Hamilton's Grill Room, Lambertville
- ambrose Mar 26, 2010 02:50 PM
Hamilton's Grill Room has been mentioned in numerous threads but I thought I'd start a new one because I need convincing that I should go back there.
It's been years since I went to this restaurant. The simple fact is that I didn't think it was that wonderful. I know it's extremely popular but I just felt there were better places to go, not only in Lambertville but also in other towns in Hunterdon and Mercer Counties. The food was fine but there certainly was no "wow" factor. The service was OK but nothing out of the ordinary. On one occasion, service was borderline rude.
So, I'm hoping that some of you who love (or even just like) Hamilton's might provide some specific recommendations about what's really good at this place. I'm more of a meat person that a seafood person if that helps.
I await your convincing!
I agree with ambrose. We would love to love Hamilton's Grill, but need some guidance from someone who's been there recently. What to order, where to sit, etc. to ensure a memorable experience.
It's got everything going for it including a canal side setting at the end of a cozy alley, a great historic building, a cool bar (the Boathouse) across it's courtyard, al fresco dining in season, it's BYOB and has a steady stream of locals plus tourists to fill it's tables year round.
Problem here is the food is average at best, and forgettable by the time you walk out of the alley and turn the corner. We've been there on at least five occasions over as many years, but for the life of me, I can't recall one thing that wowed me or that I even remember.
Well, you won't get any convincing from me, ambrose. We hadn't been there in ages, but two years ago, we were taking care of some matters in nearby Flemington and decided to give it a try again. Disappointing. Not that anything was bad. But nothing was better than just o.k. And service was quite perfunctory, i.e., staff just going through the motions. It's unfortunate because when it first opened years ago, the food was really good.
Interestingly, Gabrielle Hamilton (Jim's daughter) is a James Beard Award finalist for Best Chef NYC. She's the chef/owner of Prune, on the Lower East Side.
While Hamilton Grill competes against the rather pathetic offerings in Central Jersey, I don't think this is entirely a case of Hamilton Grill just being the restaurant in the area that sucks the least. Rather, I think it's a good restaurant. I've been there three times over the past 18 months. Here's what I like:
-In general, I prefer to eat there during the spring and summer -- they do a better job with those ingredients and I think it's an especially pleasant place to sit when the weather is nice.
-I like to start with a drink at the Boathouse bar and then wander over to dinner.
-I like to sit outside (and I never have the problem of the sinking cheap plastic chair that someone reported above). It's a quiet space, away from traffic, and alongside the canal.
-When I've gone for lunch, I've liked their flatbreads and their lobster roll (full of great claw/tail meat with just enough mayo to hold it together). I haven't had their hamburger yet, but it looked pretty good.
-For dinner, I've had excellent pieces of pan-roasted fish.
-I would agree that service is lacking, but I'd also argue that it's about as good as every other restaurant in New Jersey that I've tried. In other words, I'm convinced that good service and New Jersey cannot be put in the same sentence. Not sure why, but it seems like that.
Hamilton Grill is not the single greatest meal I've ever had and I would certainly say that the owner's daughter, Gabrielle Hamilton, serves better food at Prune in Manhattan. That said, I think it's a really nice setting and the food has been consistently good quality. I'd rather go here than some of the over-wrought creative places like Elements or Ferry House in Princeton, for example.
32 Witherspoon St, Princeton, NJ 08542
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HGR has had a very long run and I have to report that we really enjoyed a great dinner here this past Sunday. Yep, I may have knocked it above, back in 2010, but Sunday's dinner was one to remember.
We were part of a large party of 10 and came well stocked with a selection of wines and port. We were ready to enjoy an evening of dining excellence! Hamilton's delivered in all regards. Comfortable setting in the back right dining room, nicely appointed table and professional service from a lone waitress to handle our party. We felt like we were at a friend's dinner party versus out at a restaurant that has seen decades of diners pass through it's doors.
Food for the evening was enjoyed by all. I had oysters to start and the rabbit cacciatore for my entree. The oysters were excellent, served on the half shell. Could have had a few dozen more! The rabbit was divine. It included a generous portion of rabbit, cooked perfectly and served with a thick tomato, roasted pepper & herb sauce, over wide egg noodles. Really a great early fall dish.
I'm not sure if we happened to catch them on an up night or if this is the new norm for HGR?
We'll more eagerly return to experience it all again.
Over the past three years, I've had nothing but good meals here. Lunches, dinners, small parties, large parties, meat, fish, summer, winter -- always good food. The service can be a bit more variable -- they occasionally have an inexperienced server -- but that's frankly par for the course in this area. We're not in a big city where professional waiters can truly make a career of serving at nice restaurants. HGR is easily our favorite restaurant in the area, both for its food and the comfortable setting. We love the "have-a-drink-across-the-courtyard-then-have-nice-dinner-outside" routine in the summer.