Whenever I travel, it’s important to me to experience foods I can’t experience at home. Prior to the trip, I do tons of research on Google and scope out restaurants in the area. I always travel with a plan. I have my food destinations mapped out, and I do just about everything possible to make sure it’s worth stopping in.
I stumbled upon this adorable restaurant, Bell’s Mansion, via my Google hunting. I was drawn in by the gorgeous 1800′s architecture and the history behind the building (you can read about Bell’s Mansion here). The mansion was in the Bell’s family until the early 1900′s when it was purchased by the Salmon’s, who owned the house for 72 years. It is evident that the current owners take pride in maintaining the mansion’s vintage charm. They didn’t obliterate the building with renovations and remodeling. Instead, they upheld the original 1800′s feel, even restoring old artifacts. The building is beautiful. I don’t know how they can be gracious enough to open the mansion up to the public as a restaurant, because if I lived in a house that beautiful, I would live in it and keep it all to myself.
So the restaurant definitely had a great atmosphere going for it, a 5 out of 5 no doubt. But how did the food and service stack up? Well, let’s start with the service. In this case, I’m giving you the bad news first and saving the good news for last.
The service was disappointing to say the least. We opted to sit outside, something I rarely do, because it was a beautiful day. However, as soon as the host brought us to the table, all forms of service vanished. 20 minutes passed, and we still didn’t have drinks. Finally, our host came to the table to ask if our server had come around yet. We told him “No,” and he took our drink orders instead, promising to be back asap with our drinks and bread.
I guess asap means 10 minutes in the minds of some people, because that’s about how long it took the host/server to return with our drinks and bread. He took our orders, and we waited quite awhile longer to receive our appetizers. There was also a sizable gap between getting the appetizers and getting our meals. I got quite impatient. I was ready to eat my arm off!
While we were eating, no one bothered to come around and ask how our meals were. My mother had to flag someone down to get water. It’s a good thing I didn’t need anything else during my meal, because no one would’ve helped me.
After we finished our meals, we waited and waited for someone to bring a check. We began to speculate our server was one of the ghosts that supposedly reside at Bell’s Mansion due to his tendency to vanish. After at least 20 minutes of waiting, my mother got fed up and went inside. She spoke to one of the employees and explained how poor the service was, and how long we’d been waiting. Apparently, she was shocked. As soon as my mother returned, so did our server. He gave us a check, but there was no form of compensation for the bad service. I think it’s unacceptable that they didn’t take any money off of the check. Any other restaurant would’ve repented by taking money off the final total. Our server didn’t even apologize.
I’m not sure if I can peg the entirety of Bell’s Mansions service as poor. It seems the rest of the guests outside were getting decent service, with the exception of the couple next to us who also appeared to receive slow service. Regardless of if this is typical for Bell’s or not, it is unacceptable that they did not apologize or compensate with the check.
That’s the bad news. On to the good: the food. Everything I had was just wonderful. We started by sharing the Potato and Cheese Pierogies. Being Polish, my family and I were sincerely excited to see handmade pierogies on the menu. I can officially give them my Polish seal of approval. They were incredible. You could definitely taste that they were homemade. They were tender, golden brown, and filled with cheesy potato goodness. Quite honestly, I could’ve made a meal out of the pierogies alone.
On a side note, I also very much appreciate restaurants who provide complimentary bread and olive oil/butter. It gives you something to munch on, and it’s such a nice touch!
Anyway, on to my entree. Several meals on Bell’s menu looked enticing (check it out here), but I decided to go with a favorite of mine: Eggplant Rollantini. The presentation was impressive. And I’ve got news for you: it tasted just as good as it looked. I ate all three rolls…don’t judge me. However, I couldn’t help but compare it to the Eggplant Rollantini I had at Mama’s. And although Bell’s wins in presentation, Mama’s wins in taste.
As far as my sister and mother’s meals go, they had mixed feelings. We all agreed the pieorgies were phenomenal. However, they didn’t love their actual meals. Mother Cookie ordered the Gorgonzola Chicken, which apparently was fine except that there was not a single detectable trace of gorgonzola to be found. Kind of ironic if you think about it. Sister Cookie got the Primavera, which wasn’t bad except that the so-called white wine sauce tasted strangely identical to Chinese Lo Mein.
Overall, it was a mixed experience at Bell’s Mansion. The place is beautiful, the atmosphere is warm and charming, and my food was delicious. However, the disappointing service (or I guess I should say the lack of service) overshadowed all else, and I was even more disappointed that they didn’t seem to care. I still think they owed us an apology and a discount of sorts.
I might be tempted to return for the pierogies, but I think I the poor service might keep me from returning.
Bell’s Mansion is located at 11 Main St., