How many places can claim they've been serving since 1743? How many can simultaneously serve up atmosphere that reflects this fact without being in costume (a la City Tavern) or serving mediocre food? Blue Bell Inn does it all, offering great traditional food in an authentic tavern managed with a familial friendliness. You can't resist ordering Yuengling in a place like this, nor a good steak, for which they're known.
We chose to sit in the bar area, which is equivalent to a sizeable restaurant. The bar meanders a bit and in one corner, a lounge singer belted out tunes over a grand piano. In another corner, a fire roared under a large chimney that reached to the vaulted ceiling. I peeked back into the "restaurant" area and found a strange decorating mix of large paintings of horses (polo? racing? something like that) against a green background - wainscotting, carpet, all green. It felt dated. Stick with the bar area, which serves the full menu.
Speaking of the full menu, it offers a wide range of traditional American options with a high end twist, from french onion soup and New England clam chowder to haricot verts salad or lump crabmeat cocktail, for starters. Stick with the steak, I was told, and I did - enjoying my favorite New York strip, served (as all the steaks are and, in my mind, should be) with bearnaise sauce. It's also served with a salad. Now, I'm used to the starter-salad-that-comes-with-the-meal being all about iceberg and carrot shavings. Not the case here; Blue Bell Inn offers greens with fresh herbs that was surprisingly refreshing as a first course. The steak itself, done to perfection and hard not enjoy next to the giant, warm fire, was a thick cut served with potatoes au gratin and my choice of two vegetables (I went with broccoli over lima beans). The broccoli tasted like butter, which is to say I ate every bit of it. For the first time in a long time, I was unable to finish the steak. Needless to say, I was more than satisfied.
TPB tells me that the Blue Bell Inn is a hotbed of republicans. I didn't hear politics being discussed, but I did see a variety of folks, young and old, with and without families. The clientele all felt like regulars, yet I didn't feel like an outsider. Somehow, the Blue Bell Inn has managed to capture what I imagine to be the best parts of a colonial inn - a good pint of lager next to a fire, a nice cut of meat, and the company of your fellow townspeople. A good place to pass the time.
The Blue Bell Inn is located at 601 Skippack Pike, Blue Bell, Pa., www.bluebellinn.com.