We wanted to give partner Frank’s lifelong friend Lisa a surprise day – modeled after something we do for each other a few times a year: we set a date, and one of us arranges a number of surprises over the weekend the other does not know about until we get there (next up: April, his surprise, my choices). Now that it’s Sunday I can tell you what they were: all three of us getting massages at Massage Envy in Flemington, NJ. Then a financially acceptable shopping spree (I had to put that in there, we’re neither rich nor insane) at Kohl’s, a stop at a wine store where Lisa was given a gift certificate, and finally dinner at the Carversville Inn.

The Carversville Inn is located in Carversville, PA, just “ten minutes and 100 years from New Hope.” Carversville was a 19th Century farming community and earned its National Register of Historic Places status from the Department of Interior in 1979. Carversville, along with a number of other small rural towns in New Jersey, was once a stagecoach stop and business would set up along the route to cater to the travelers on those dusty, bumpy rides. The Carversville Inn was one of those establishments.

The Inn itself has stood since 1813. Since 1989 chef Will Mathias and his wife, Denie, have been the owners of the inn. We were seated in the tavern area, since the main dining room didn’t have an open table until 7:30 and we tend to eat earlier than that. It wasn’t a problem, since the Inn’s tavern is small, friendly, and usually quiet (until we got to our desserts and a crowd of 20 or so people showed up for drinks, something the waiter said he hadn’t seen in his three years there and for which I did not deduct so much as a quarter yum).

The only argument I had was with myself: 4 and a half yums or all the way to 5? I’d only given a handful of restaurants a full 5 yum rating in the three years I’d been doing reviews. However, I made a quick comparison to Marsha Brown in New Hope and realized it wouldn’t be fair not to rate them both at the top. For that matter, the food at the Carversville Inn was better, as unlikely as such a thing would be.

The staff was attentive, gracious and ever-present. Our waiter was delightful (thank you, James), and every item on the menu was enticing. For appetizers I had a mushroom ragout with Gruyere and Frank had crab bisque. My beet salad was one of the best I’ve had, with toasted pecans and succulent beets, while Lisa enjoyed a shrimp salad and Frank had endive salad. My entrée was a mouth-watering grilled filet mignon with roasted red peppers and horseradish whipped cream, joined on the plate by polenta cakes and broccoli rabe. Frank had short ribs of beef braised in red wine with roasted vegetables and bordelaise sauce, while Lisa had mustard crusted salmon with lemon butter. Each dish was impeccably prepared and served, and before we were halfway through the meal I knew this was a special dining experience. We skipped dessert only because the tavern area had filled up and become very loud, but there’s no fault in that and we saved some by stopping at the Giant grocery store for ice cream instead. The entire meal for three ran $175.00. Yes, it’s not your local diner, but I do review those, as well, so don’t worry, there’s something for everyone as we travel around and I hand out the yums. The Carversville Inn easily earns a top-rating 5.

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