Feeding the Deer and the People | The Walpack Inn
On the first sunny Sunday afternoon we’ve had in a while, I drove back up to my hometown in northern New Jersey to meet my aunt for lunch. She was visiting from Florida for a few weeks and lunch was the perfect time to catch up.
Freshly showered from yoga, I followed the winding country roads until my radio station turned to static. Past farms and fields with their tall grasses I swung into a small lake community to pick up my aunt. Then I followed my GPS through a gravelly, half-paved road that was more like a hiking path. The road was nearly one way — and so narrow that the tree limbs on either side of the route were brushing against the sides of my car.
“I don’t think this is going to be open. This route must be for hikers.” My aunt was nervous.
“Well, let’s see what we find.”
I followed this route to the end and was brought out to a three-way intersection. I continued up a hill and came in the back way to the driveway of The Walpack Inn.
The History of The Walpack Inn
The Walpack Inn has an amazing website where you can learn about the restaurant’s history, compiled by Jacquelin Speck.
I learned that The Walpack Inn was founded in 1945 by the Lombardi and Zichella families and bought in 1949 by Louise and Adam Heigis. The Inn was known for its fresh fruit pies and lobster.
In 1960, the Heigis's son Jim joined the family business — using his restaurant background to expand the restaurant's rooms, bar, and sitting area.
Today, locals and travelers making the drive through the windy mountain roads can look out among the fields and hills and watch the deer and wildlife. The prime rib, steaks, and salad bar are some of the main dishes attracting diners to The Walpack Inn.
The Walpack Inn | Interior and Exterior Design
I parked in the lower level of the two-sectioned gravel parking lot. The wooden Walpack Inn sign sat on the edge of the property line near the road, reading: We feed the deer and the people too.
Stepping under the dark brown overhang with rustic beams and up two concrete steps is a large foyer. A coat room is to the right and the hallway for the bathrooms.
We stepped through a door on the left and entered a large room, broken out into sitting areas.
On the left was a sitting area with a white fireplace. The window behind the wooden bench looked out onto the parking lot. Cast iron tools and antiques sat above the mantle of the white brick fireplace. A beautiful metal stove sat against the wall at the head of the wooden coffee table.
Four-top wooden tables to the right lined the room to a staircase that led down towards the bar and fireplace. The room was bright with natural light and warm wood tones.
Down the wide wooden steps lined with vintage typewriters was the L-shaped bar. I looked at the moose mount hanging behind the bartender and the elk nearby the colossal fireplace. The fireplace was so large I felt like I could stand in it and use Floo Powder like Harry Potter.
We walked around the bar to a table with a girl. It looked like she was selling raffles, but she must’ve been the hostess. “Two?”
“See that girl in the dress?” She pointed down the length of the giant room, to a shadowy figure at the end. “Ask her where to sit.”
We followed the room down past an ice chest of seafood and the pickup kitchen window, lined with steaks. We were a level higher than the dining room on our left. We entered what I assumed to be, the greenhouse dining room, catching the attention of the other hostess.
The hostess turned out to be someone I knew from high school, so we exchanged pleasantries before she led us down some steps into the dining room. We took a four-top table beside the floor-to-ceiling glass windows.
I loved the giant wooden ceilings and beams. The antler chandeliers matched the lodge/mountainside decor. This dining room was huge, and we had passed tons more seating on the way to the back of the building. There appeared to be at least two waitresses covering this section of the room.
But what was most spectacular (and what the Walpack Inn is known for) — is the floor-to-ceiling windows that look out onto Walpack Valley. A rolling green field stretched into the mountain-y peaks and thick forests. Tall grasses framed the fields, and you could see old couples walking arm-in-arm and children running through. An old trio of trees was directly in front of our window. I looked for deer or bear but didn’t see any for our early afternoon lunch.
The Walpack Inn Menu
I loved the black and white photograph of the Walpack Inn. The menu was paper and had two double-sided pages. I ignored the drink menu since I had a far drive home and paid most attention to the appetizers. A separate menu of specials was its own single page.
Of course, the oysters and seafood caught my attention. I knew The Walpack in was known for its steak, but I was surprised to see the amount of seafood on the menu.
In the end, my aunt and I agreed upon a non-seafood related appetizer to share. We gave the waitress our order and were invited to select from the salad bar.
Build Your Own Salad
Since we both selected dinner-style entrees for our meals, the salad bar was included. We went back up the steps, and to the left was a long salad station.
Large metal containers of toppings snuggled into mounds of fresh ice. The available dressings included Russian, ranch, blue cheese, Italian, and oil and vinegar.
Then there was containers of fresh vegetables, beans, olives, and toppings like chopped crispy bacon and grated cheese.
I grabbed a plate and scooped a large helping of the fresh greens and put nearly every topping on top:
I put cucumbers, carrots, chickpeas, turnips, croutons, bacon, grated cheese, and tons of Italian dressing.
I don’t usually find salads impressive, but this salad was a 15/10. It was so fresh and satisfying. Plus, the Walpack Inn is also known for its complimentary brown bread.
No joke, this bread was larger than my head. I didn’t zoom in for this shot — they literally give you half-a-loaf plus a large plate of butter. The bread was sweet and warm from the oven. You can even buy the bread mix and make your own at home.
