The 76 House in Tappan, New York has been on my radar for as long as it has been serving a hungry and thirsty publick, which pretty much takes us back to the mid-1700's when Casper Mabie shared the tavern's operation with his brother, Yoast.
Back then, the tavern's local populace simply referred to the place as, Mabie's, and since that time, the building has compiled a history that is long, storied and colorful.
To cite example, its two-foot thick walls have acted as prison for British spy, Major John Andre, who plotted with the traitorous Benedict Arnold, until he was eventually hung on the hill behind the tavern.
The establishment's list of former patrons is as long and varied as its history, and includes everyone from historical figures such as George Washington, Marquis de Lafayette, and Lord Sterling to Hollywood legends such as Lillian Gish, Bill Murray, Robert DeNiro and Julia Roberts.
But as much as I love history, I will save this particular tavern's story for another day, and instead, focus on the dining experience the current establishment offers its modern-day patrons.
In preparation for writing this review, I ventured to the 76 House on two occasions – once for dinner and once for lunch. I did so in order to try to get as complete a picture as possible of an establishment I really wanted to like. And to no one's surprise, I did.
I, for one, not only find the historic ambiance of the dining room quite charming, but also, extremely appealing with an eye towards the past. It plays to my historic sensibilities in much the manner that the Dobbin House in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania does.
The lighting is minimal, and thankfully, unobtrusive within a provincial establishment such as this.
Period items such as ewers, pewter ware and flintlock muskets grace the décor, and if not for a couple of anachronisms such as a WWII-era wallhanger or two, one could easily feel transported back to the mid-18th century while dining.
In terms of service, the staff at the 76 House is not only quick to please, but friendly and knowledgeable as well.
During my visits, I had the pleasure of tasting perhaps ten or so menu items in all, and the offerings of Executive Chef Doug Mulholland, rarely disappointed. Although the menu has a clearly thought out rustic approach that is expected, the chef's execution of these dishes and creative tweaks he administers, adds a playfulness that I find absolutely endearing.
This fact comes across immediately at the top of the appetizer list in the way of the Alligator Empanadas (13.95). The braised alligator is slightly spicy and aside from its leanness, you'd be hard pressed to distinguish it from chicken. Though I enjoyed the offering, the bar was truly raised with the next appetizer; Butternut Squash Ravioli ($9.95).
The delicate use of sage and herbed brown butter in this dish made for a delightful taste sensation and one I would advocate to anyone who like myself, is a fan of this autumn favorite.
From the dinner entree menu, the Yankee Pot Roast ($19.95) served with a home-baked popover, red cabbage and mashed potatoes is the type of rustic fare I would expect in such an establishment. However, commonplace or not, it is a well-executed and a tasty dish.
However, if I were to propose a dinner offering that I found truly stunning, it would be Chef Mulholland's Seven-Fish Provencale. Lobster, shrimp, scallops, clams, mussels, calamari and salmon are simmered with a blend of chardonnay, garlic, diced tomato and herbs, and together, served over linguini. A truly superb offering for $25.95.
The one item that I must say left me disappointed was the Guinness Braised Reuben ($10.95) which looked mouth-watering in its description of “slow-braised brisket”, but fell far short of the mark. A tad on the dry side, this is by no means a bad dish; it just underwhelmed, and for that reason, I would probably not order it again in the future, particularly with so many outstanding lunch menu offerings.
As far as dessert goes, I really enjoyed the Lemon Sorbet as a palate cleanser. In truth, I initially thought $5.50 was a tad high until I saw the serving – 3 huge scoops of pure lemony deliciousness.
In addition to a fine menu, The 76 House offers over twenty beers, including over a dozen craft and micro brews. Its cocktail menu is above average as well. But that's not all. The restaurant offers brunch every Sunday and live entertainment on most nights. They are also running a special Thanksgiving menu for $60 per person.
In short, when one considers the atmosphere which I term quaint, cozy, and romantic; the price, which is not exorbitant by any stretch within the New York metropolitan area; the service, which is exemplary; and the quality of menu items, the 76 House has indeed become one of my favorites. I just don't know why I waited two-plus centuries to visit.
The 76 House
110 Main Street
Tappan, NY 10983
Monday 11:30 am-3:00 pm, 5:00-9:00 pm
Tuesday 11:30 am-3:00 pm, 5:00-9:00 pm
Wednesday 11:30 am-3:00 pm, 5:00-9:00 pm
Thursday 11:30 am-3:00 pm, 5:00-9:00 pm
Friday 11:30 am-3:00 pm, 5:00-10:00 pm
Saturday 11:30 am-3:00 pm, 5:00-10:00 pm
Sunday 11:30 am-10:00 pm