Built in 1750, the Old Drovers Inn combines authentic Colonial charm with a contemporary American menu
By Ken Charney
It’s been said that first impressions are lasting impressions. If this is true, I think I’ve started a beautiful friendship with the Old Drovers Inn.
It was a cool, picturesque fall evening when my wife and I set out for Dover Plains,
We called the restaurant from the road, were given directions and assured that “our table would be waiting.” But somehow in the dark night, we lost our way again and placed a second call. “Would our table still be available and, um, could we get directions… again?” We finally made it, albeit an hour and a half late. Proprietor David Wilson approached us, declaring “You must be our lost guests. Welcome! Have a cocktail and relax.” Our night suddenly took a sharp turn for the better.
Upon entering, we immediately felt as if we’d been transported back to pre-Revolutionary
After being seated and tucked into our booth, we ordered vodka martinis. With a lemon twist and the ideal shot of vermouth, they were perfectly created by bartender Mike. Our young busgirl dropped off roughly cut crudités, deviled eggs, and a side of hickory-smoked salt. The eggs were satisfying, especially with a pinch of the salt.
We decided to give the inn’s famous cheddar cheese soup a go because, well, it’s famous; any dish that’s been on the menu since before Prohibition seemed worth a try. At first, it seemed too salty, but by my second spoonful, I was addicted. The soup’s creamy consistency contrasts with its sharp cheddar cheese bite; the Port drizzled on top was the perfect accent. If you’re hungry and enjoy a savory, filling start, don’t miss it.
Next up was a jumbo lump crab cake on a bed of local organic greens with julienne cucumber and lime-parsley aioli ($15). The crab cake was sweetish, smooth, tender — and chock-full of crab. The aioli, however, was a tad bland. We would have preferred it to have a more distinctive flavor, perhaps accented with citrus and garlic or maybe a pinch of fresh minced chile.
For the salad course, I ordered organic frissee, which was served with roasted baby beets, sweet red onions, herbed goat cheese croutons, and sherry vinaigrette ($9). My wife opted for the baby arugula with Red Delicious apple strips, walnuts, raisins, Gorgonzola and walnut-balsamic vinaigrette ($9). These were accompanied by steaming hot popovers. The frissee salad was exceedingly fresh, and included a small bunch of organic microgreens from Laughing Duck Farm in
We decided to share jumbo sea scallops and baby artichokes (served over cannelloni bean ragout with saffron-caper butter sauce; $35); and the
The restaurant has a solid international wine list with a wide range of eclectic choices, including bottles of rare, limited reserve. We asked
At this point, as you might imagine, we were stuffed. For me, that has never been an impediment to ordering dessert, especially one with a name like “Real English Sticky Toffee Pudding with Warm Toffee Sauce.” It was warm and luscious with a rich maple flavor, and so sweet, it was like eating a piece of candy ($8).
The food at Old Drovers Inn is clearly made for comfort. It is fresh, appealing and well-presented. The place appears to cater to regulars who have been ambling in to this home-style spot for many years. But others also visit for special occasions. In fact, we completely understand why Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor escaped to this captivating inn for several days in 1962 after filming Cleopatra.
But it is the service that turns a meal at the Old Drovers Inn into an exceptional experience. Fearing we might get lost again on the way home, we asked for directions for the return trip. Before we knew it, our waiter, the owner, and Mike the bartender were all hovering around our table with a map, offering to highlight the roads for us. Mike urged us to come back for the first snow, when the bar would be overflowing with hot cider and good cheer. We promised we would, and thanked them all for this great first impression.