Ever since I started to review places based solely on drinking experiences with no food and going in-depth with it, I have come to develop a deeper appreciation for different bars I have been to. A quick visit to the Lambertville House for drinks the other day did nothing but make me crave a dark, dingy, neighborhood dive bar, the opposite of what it was supposed to do. Ironically, our next stop after this place across the river ended up with us unintentionally finding the dive bar in the New Hope area. When putting the two places side-by-side, it was quite profound how one makes up for what the other one lacks.
You have seen on this blog that I’ll do a little bit of everything. There are fine dining restaurants and classy bars right next to diners, sandwich shops, and yes, the dive. Walking into the bar at Lambertville House is impressive. The working-hotel dates back to the 1800’s and offers a dining room along with porch seating. Their bar itself is a tiny one. It could maybe seat six or seven people. There were then tables, large and small, with comfortable leather-bound chairs to sit at. Fireplaces flanked the seating area. It seemed like the absolute perfect place to relax for a few minutes after walking probably four or five miles at nearby Bowman’s Nature Preserve and the towns of New Hope and Lambertville themselves.
Now, this is just speculation. I thought we were given “the eye” when we walked in. Our attire was far from spectacular (but neither was it dirty or unkempt). We literally got back from a hike. We both had jeans and t-shirts on—mine black, his gray. Immediately, I felt the beam of light being seared into us as we walked in. But maybe that’s just me. Only two other people were in the place: an older man regaling the bartender with loud, egotistical stories of self-importance and an elderly lady tucked away in the corner staring out the window probably wishing she was somewhere else.
The sign outside offered some minuscule Happy Hour specials. There were martinis for $8, wines for $5, and something about oysters. Surprisingly, there were no beer specials and for $6 a bottle, a dollar off would have been nice. They had no beers on tap at all, and this may actually be the first bar I’ve been to in my life that did not offer Budweiser (Justin’s go-to) in some form.
So, he ordered a $6 Corona while I went with a classic gin martini. Mine was perfectly ice-cold but that’s all it had to offer. The actual flavor was a bit off. I’m thinking whatever vermouth they used was a little funky. I have nothing against bottom shelf gins (I’m a fan of Gilbey’s or Gordon’s when I’m not splurging) so that’s why I am leaning toward the vermouth being the cause. It was just a little too medicinal for me.
You’re probably wondering how I can give a rating based on one cocktail and a bottled beer. Well, when the bill came, my martini was on there for the normal price of $12. We questioned her saying the sign outside read “$8 house martinis”. The first thing she said was, “Oh, that special only applies to our $11 martinis”. I chimed in that the sign did not note that. She asked again what the sign said and I repeated the wording. She then said in a rather snarky voice, “Well, we don’t have $8 martinis”. As she turned to walk away, she stopped herself and asked where the sign was. I told her it was right out front. She disappeared for a few minutes. When she came back she said she would charge us the $8 because I was correct and then offered up some kind of explanation along the lines of, “We’ve never had $8 martinis so I don’t know why the sign says that”. Problem solved, but it made me think.
The sign out front was designed and printed. It was not hand-written where maybe someone in the back wrote the wrong price. Come to think of it, I remember it being there the last time I was in Lambertville a few months ago. So…you mean to tell me 1) no one has ever come in and ordered a Happy Hour martini or 2) if they did, you charged them all full price, and no one ever complained or brought it to your attention? Something is fishy about that. I left there feeling somewhat disappointed that this beautiful bar in a historic building was being wasted with this bartender, lackluster cocktails, and overpriced beers. It was not until visiting John & Peter’s (a dive in New Hope) later that day that made me even more skeptical of this high-class establishment. For all of this noted above, Lambertville House gets a 2 out of 5 stars.
Located at 32 Bridge Street in Lambertville, NJ.