The Old Guard House Inn

953 Youngsford Road
Gladwyne, PA
(610) 649-9708

There are many benefits to living in the Village of Gladwyne, as I do, especially if the winter brings bumptious blizzards and snow drifts up to your hips. The post office, bank, library and supermarket are a cold stone's throw. The pharmacy, hardware store and luncheonette (or gourmet market) are a minute's gallop in galoshes. At twilight, every evening, the frigid air resonates with the circadian holy harmonies from the clear and glorious bells of Saint John Vianney Church.

At dinner time, sweet aromas subtly emerge from the ovens of the Village center's Old Guard House, where Albert Breuers, its proprietor/chef, begins to sear venison loins, to crisp the skins of roasting ducklings, and to saute calves' liver in bacon and onions. The restaurant's redolence bespeaks the Village's voice, that winter is not simply a season, it's a seasoning.

The Inn, as legend has it, was erected to be a tavern in 1790. But its initial applications for a license were denied or revoked by the first Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board. Local mill workers were rowdier than most, for decades. By 1880, the building had become the Merion Square Hotel, where bowdlerized cocktails led to less calamities.

Prohibition preempted alcoholic uses, and damned the tee-totaling edifice to be disguised as Gladwyne's post office, confectionery, soda fountain, ice cream parlor, meeting hall and even canine kennel quarters.

Finally, in the 1940's, the tavern use prevailed anew.

Albert Breuers bought the showpiece shebang in 1979, augmenting the bar with a restaurant whose German-Continental influences have been revered for almost a quarter century.

One enters into the bar, actually a seeming stage where half the actors are nattily attired in a haberdashery high-ball: blue-blazored-flannel-slacked with orange and red Manhattans. The other actors are cloaked as birds of a feather: blue-collared-brown-chinoed with amber golden beers. The actresses play leading roles, glowering and/or glowing in comfortable decorous clothing, upstaging all others until tables, near omnipresent fireplaces, are readied for their meals.

A multitude of tiny low-ceilinged, beamed eating rooms convey the history of the establishment, with antiques and abundant copper culinary tshotchkes throughout. Waitpersons meander with superb efficiency, consciously catering, soundly suggesting and cautiously carting.

Don't hesitate to split your orders for "Appetizers, Soups or Salads." Fresh Prince Edward Island Mussels ($9), for instance, are nearly two dozen sandless, steaming shell-dwellers perspiring in a chardonnay broth with hosts of tomatoes and julienne vegetables, and hints of garlic. Nary a reason not to share. The staff expects such prudence.

Every extracted mussel is brazenly bouncy, ready to burst in your mouth with the bloated charm of having soaked in chardonnay. The tomatoes are lavish with wine, sobered only by the crunch of thin strips of various legumes. After the shells have been denuded and emptied from the platter, hot buttered breads, served gratis, are splashed into the remaining pool of broth. The soggy dough swims down your throat as you gloat and sigh.

Or divide a bowl of Philadelphia Snapper Soup ($7) into two cupfuls. The soup is a torrent of turtle meat hewed for a spoon's delivery through parted lips. Each cup's contents are lusciously lambent and invigorated by splashes of cidery sherry. Your tongue behaves badly, inadvertently slurping the soupspoon to its original scarified silver state. Gurgling and gulping are not uncommon. This concoction takes your palate's senses to supererogatory sublimation. It's as if you're inhaling liquid.

If you miss the Wienerschnitzel ($28) or Sauteed Calves' Liver ($23), you'll kick yourself until the Statute runs. The former is lightly breaded veal medallions floating above creamy lemon butter. The veal is pounded to tenderized, toothsome ovals, made golden-crusted and complaisant upon their lemony underpinnings. A knife is unnecessary, as the side of a fork provides ample force to separate a morsel. There are two gourmand's medallion portions on the plate, purfled by mashed potatoes and carrots. This is hearty tavern fare.

The latter is an incarnadine meld of liver filets and bacon strips atop cooked crispy red onions. There's nothing its equal in the region; it's an atavistic marvel of repast memories. The liver is satin upon velvet, medium to a pink, with the nosegay of thick cured bacon and sweet onions. The surrounding red wine reduction may be wisped onto each piece, so that, at meal's end, the plate is as clean as a whistle.

I will not mention the Seared Venison ($30), inundated in red cabbage, spatzle, poached pear and wild mushroom sauce, nor the Norwegian Salmon Pistachio Crusted ($25) except to say that the ingredients are oversized, fresh to a fault, and perfectly presented. And if you've tasted better Sweetbreads, Rack of Lamb, Dover Sole or Schweinepfeffer ($27, $30, $34, $25 respectively), I'd eat my suburban hat.

Attempt climbing the Chocolate Guard House Tower ($6.75) for dessert. The flexuous light chocolate mousse is perforated with truffles and surrounded by latticed delectations of hardened dark chocolate reticulations. Lawyers allow these layers to be shared over strenuous objection.


Copyright 2004 Richard Max Bockol, Esq. Back