Even in the chill of an early spring night, the Delaware River romanced me during a recent dinner at the Raubsville Inn, just south of Easton. I watched the silver water in waning daylight from the dining room, and, after dark, sat by its inky blackness talking with a companion till my teeth chattered.
The river is the restaurant's front yard, and this 18th-century stone inn, renovated in the style of Old New Orleans, offers warm-weather alfresco dining that maximizes the view. Considering the setting along with the tasty ''Louisiana cuisine,'' cozy corners and live music to boot the inn might just qualify as the quintessential date place for a summer romance.
Bursting with the character that makes old buildings so endearing, the dining rooms are striking in decor: Bold salmon-colored walls offset by black wainscoting set a dramatic tone for a painting of New Orleans' French Quarter in a heavy gold frame, and other artwork.
The Pub Room, with its lower ceiling, stucco-style walls, occasional live music and a wood fireplace, has a warm, intimate feel. Upstairs, there's a funky ''Odd Fellow's Riverside Martini Bar'' and an expansive cabaret where live bands perform on Fridays and Saturdays. After nightfall the inn takes on a special charm: Old-style gaslights illuminate the exterior and tiny white lights trim the roofline as well as one of the towering trees by the river.
If you've never dined in New Orleans, a meal at the Raubsville Inn could be the next best thing. The menu is clearly rooted in that city's well-known Creole cooking. Consider, for example: ''Joe Mama's Louisiana Jambalaya Stew'' (crawfish, shrimp, filet tips, sausage and chicken in spicy Creole over seasoned black rice) and crawfish etouffee (whole crawfish and shelled crawfish tails sauteed with a spicy cream Creole on black rice).
There's also ''Proud Mary Stuffed Pork Loin'' (hot pepper jelly glazed pork loin with chorizo sausage and pine nut stuffing) with the promise, ''You'd leave your good job in the city for this.'' Selections such as French market duck (glazed with roasted garlic raspberry sauce), three-nut-encrusted chicken, jumbo crab cakes and salmon imperial are also available.
We sampled Louisiana crawfish bisque, a chef's specialty described as a ''thick, zesty, slow-roasted mirepoix with hunks of crawfish laced with a sherry brandy reduction.'' The smooth soup delivered on flavor with subtle spice balancing rich, full background notes but I was disappointed that I didn't find hunks of crawfish in my cup.
From that night's specials menu, we ordered scallops wrapped in bacon with horseradish sauce; this appetizer was quite fine. The scallops were tender and moist, no doubt with a little help from the bacon, which also lent a smoky finish to the bite.
Sesame-crusted salmon with honey lemon soy sauce, an entree from the specials list, was standard fare, as was its accompanying rice. The ''Royal Street Filet'' an 8-ounce grilled filet mignon with double-coated onion rings drizzled with demi-glace was cooked just as ordered and served with wasabi garlic mashed potatoes that provided counterpoint to the meat's richness. Al dente yellow and green beans finished off both plates.
Desserts were enticing, but a little tough to come by. We ordered tiramisu and the server returned from the kitchen explaining the last piece had just been served to another diner. So we ordered key lime pie, and with great regret the server returned with the message that it was unavailable as well. Oops!
We ended up with berry flan tart and creme brulee. The tart, which was most enjoyable, featured a cookie crust and custard-style filling topped with wild blueberries. The inn's rendition of creme brulee, with its paper-thin brown sugar crust, was in line with the classic preparation of this dish.
Service at the Raubsville Inn was less than stellar. I called three times to secure a reservation: The first time I was put on hold and left there for several minutes until I finally hung up; the second time a recorded message indicated all lines were busy and I should call again. When I arrived, it took quite a while for someone to appear for seating; the story for coffee and tea service after dinner was much the same.
Dinner for two, including tax, tip and nonalcoholic beverages, totaled $90.
Susan Gottshall is a freelance restaurant reviewer for Go Guide. Gottshall, who tells it like it is, attempts to remain anonymous during restaurant visits. All meals are paid for by The Morning Call.
Features Editor Linda O'Connell
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