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Feb 20, 2010 11:13 AM

National Hotel in Frenchtown

Has anyone been to the National Hotel in Frenchtown since it re-opened in the last year? I was an occassional patron in the mid-nineties but have not been back in years. Going there next week and would like to hear what's good (or bad) beforehand.

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  1. Two days and no responses. Where are the Hunterdon County Chow Hounds? Does this mean no one has been to the National Hotel since it re-opened, or that folks are too kind to give it a negative review.

    1. Forklaw, I see you are new to Chowhound. First, welcome to the boards, and second, I have to give you the bad news that there just aren't a lot of hounds in the western part of the state. It is often difficult to get input on restaurants - whether old or new - unless they are close to, or in, Lambertville, Somerville, etc. Mention Frenchtown to most people outside Hunterdon County and they have to get out the map!

      I have not been to the reopened National Hotel (does the restaurant have a name of its own?) but I fully intend to go in the near future. I hope you will come back here after your visit and give us a full report.

      15 Replies
      1. re: ambrose

        Ambrose - Thanks for your response. While it is true that I only recently registered on Chowhound, I have been covertly reading reviews and relying on the hounds' collective wisdom, experience, and recommendations for years now - - including especially reviews of Hunterdon and Somerset county restaurants - - hence my suprise that none had been to this place yet. If no one with better taste reviews it before I stay there in mid-March, then the task will be mine, although I'm always a bit torn about sharing special finds. In this case, however, from everything I've read, the couple who reopened the place really deserve it to be successful to reward them for their efforts rescuing a landmark. (Of course rescuing a landmark does not necessarily mean it's a good restaurant - - - I'll find out in March whether they deserve success on the merits of the food as well.) Here's their website for anyone who is interested in a schlep to a beatiful part of Hunterdon County. More interesting is a click on the "blog" on the upper right corner, and scrolling down to the earliest entries, to get a sense of what the couple endured and discovered as they renovated the old inn; everything from the original pumpkin pine floors to the ashes of a regular guest who wanted his remains to remain at the bar after he was long gone.

        1. re: Forklaw

          Thanks, Forklaw, for the link. I live ten minutes from Frenchtown and am looking forward to this landmark revival. And to Ambrose: we folks here want to keep certain town names out of the public sphere (just kidding!) (but only sort of) so we can enjoy our beauty and serenity for ourselves! After the NY Times named this region as the "Dordogne of America", we have been fairly tight-lipped about the bounty of beauty and abundance here. Nevertheless, businesses in Frenchtown deserve our dollars.

          1. re: pitterpatter

            Frenchtown is a neat little town. We go there a few times a year, and sometimes I'll ride the tow path from Lambertville to Frenchtown. I love that little wine shop in town, just wish their pricing was a little more competitive. But when you are the only place in town, I guess you can charge what you want to charge.

            Will have to check out the National Hotel in the future. I am trying to think if we have ever eaten in Frenchtown, but for the life of me, I can't think of us ever having a meal there... -mJ

            1. re: njfoodies

              I'm told that the Wine Hut's other store, near Milford, has a bigger selection. I've never been there, however, so I can't vouch for this.

              I suspect that the pricing will be similar.

              1. re: ambrose

                I had no idea they had another store. I love checking out new wine shops, but with all of the mailers coming in right now for the 2007 "VINTAGE OF THE CENTURY CALIFORNIA CABERNET's," I have no funds to be making local purchases at retail. LOL! UGH! Why did I ever get involved in this hobby! -mJ

            2. re: pitterpatter

              The Frenchtown Inn has received many, many dollars from me! It's one of the best, most consistent restaurants I know of.

              We used to go to the Race Street Cafe a lot but somehow it dropped off our radar a couple of years ago. Will have to make a return trip.

              I think every hound living in Hunterdon County has now contributed to this thread!

              1. re: ambrose

                "I think every hound living in Hunterdon County has now contributed to this thread!"

                ahahahahahaha! Wait, we haven't heard from Heatherb or mombaker247 yet! ;)

                1. re: flourgirl

                  No, but I've been following the thread, flourgirl:D I actually live in Mercer though, and just have a weird gravitational pull towards Hunterdon county ...

                  I don't get up to Frenchtown often - it's about an hour's drive for me if I'm taking things leisurely. But in the summer, my best friend and I love to wander the streets and window shop there. We like the Mexican restaurant there, but we gotta branch out a bit, I think.

                  Another friend recently mentioned something about going to karaoke at the National Hotel. Anybody heard anything about that? I won't actually DO karaoke, but I'm totally not opposed to enjoying the event.

                  1. re: Heatherb

                    Hi Heather - I thought that maybe you lived in Mercer, but you do regularly post about places in Hunterdon, so I consider you an honorary hunterdon chowhound. :)

              2. re: pitterpatter

                Well, hate to say but you've even got someone 3,000 miles away letting the secret out!

