Saturday, November 6, 2010

Rick's - Lambertville, NJ

Well, it was a long day working today, so I came home, took a quick cat nap, and then Zelda and I were trying to figure out what we should do for dinner tonight. I asked her what she was in the mood for, and she asked if I wanted to go somewhere new. It was at that point that I suggested Rick’s in Lambertville, as it has come highly recommended from a plethora of friends and acquaintances. Our good friend Arounkone of Pure Energy Cycling and Java House ( has been recommending Rick’s for years, and they even sponsor one of his cycling teams.

So I grabbed a 2006 Holdredge Pinot Noir Wren Hop, packed up the Riedel carrying case, and off to Lambertville we went. Upon first drive around, I saw a line in the lobby, so when we didn’t find a parking spot at first, I dropped Zelda off to put our name in. After that, I drove around the block two more times and found nothing, so figured I would drive down to Pure Energy and park in Arounkone’s lot, but even his lot was full. One more drive around the block and still nothing, so I drove all the way down to where the Elk’s is, before I found a spot. That was a bit too far though, so I drove back through one more time, and found a spot across from the old Acme there, about 2 blocks away.

Nobody said parking was easy in Lambertville, and that is the chance you take when coming into town for dinner. Regardless, it didn’t bother me, and hopefully it was worth the hassle. I grabbed the wine bag and walked up to the restaurant, and Zelda was waiting in the lobby with about a dozen other people. I asked if she had put our name in, and how long the wait was, when she explained that there was just a clipboard that you put your name on. This in my opinion is a novel idea, and absolutely genius! No hostess to get harassed, to be bothered by patrons asking “how much longer until we are seated.” I truly liked this!

The waiting area was small. You could fit 10 people or so in the lobby, and we were standing in a narrow hallway that leads to the rear dining room. This was very narrow, and a bit of a squish when patrons from the back dining room were leaving. As we waited, the restaurant smelled gorgeous, filled with aroma’s of good red sauce, and plenty of garlic. This smelled heavenly to me!

A woman emerged from the dining room looking for a reservation who was 5 minutes late, and nobody answered. She said she would give them a few more minutes, and if they didn’t show up, she would give there table away. 5-10 minutes later, she seated a 4 top, and then took us. That said, if you make a reservation, be there on time. She’ll give you maybe 15 minutes of grace, and then she’ll give your table away. Again, bonus points here, and I like it. Good restaurant etiquette tells you that if you are running late, you need to call and tell the restaurant you are running a few minutes late. Especially in a small, busy gem in Lambertville. So their tardiness worked out good for us, and we ended up getting their table in the front window of the restaurant, overlooking Main Street.

Before I even sat, our server asked for our wine, and she opened it for us as we sat. I grabbed two Riedel glasses from the bag, and she took their glasses back to the kitchen. For the wine snobs out there, I would recommend bringing your own stems here. The dining room was definitely cozy, and definitely tight. Zelda had her back up against the wall, and my back was to an empty chair at the table behind us. If there was someone seated directly behind me, it may be very tight, but again, this is Lambertville, and we understand this. The walls were covered in paneling, reminiscent of that at Delorenzos on Hudson Street in Trenton. I think this is pine, but who knows for sure. The tables are covered in the red and white checkered table cloths, reminiscent of many Italian restaurants. Needless to say, it all worked, and looked very cozy.

As I looked into the mirror over Zelda’s shoulder, I could see a board with specials on the wall, in addition to their regular menu items. Special tonight included anything from a pork dish, to Crab Cake Parmesan, to Pumpkin Ravioli in a Brown Butter, to Lobster Fra Diablo.

We looked at the menu, and decided to start with an appetizer, and went with the Antipasto Platter. For entrees tonight, Zelda ordered one of her favorite Italian staples, chicken parm. I was torn a bit between the Lobster Fra Diablo, as well as the Crab Cake Parmesan, but ended up going with my gut, and ordered the lobster at our servers recommendation. I really love crab cakes, but 8 out of 10 times I am disappointed when I order them while we are out. I much prefer buying good jumbo lump crab from Wegman’s, and making them myself…which I think I will have to do one night next week.

