Everyone loves a comeback story.
We see them all the time: a sports star returns from a devastating injury; an actor lands a starring role years after their last hit movie.
The same thing can happen in the restaurant business. Just look at The Hitching Post Restaurant and Bar.
I’m old enough to remember the original Hitching Post in West Lawn, but not old enough to remember anything about it. The only thing I really know is that it was replaced by a Wawa more than decade ago. To tell the truth, I can count on one hand the number of times my parents took me to the Hitching Post, but I could not venture to guess how many Shorti hoagies I’ve eaten in the years since.
Three years ago the Hitching Post rose from the ashes, this time in Bern Township along Route 183.
The building formerly housed the Classic Cafe, then Chill Lounge before the Hitching Post took over the location in 2011. The restaurant has been doing well every since. So well in fact that a sister restaurant, Willoughby’s Bar & Grill, opened last year in Wyomissing.
When you first pull in to the parking lot, it is hard to gauge the size of the restaurant. The dining area is expansive. Split by a small step in the middle, there is easily enough room to seat a few hundred people.
Our table was near the crowded bar. There was not a stool to be had on this Thursday night, nor were there any high-top tables left around it.
It was an older crowd in the barroom, though not as old as the jazz duo who were performing in the corner. But I have to compliment them: the first song we heard was a rendition of Louis Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World” that could have easily passed for the original.
I don’t know what the menu was like at the original Hitching Post, but if it was anything like the current one, I can see why it was so popular. There were at least a dozen items that I debated between, including the Filet Alfredo Bleu (filet medallions topped with gorgonzola and cream sauce of pasta) and chicken pecan (chicken breast topped with cashew pecan and brie spread with mixed berry amaretto sauce). There is also a section of Greek specialties that includes a souvlaki, spanakopita and gyro (with shaved lamb).
After a lengthy dialog with myself, I opted for the filet tip wellington.
Normally I think of “tips” as small slices of meat, but these were closer to whole filets. The meat was done perfectly before being stuffed in a flaky pastry. The whole thing was topped with caramelized onions and mushrooms with a thick au jus of Madeira wine, sage and gorgonzola cheese.
The sauce had a flavor unlike any that I have tried before. The gorgonzola was strong, giving the sauce a slightly sour flavor that was tempered by the wine and herbs. It was delicious from the first bite through the last.
Wanting something a little “lighter” that wouldn’t result in a to-go box, Julie ordered a prime rib sandwich with French fries. The sandwich was topped onions, mushrooms, provolone and for a little change of pace, horseradish aioli. The aioli really took a good sandwich to another level, adding just a little extra zing without overpowering it with horseradish.
Of course half of it ended up coming home with us anyway, but that’s only because I had my heart set on ordering dessert.
For the finale, we had orange creamsicle crème brulee. Like all crème brulee, it was nicely caramelized and topped with a mound of whipped cream. But it tasted exactly like an orange creamsicle, just warm and melty. I felt a little like a six-year-old while eating a very grown-up dessert.
The Hitching Post may not be fine dining, but it’s very good dining in a fine atmosphere. And at $40 for our entire check, the prices are certainly not fine dining either.
I wish I could remember the old Hitching Post so I could definitively say the new restaurant is “better than the original,” but I can’t.
What I can say is that The Hitching Post is really good and, like the original, should be sticking around for a long time.