Posts Tagged ‘Pineville Tavern’

If your sole purpose is to get loose, you can do that cheaper by drinking at home. That’s why I like a good bar more than I like a good drink. Good bars are a mix of good people, good food, reasonable prices, reasonable sound level and a community comfortable enough with itself to invite newcomers in. Only once you’ve found all of these does the variety of bourbon matter, or the brands of beer on tap, or the crispness of the martini. I’ve been to many bars that I wouldn’t call “good” even though they had an impressive collection of bourbon.


Here’s our checklist:

  • Good people: This includes both staff and customers. We like bartenders who don’t stare at us like we’re crazy when we introduce ourselves, and fellow-customers who’ll chortle at our jokes and don’t mind us adding two cents to any semi-public chat they’re having about, say, Phillies pitching.
  • Good food: We like to eat at the bar. If an establishment doesn’t allow that, it’s off our list. But obviously you want to eat good food. Price doesn’t matter here – a good bar can be a neighborhood burger place as easily as an expensive steakhouse.
  • Reasonable prices: To us, “reasonable” is relative. Bell’s Tavern in Lambertville is reasonably priced, though the cost of dinner there is noticeably less than dinner at Marsha Brown’s in New Hope. Both are great restaurants. They’re just different experiences, and we think the price of each is reasonable.
  • Reasonable sound level: Lynne and I like to talk when we eat. We talk with each other, we talk with the bartender, we talk with other customers. The proprietors of good bars realize their places are about conversation.
  • Easygoing community: We’ve met some really nice people just by sitting at the bar and being drawn into the conversation around us. In some places, you can lean over to ask your neighbor what she’s eating for dinner and she won’t shift her stool a foot away from you. Or, the couple across the way can suggest the night’s special when they see you’re in a decision-making crisis over the menu. The real test comes the second or third time you visit, when you begin to recognize others, and they begin to recognize you. The holy grail, of course, is when the bartender serves your drink without your having to order it. (Really good bartenders can sense when you might be in a different mood, and so will wait for your choice rather than assume this is a night for “the usual.”)

Finally comes the bourbon selection. This is where it gets personal, I know, so substitute your own preferred libation here. For me, I like a bar that appreciates bourbon enough to have Maker’s Mark as its basic brand and then two or three others that rise through the scale: Woodford Reserve, Baker’s, Knob Creek, Booker’s.

With all that said, we begin an occasional series listing (in no particular order) some of our favorite bars in the area. Be sure to send us your own ideas. We need more places to visit.

Pineville Tavern: We’ve written a lot about the Pineville Tavern, which has become our regular hangout because it possesses all of the characteristics of a good bar and has the added advantage of being close to home. It’s warm. Everyone – staff and customers – seem to be in a good mood. There’s a buzz of people enjoying themselves. The food is good, Maker’s Mark is handy.

Bowman’s Tavern, just south of New Hope on River Road, has a friendly, easy-going vibe, good food, and bartenders with a knack for chatting about pretty much anything. We had a wonderful conversation with a couple sitting next to us the last time we were there, comparing notes about restaurants on both sides of the river. The weinerschnitzel, which was recommended to us by the Pineville Tavern’s Drew Abruzzese, was outstanding – tender and lightly fried. The ribeye steak was perfectly cooked, perfect brushed with home-made barbecue sauce.

The bar at Anton’s at the Swan in Lambertville is warm, friendly with a good bar menu that makes eating there a simple decision. Choices include burgers ($10), a sundried tomato pizza ($9), strip steak ($21), and pork chop with garlic mashed potatoes ($16).

Bell’s Tavern, on North Union Street in Lambertville, is tough to beat. Wonderful food, good prices, bartenders who are not above tweaking us about remaining carb-free in the face of their excellent Italian bread. (Okay, so I opened myself up to it when I ordered the bread pudding, which is worth the trip in and of itself.)

More coming soon. In the meantime, if you’ve got a favorite place of your own, tell us about it.

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What is it about walking into a bar or restaurant where they know your name? Am I dating myself, by referring to the old refrain from Cheers? Perhaps. But now that I’m older, I do think it captures something.

Our grandparents, and even parents, grew up in tight communities. Family and friends were close by – next door, or two doors down.  I bet the word “community” wasn’t even used. Maybe you don’t have to refer to something that you just take for granted; it’s like wallpaper  – there but hardly noticed.

But today we belong to many communities. We belong to a work community, maybe even more than one. An “old friend” community. Maybe a community based in a house of worship. Or one based on a hobby or interest. And even, one based in a bar or restaurant. The kind of place where when you walk in, they recognize you, greet you by name, and get your drink ready.

Why is this so nice?

We’re fortunate to have found this at a couple of restaurants in Bucks County. Since moving to Wycombe, the Pineville Tavern has become our neighborhood hang-out. Mark and I happen to enjoy eating at the bar – or counter in the case of diners – and look for places where this is comfortable to do. The Pineville, or PVT, definitely fits the bill.

There are regulars at the PVT bar. I once heard one of them chastise the bartender for allowing cheddar cheese to arrive on his cheeseburger. “How long have I been coming here?” he demanded.  “I always get American cheese!” Returned the bartender, pointing to the customer’s friend: “You said you wanted the same as him.” When his pal – and everyone else at the bar – confirmed this, the customer settled down.  (The bartender did get him American cheese, though.) It was just part of the give-and-take you find between staff and regulars that everyone actually enjoys.

The Pineville has a casual menu that runs from burgers to ribs, salads and pasta. The specials bring in a bit more variety. There’s always a fish entree, homemade pasta and a steak dish. The prices range as well, so if you “just want a burger” you don’t have to spend a mint.

Another of our favorite places is the Cross Keys Diner, which recently reopened after a five month hiatus. Here, too, we usually settle in at the counter, where we can read the paper, chat with the wait staff as they run back and forth, and generally enjoy the hubbub.


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