                Never heard of the National Hotel, but I clicked on this just because I saw Frenchtown in the title. My favorite Delaware River town. I'm from North Jersey originally, but I used to work out that way all the time. I stumbled onto Frenchtown years ago when I used to work a remediation job at a Superfund site in Upper Black Eddy, PA across the river. Fell in love with the town / area at first sight. Even though I don't think I've ever eaten there. I vaguely remember regularly eating at a small roadside burger joint (Canyon Hills or something like that?) on Route 12 about halfway between Flemington and Frenchtown, though. I remember it was pretty good, or maybe my mind's just playing tricks on me. Anyone know that place I'm talking about? This was in the late 90's.

                Every time I come back from Portland to visit family in the Newark area, I always make sure to rent a car one of those days just so I can get out to Frenchtown by myself for a few hours, and take a bunch of pictures. There are dozens of Oregonians who are probably tired of hearing about Frenchtown from me. ;-P

                1. re: JayinPortland

                  The Canyon Creek Grill is still there and still serves up a mighty fine burger. Imho, it's one of the best burgers in the area.

                  Next time you're in the vicinity you should go back to Upper Black Eddy and seek out Tara, a high end restaurant that serves wonderful Italian food. Just don't cross the owner if you know what's good for you! :-))

                  1. re: ambrose

                    I like the the Grill for breakfast now and then too.

                    1. re: flourgirl

                      Yeah, it always looked like a cool place to sit down and eat, but I was always in such a rush back in those days. Wasted opportunity! Always had to order to go, and then rush out to PA and eat my lunch in the woods of a Superfund site...

                      Thanks to the two of youze, now I'm remembering more and more details about the area. The Union Hotel in Flemington. The little used book shop in Frenchtown. The beautiful drive down Route 57 from Hackettstown to Washington, and then onto Phillipsburg. Belvidere and Easton. Ha, now I want to take a trip home for a few days!

                    2. re: ambrose

                      Ah, that's it. Thanks! I think next time I'm out that way, I'll just spend half a day in the area. Heh. Lunch at Canyon Creek Grill, and then maybe dinner at Tara. Always enjoy wandering around near my old work sites, and I miss great Italian food. Pretty much the only two things we really don't have here in Portland are great Deli and good Italian. Some come close, but they mostly just feel kind of "off" a little bit...

            3. I live about 20 minutes from Frenchtown and I love the area. I was really hoping someone would post a reply to forklaw's request with an actual review in it as we haven't had a chance to try this place yet.

              But at least as a result of this thread, the hotel is on my radar now and next time we are planning on dining out I think we're going to head to Frenchtown.

              4 Replies
              1. re: flourgirl

                We'd be up for going to try it soon, I just have to remember to look at their website from home as it is blocked here. Gotta check them menu and make sure there is something on there for my non red meat eater! I love checking out new places, especially in little towns like Frenchtown. I can't tell you how many places we've checked out for lunch or dinner just based upon seeing them here in Chowhound. -mJ

                1. re: njfoodies

                  I attended the opening, and was impressed with the young couples adventure into this business, left alot of what was the Inn and the Ratscellar Bar intack but freshened it with paint, which it smelled like. I am very rarely impressed with restaurant food, so I will say that the average person who eats out will enjoy the menu. It is a very hard winter for them and anyone in the restaurant business, so I recommend going to the bar having a nice drink in front of the fire. then dinner or pub food.

                  1. re: mombaker247

                    Article in today's Courier News about The National Hotel.



                    1. re: KathyH

                      KathyH - Thanks for alerting me to the article and posting the link. Please post any other articles (especially ones that review the food!) that you come across. - Forklaw.

              2. First time I think I've seen 20+ responses and no review of the restaurant! Anyway, I did have a chance to dine at the National Hotel and thoroughly enjoyed it. Their menu appeals to quite a wide variety of people (see website due to the number of items they offer. I had the Braised Short Ribs and they were very, very good. ($19.00!) along with a roasted beet salad ($8.00) and a side of sauteed Brussel sprouts ($4.00). Wine by the glass was very good and only put us back $7.00 - $8.00 a glass. My partner had the filet mignon and had high praise for it.
                The refurb is very well done. The dinning room is very comfortable and cozy.
                The wait staff was a bit inexperienced, but I'll give him an "A" for trying.
                I'll definitely return... great value for very good food and drink!

                4 Replies
                1. re: StantonChef

                  Thank you! That DOES sound like a great value.

                  1. re: flourgirl

                    If you want to make a nice day out in the country you can cross over the bridge into PA (adjacent to the hotel), make a left onto RT 32/River Road, and attend the Saturday polo matches at the Tinicum Park Polo field. They don't start for a while, but it's a fun event. Cheap date too!

                    1. re: johnlockedema

                      Oh, thank you so much for posting this! I didn't know about this and my husband and son would LOVE this!

                2. Still have not made it to the National Hotel, despite starting this thread 6+ months ago. However, it's high on my list of places to hit this fall. Has anyone been recently and is it good?

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Forklaw

                    We're in the same boat as you. Keep meaning to get there, but still haven't made the time. Way too many restaurants in the area to be able to hit them all. Need to figure out a way to write off dinners so we can just eat out 300 plus days a year! LOL! -mJ