Fresh Mozzarella & Tomatoes | $11
We had nearly finished our salad when the caprese salad appetizer arrived.
As an Italian who makes this at home and eats this frequently, I could tell the minute the waitress put it on the table that it was going to be good.
The plating was thoughtful, and the balsamic drizzle was real balsamic. You can tell by the thickness of the balsamic, it doesn’t run all over the plate. It almost looks like a chocolate syrup.
The tomatoes were huge and shiny. I could tell as I lifted a trio of tomato, mozzarella, and basil onto my plate that the mozzarella was fresh (and maybe even made on-site?).
It was a delicious and light appetizer — an easy 10/10. With the salad beforehand, I was glad we ordered this and nothing too heavy (like the clam chowder or onion soup) — as I don’t think I would’ve been able to eat my lunch/dinner.
Our waitress was an older woman who knew what she was doing. She only popped by to see if we wanted anything wrapped or cleared. I appreciated that she checked in to see if we wanted our entrees put in yet. Since we were still eating the bread and caprese salad, we told her to wait.
We spent a while catching up, which was a needed break between our salads/appetizers and entrees.
For my meal, since it was a little past lunchtime and I knew I wouldn’t be home until later, I ordered one of the seafood dishes from the special’s menu.
Stuffed Arctic Char | $28.00
The chefs at The Walpack Inn know how to plate. I’m not sure what colorful vegetable swirl they decorated my plate with, but it was lovely alongside the color of the fish.
I ordered Arctic char, stuffed with crab imperial and finished with a lemon beurre blanc because I don't think I ever had Arctic char nor a beurre blanc sauce.
A beurre blanc sauce, as Wikipedia quotes, "Is a hot emulsified butter sauce made with a reduction of vinegar or white wine and shallots, into which cold, whole butter is blended. Translated from French, it means white butter."
Learning About the Arctic Char
When my dish was put down in front of me, I thought: This looks a lot like salmon. For some reason, I was expecting Arctic char to be a white fish filet.
Then, when I tasted the fish on its own (without any sauce or crab stuffing) I was really convinced that I got salmon in place of the char.
So, I’ve done some research and here’s what I’ve learned about Arctic Char:
“Arctic char's global supply comes from Canada, Iceland, Norway, and Greenland. It is a member of the trout and salmon family and looks mostly like salmon. It's a silvery color with green and blue scales and a brighter red/pink belly. The flavor is more like trout than salmon. It is firm with a finer flake than salmon or trout. Its high fat helps keep it moist when cooking.”
My first impression wasn’t incorrect that my entree could be salmon, given what I’ve learned from the above research.
The crab stuffing was piped on top of the salmon. I thought that was curious, as I was expecting it to be sandwiched between the layers of fish — but I suppose that would make it more difficult to cook the fish all the way through.
The stuffing was crisped on the outside and fluffy on the inside — while tasting like crab and not just the bread crumb binding.
A pool of the beurre blanc was on the bottom right of the plate. It reminded me a bit of hollandaise sauce, but not as thick and strong. My entree came with a side of baked potato.
Filet Mignon | $37.00
The filet mignon came with a port demi-glace, decorative vegetable, mushroom, and sweet potato.
I ate the mushroom (which was broiled and juicy), and tried a slice of the filet mignon with the sauce. I am normally not very impressed with steak out at restaurants (yes, even filet mignon) but oh-my-godddd this was fantastic! Cooked perfectly medium-well. It was seasoned well (which is why I don’t normally like steak at restaurants) — and the sauce added extra flavor.
My aunt and I are both fans of dessert. I ate my whole entree and she wrapped a tiny bit of hers, so we had room for dessert.
We had already been dining for close to two-hours, but the waitress was not rushing us. She gave us a small, two-sided menu. One side had the desserts and one had coffee and liquors.
We were debating which desserts would be special enough to finish the meal with. Most of them were ice cream based or sorbet and we were looking for something homemade. The waitress said that she had a raspberry and mixed berry pie left, and we knew those were homemade.
In the end, I ordered a regular coffee with milk and we shared a homemade dessert.
My coffee was strong and bold which is how I like it. We ordered the raspberry cheesecake since we both prefer cheesecake over pie.
The raspberries on top were fresh, and not the jelly/syrupy kind. The cheesecake was dense ricotta, but I enjoyed it.
What was different is that the bottom of the cheesecake was pie crust, rather than graham cracker. It was still tasty, but not what I was expecting.
Overall, I would give The Walpack Inn a 13/10 for the following:
Decor and Design
The Inn’s style is countryside charm with antiques and stone. If you’ve never taken a drive up to northern New Jersey (even close to PA), I would recommend you visit.
This is its own category. Stunning fields, mountains, and trees. I am visiting in fall and winter to see more animals and colorful foliage.
No complaints! Our waitress let us sit for hours, always cleared our plates and kept my water glass refilled (I drink gallons), and was friendly/happy.
Fresh, high-quality ingredients, thoughtful plating, and homemade. Everything I could ask for.
Have you been to The Walpack Inn?
The Walpack Inn is a restaurant I would be happy to go back to. Have you ever been? Do you have a favorite dish? Tell me about it in the comments, I’d love to hear from you.