While waiting for our antipasto to come out, we noticed just how crowded the restaurant was. This place was buzzing, and it was loud. I actually had a hard time hearing Zelda a few times, but again, this really isn’t a bad thing. It’s nice to see a place packed to the gills like this, compared to some of our favorite restaurants that seem to be dead with the current economy. One thing however I found to be a bit annoying was the people who were waiting for tables. You could see the resentment on their faces as they stared directly at me, as if they were upset that we were seated and they were not. Do people have no manners these days? Is there really a reason to be flashing me dirty looks, and for me to have to look at your wife complaining to you that she is hungry? What is there to say other than rudeness? It’s too bad there isn’t a way to block this from the seated patrons so they don’t have to see it. But that said, that doesn’t reflect on the restaurant itself, it reflects on rude dining patrons.

A few minutes later the Antipasto came out, and unfortunately, this picture doesn’t do it justice as this was after I had already dug through it. This came with nice salami, a slice of Bologna, sweet peppers, onion, olive, roasted red peppers, lettuce, and a green and red pepper tapenade of sorts, and a large piece of artichoke. All of the elements worked well together, and complimented each other. There was also some fresh Mozzarella, all of this was drizzled with some olive oil and balsamic, I think! Pair this with the bread and spread that came with the bread, and it was a delicious appetizer! We were about ¾’s of the way finished with this and our dinner came out.

This picture doesn’t really do Zelda’s chicken parm justice, as it was two nice sized chicken breasts that she would never be able to finish. I really enjoyed the buttery flavors from this when frying, although, the breading seemed to be thin in places. The chicken however was pounded nicely, and not overly thin. The chicken was cooked well, tender, and buttery with nice flavors and seasoning. The sauce on the other hand to both of us was average. There was nothing really that set this off from other sauces, and it was lacking in the wow factor. To me, it reminded me of many red sauces at many restaurants, and we still think that Toscano Ristorante has the best red sauce in the area. This was served with a bowl of pasta as well.

My Lobster Fra Diablo came out with a nice rotini styled pasta, with two lobster claws, as well as a small tail that was cut in half. The pasta was cooked perfect and smothered in a nice, spicy sauce. This sauce was much more inspiring than the sauce on Zelda’s pasta, although there were a few places you could see grease sitting. I’m not sure if this was finished with an oil of sorts, but that was a possibility. My first bite of the first lobster claw showed that it was just a bit over cooked, but really, in a restaurant that is packed to the gills with people, overcooking something by 30 seconds is going to happen unless you have a large kitchen staff. The tail was cooked nicely, was succulent, and tender. This sauce had a good spice to it, with just the right amount of heat.

About ½ way through dinner, I hear my name called from across the restaurant, and up walks a wine friend of mine Peter, who happens to live over in New Hope. Pretty funny in all actuality as I could have sworn I saw his car when I was looking for a parking spot. Small world. He came over for a minute or two, and I offered him our bottle of pinot to bring back to his table for a taste, but they were getting ready to leave. This Holdredge was gorgeous by the way, so look for that review to come as well.

After that, we were finishing up our dinner, and still getting the uncomfortable stares from those waiting for a table. I think I was in the worst possible seat for this in the restaurant, but what is there to do about it? I didn’t feel bad in the least, and they should have made a reservation or gotten there earlier. One gentleman was giving me the “hairy eyeball” as my buddy “Hoff” likes to say, and his wife was downright miserable. Meanwhile, an extremely rude woman walks into the dining room, and interrupts our server, who was taking an order at another table, and tells her that she is there to meet another table under the name Stephanie. The server tells her that she’ll be with her in a few minutes. Again, rude people! What is the story here.

So from here we threw Zelda’s chicken parm on top of my pasta, had it wrapped up, and skipped dessert so that at least another table could be seated as there were a good 15 people waiting in line as we walked out the door. In short, the food was good, the pricing was great, the service was attentive and great, the place was buzzing, and it put off a good vibe. I wouldn’t go out of my way to eat here, but it is another place to add to our list of go to’s in Lambertville. I wouldn't come her eon a weekend for a meeting as it is loud, but the food is nice.  Cheers!

19 S Main St
Lambertville, NJ 08530
Phone: (609) 397-0051

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