Entering the Roosevelt Tavern in York, and I don’t mean this in a bad way, is like taking a short walk back in time. From the coat-check window to the Currier & Ives–like American art to the crystal dessert cups filled with lemon wedges sitting on the tables, the feel is one of dinners past — not that there’s anything wrong with that.
But the tavern, on North Penn Street several blocks off the main drag, is not, or was not on my recent visit, like its former self when it was known as Archie’s Inn Towne.
In fact, in a December 1990 review, I raved about Archie’s as a bustling, sprawling steakhouse with great food and terrific service at amazingly reasonable prices.
“An evening at Archie’s,” I wrote, “with cocktails, appetizers, top entrees and dessert, will cost a foursome what a comparable meal costs two elsewhere. This place, given its quality, is a bargain.”
The good news is, the Tavern’s service remains commendable, prices are reasonable, though not as strikingly so as back when, and the food, or most of the food I had, was tasty. Dinner for two with cocktails and tip ran to $98.
Even on a Saturday night, the joint was hardly jumping. There was one large party and a few filled tables spread throughout two large (front and rear) dining rooms.
I suggest the front room. It’s noisier since it’s near the bar but has a lovely gas fireplace.
Décor is, well, 1960s American throwback. There are booths and tables with lighted oil lamps and lots of subdued overhead lighting. The menu isn’t extensive but covers the usual bases: soups and salads, seafood and steaks. It is, after all, a tavern.
Cocktails are smallish, like they used to be, but certainly not pricey. A Jack Daniels Manhattan at the Tavern is just $5.95. A Jack Daniels Manhattan in Manhattan, say at Sir Harry’s Bar in the Waldorf-Astoria, now tops $21. You’re sure not in New York when you’re in old York, but you’re not paying New York prices either.
Better news is the size of the pour for the Tavern’s wines by the glass. Generous understates it. Whether it’s a cabernet sauvignon at only $5.29 a glass or a sauvignon blanc at $6.50 a glass, the glasses come from the big boy shelf and are filled like you’d fill ’em at home. If you like wine more than cocktails, you’re gonna like the Tavern.
To the menu.
It’s pretty predictable, not overly large and crab heavy (proximity to Baltimore, I guess). There’s French onion soup, soupe du jour and cream of crab, a house recipe dating back more than a quarter century. It’s $8 a bowl.
Appetizers include breaded and fried calamari ($6); portabella mushroom with seafood glaze ($7); shrimp cocktail or fried coconut shrimp ($8); homemade Cajun crab dip with toast points ($8), or clams Casino with bacon, pepper, onion and cheese (also $8; actually I’m rounding, everything is something-99).
I had clams Casino, steaming hot and covered with toppings, eight to the order, which is two more than most restaurants serve. They were large and chewy, but the toppings were great. Maybe it was just a bad clam day.
A dining partner had a spinach salad with warm honey-bacon dressing that got rave reviews. This is one of four side salads (including Caesar, green and Greek) that come, along with a side vegetable, with all entrees.
Entrees run from the low to mid-$20s to $43 for a one-pound warm-water lobster tail.
Remember, the Roosevelt Tavern is a tavern, so don’t expect heart-healthy fare.
Among entrees: fried oysters coated with bread crumbs ($22); rack of lamb encrusted with mustard and bread crumbs ($27); filet mignon, six-ounce, eight-ounce or 12-ounce priced at $24, $26 and $30; calves’ liver with onions and bacon ($22); and pan-broiled “steak bistro” ($21).
The chicken is double floured and sautéed with lemon, butter and white wine ($20) or “Chesapeake,” boneless breast topped with crab and béarnaise sauce ($22). Classic seafood includes crab imperial ($21); a 10-ounce broiled jumbo crab cake ($26); and crab cakes broiled, sautéed or fried, offered in pairs at escalating prices depending on size. This is a nice touch, really. The smallest pair order is two four-ounce cakes for $24,
There’s salmon topped with crab and covered with a lobster cream sauce ($23); sea scallops, sautéed, broiled or fried (also $23) and more.
I had the steak version of chicken Chesapeake, a six-ounce filet topped with crabmeat and béarnaise sauce ($26). The meat was tasty, the crab was fresh, and the sauce was very rich.
A tablemate had flounder St. Michael — flounder topped with lump crabmeat and bread crumbs ($22) — and was very happy with the dish.
Again, entrees come with a salad and a vegetable or with two vegetables. They include coleslaw, applesauce, baked corn pudding, baked potato, baked stuffed potato, baked sweet potato with honey butter and, of course, fries.
I had the latter. Nothing special.
It’s not New York, and it’s not gourmet, and it’s not, in my view, what it was. But those who like the atmosphere and recipes of days gone by will surely like the Tavern
50 N. Penn St., York; open for lunch and dinner Monday through Saturday and open Sunday from 11:30am to 7pm; takes major cards; liquor license; parking on site; 717-854-7725
Published in Phantom Diner
Support for witf is provided by:
Support for witf is provided by: