The best meals are always the unexpected ones.
I had zero idea of what I was going to get last week when Julie and I visited the Windsor Inn at Shillington.
The only thing that I knew was that the owner’s daughter, Rachel, reached out to me over a year ago to come in and review the restaurant.
Fifteen months later, we were finally there. Better late than never.
I’m not going to lie. The inside is a little dive-y. We walked through the bar to a tired looking dining room. On the yellow walls were photographs from when the building was a doctor’s office in the 1950s. Behind me was a fireplace, it’s mantle lined with vintage cameras.
It wasn’t a busy night; there was only one other couple in the dining room and a handful of customers sitting at the bar when we arrived. Our waitress was doing double-duty, handling orders in both rooms with help from an assistant.
The waitress also happened to be Rachel, and she was more than happy to talk to us about the food: how it’s locally sourced whenever possible, how they make a different pasta in-house every day, and how they had in-season peaches for their martinis and margaritas.
The last one caught Julie’s attention. She nursed her peach margarita throughout the meal, leaving nothing but a little peach pulp at the end.
The name “Windsor Inn” certainly doesn’t scream Italian the way others do, but the menu certainly gave it away. Cioppino (mixed seafood simmered with tomato and wine) and carciofi (veal sautéed with artichokes, dried tomatoes, dill and cream) were among the unpronounceable dishes for a man with Pennsylvania Dutch heritage.
I also found out I have been pronouncing gnocchi wrong all my life. Apparently it’s not NOH-chee, it’s NYOK-ee. Who knew?
We started our meal with something easy to pronounce: gigantic Windsor meatballs.
They were certainly big — gigantic is stretching it a little — but they were delicious. There is nothing like a homemade meatball from a real Italian kitchen. The hand-formed meatballs had plenty of nooks and crannies to grab the sauce that was just as good. What little sauce was left, I made sure to soak up with some bread so it didn’t go to waste.
Along with the meatballs came the optional Parmesan cheese and red pepper, the latter being made in-house. Our waitress warned me that because it was freshly made, it would be stronger than a typical red pepper. I ignored her warning and quickly found out she was right. Tread lightly with the pepper. It’s fantastic, but it is hot.
We were happy to have ordered the meatballs because the courses were slower to arrive because so many things were made from scratch and everything was beautifully prepared. Even the salads were crafted, not made.
Salads usually don’t make it into my reviews because more often than not, it’s nothing more than mixed greens with a cup of Kraft dressing. That’s not the case here. The restaurant was serving three homemade salad dressings so Julie and I each got to try a different one. I chose raspberry herb for mine; Julie chose garlic dill for hers.
I really like creamy salad dressings. The garlic dill was certainly that, having the consistency of a good ranch dressing but with the very distinct flavors of garlic and dill mixing together beautifully.
My raspberry herb was also very enjoyable: a little puckery and a little sweet with fresh raspberries scattered throughout.
By this point, we were very excited to see our main courses, both of which were daily specials and highly recommended by our waitress and rightly so.
The stuffed eggplant, my choice for the night, was a beauty of a dish. It was almost a shame that I had to ruin it by digging in. The eggplant was stuffed with ricotta and peppers and topped with prosciutto. On the side was fresh made pasta with the house tomato sauce.
I absolutely loved it. The eggplant was cooked so it was perfectly tender. The ricotta and the prosciutto played extremely well together. And the pasta was delicious. Even the portion was perfect. While it looked small on the plate, it was just the right amount to be filling.
Julie’s bowl wasn’t quite as nice to look at, but it sure tasted good. She went with the shrimp and gnocchi. Julie likened it more to a gumbo than your expected pasta dish, with everything tossed in a nice broth-like sauce. It was a heartier meal than my own, but Julie managed to finish it.
Neither of us were really hungry for dessert, but I had overheard the dessert options when they were read to the other table and upon hearing the words “flaming peaches” I knew we would be getting dessert no matter what.
It was a few minutes before the dish arrive: pound cake topped with mascarpone cheese and fresh peaches in Bacardi rum (with whipped cream and a cherry on top, of course), aflame upon delivery to our table.
Like two kids with trick candles on their birthday cake, we struggled to blow out the flames and dig in. Once we did get to it, it was good to the last drop. The pound cake had absorbed the melting cheese (and a lot of rum). The peaches were warm, sweet and melt-in-your-mouth good. I have absolutely no regrets about ordering it.
Even our final bill didn’t leave us with any regrets. It was about $65 for the two of us, three courses with two drinks (one non-alcoholic). I’ll gladly pay that for quality food.
The Windsor Inn at Shillington provided one of the most memorable meals of the past year for me. Before we left, we got a frequent customer card.
For every $15 you spend, you get a stamp. Five stamps equals $10 off your next meal. We’re three-fifths of the way there.
I plan to fill out that card sooner than later.