, a Seasonal Cheese Platter, Beef Carpaccio, and good burgers.
If you are a fan of pork, get the Pork Board. You’ll probably need to share it because it includes pork belly, baby back ribs, smoked andouille sausage, pickles, bacon marmalade and toast points. Or maybe you don’t want to share it, come to think of it.
The Temp is filling a much-needed niche in Newtown. Casual, good food in a warm, inviting atmosphere.
The tavern has happy hour specials Monday through Friday, 5 – 7 pm, with music several nights a week (watch their Facebook page for the latest). And it’s a lively scene. In fact, I’d say the Temp is filling a much-needed niche in Newtown. Casual, good food in a warm, inviting atmosphere with no wide-screen TVs in your face everywhere you turn.
And if you want a quieter, more upscale experience, enjoy dinner in the beautiful dining room. The famous mural depicting Newtown’s early history, all browns and ochres, still occupies one wall. Two stone fireplaces – one a “walk-in” – remind you that you’re dining in a room full of history, where many have dined before.
The Temperance House is open 7 days a week, serving lunch (including a $9.95 buffet), and dinner in the dining room or in the tavern. Their Sunday Brunch includes a Bloody Mary bar and a special Mac & Cheese menu. The latter offers fun twists on the traditional dish: Southwest Mac & Cheese with grilled shrimp, pico de gallo, tomatillo salsa, and a house-made jalapeño popper; White Mac & Cheese with short rib, truffle oil and frizzled onions; and a Seafood Mac & Cheese with shrimp and crabmeat. And don’t worry. They’ve got the Classic Mac & Cheese too, as well as a kid’s version.
The Temperance House
5 South State St.
Newtown, PA 18940
Hours: Mon-Thu: 11:30 am – 1 am; Fri-Sat: 11:30 am – 2 am; Sun: 10 am – 12 pm
Web (Restaurant & Tavern): www.temperancehouse.com/dining
Web (Inn): www.temperancehouse.com
Facebook: The Temperance House