If it’s history you’re looking for (and you’re keeping your search inside Delaware), Old New Castle is the place to go. It was settled by the Dutch in 1651, and remains a center of history even now (First State National Monument’s visitor center is here). The stone streets and red brick buildings reminded me of Charleston as we walked from our car to Jessop’s Tavern, not half a mile from the waters of the Delaware River. The building (and indeed all those around it) is clearly from the time period, with real fireplaces and warped wooden floors. It’s cozy, and if I lived within walking distance, it would be a place I’d love to hang out all the time. The only trouble I’d have is the pricepoint; I’d call it more birthday dinner than Sunday brunch. That being said, it’s worth it for the experience. Everything is stylized to feel colonial: the staff wear period costumes, the menu is full of weird spellings, and the beer list features a couple homemade items that are true to methods used by Colonial Americans.
Jessop’s is also the local authority on Belgian beers: thirty tap handles and a selection of over three hundred and fifty bottles are available at a given time. My first round was Jessop’s Brambleberry, made by 3rd Wave Brewery. It was okay, though there wasn’t as much blackberry flavor as I had hoped. My next round was called a Dirty Hoe, a mixture of Hoegaarden and Lindemans Framboise. The result is a delightfully fruity raspberry wheat that I could have drunk seven of. Sadly, I had to drive home, limiting the number I could practically consume.
For dinner, I ordered off the list of “Colonial Fare,” which includes shepherd’s pie, Swedish inspired meatloaf, and pot pies that come in chicken, beef and ale, or crab. I chose the fish and chips, seeking to compare my experience to that same dish in Ireland. It came out looking and smelling delicious, but with some very obvious differences. In Ireland, fish and chips is plated as follows: a single, long piece of fish is battered and fried crispy, then served atop of a bed of french fries (chips). Tartar sauce comes standard, as does cole slaw. At Jessop’s, the chips are large potato wedges, the fish came in three (beautifully prepared) pieces, and my side of tartar had cocktail sauce mixed in.
I didn’t mind the differences, though. Variety is the spice of life, so I happily ate the whole thing, enjoying my tartar/cocktail mix more than I expected to. I also ordered a side of the sriracha mayo that comes on the Patriot Pulled Pork sandwich (it was a good choice). Everybody else at the table enjoyed their food and drink, too, though the vegans did have to get a bit creative.
Dessert was out of this world; for starters, they carry Woodside Farms ice cream. I’ll be doing an article on them once it’s a bit warmer outside, as they deserve as much publicity as they can get. I have it on good authority that their cobbler is out of this world, though I haven’t had the opportunity to try it myself. Morgan and I shared the “Oli Bolen” Dutch Apple Cakes. More accurately, she ate the cakes, and I ate the ice cream that came with them. I did get to try them, though, and let me tell you: they were warm, and they had a delightful crispiness to them that was complimented wonderfully by the soft fluffiness of the insides. With ice cream, it’s a hot and cold extravaganza your taste buds will tell tales of for generations to come.
If you’re planning a day in Old New Castle, Jessop’s Tavern is high on the list of features not to miss. The food and beer are reason enough, but everything else makes it an experience that’ll round out your day of history beautifully.