Penn’s Tavern is the casual dining room at Lower Gwynedd Township’s historic William Penn Inn. The WPI shimmers during the winter with thousands of miniature lights. The circa 1714 Inn is one of the premier dining locations in Montgomery County and offers banquet facilities and three dining rooms: The semi-private formerly members-only exclusive Commonwealth Club on their second floor, the main Monet Dining Room for fine dining (both the Commonwealth Club and Monet rooms have the same menu) and Penn’s Tavern.
I have probably been to the WPI fifty times in my life but I had never dined in Penn’s Tavern so when we tried to get reservations to celebrate my birthday on Mothers Day weekend…Penn’s Tavern was all they offered. It was as good a time as any to try it.
We were seated within 15 minutes of arrival, which wasn’t bad considering the crowds. We took our seats in one of the tables in the modest bar area with live piano player (as opposed to a dead one, I suppose). The pianist played mostly saloon songs from the 50’s and 60’s and instinctively played “As Time Goes By” just as one of my companions said “I’d really like to hear…”
The menu offered most of the same options as the formal dining rooms at WPI but included some other more basic menu options as well (including a fried mozzarella appetizer that would be very out of place down the hall in the Monet dining room). The WPI’s delicious bread basket offered sourdough rolls and their famous zucchini bread. Penn’s Tavern does not provide the dish of fresh vegetables with dip that the other dining rooms do, but they do offer a salad and seafood bar as a $5 addition in place of the included dinner salad.
William Penn Inn is famous for their house creamy tarragon dressing. It is addictive and the salad bar was expansive and included the house famous dressing. I enjoyed my salad very much. I was less impressed with the seafood bar. The shrimp was plentiful and well prepared but the clams and oysters were both found to be a little dry with strong sea flavors. I am coming to the conclusion that chilled oysters and clams are only good when shucked just before eating. When they sit on a bed of ice for 30 minutes or more they just lose that “fresh taste”.
I was intrigued by their French Onion Soup and ordered it. The rich broth was unlike any I’d tasted before and was good, but (and I never thought I’d hear myself say this) there was an excessive amount of cheese in the soup both on top and throughout the soup.
WPI is famous for their prime rib and tonight it did not disappoint served a perfect medium with a mound of frizzled onions on top and a side of the house made bernaise sauce. A plain filet was extremely well prepared and very tender. A mixed seafood entree included salmon, shrimp, crab cake, and lobster. The salmon was reported to be more “fishy” tasting then usual but the dish overall was a good mixture of fresh seafood.
I ordered the blackberry glazed pork chops with pecan stuffing. The pork was a little dry and tough but it had a delicious flavor. It probably would have benefitted from being cooked a minute less or at a slightly lower temperature, but I enjoyed it. The promised serving caddy of bacon, butter and sour cream for
my baked potato never made it’s way to the table but I packed the untouched baked potato to come home with one of the pork chops anyway so it wasn’t a big deal.
Dessert was ice cream served in a spun sugar bowl, creme brulee and a very light sour cream-based cheesecake which was outstanding.
Service was a bit lacking due to the crowds this evening but our server, Meg, more than made up for it with personality and effort.
William Penn Inn
P.O. Box 6
Rte 202 & Sumneytown Pike
Gwynedd, PA 19436
Tel: (215) 699-9272
Fax: (215) 699-4808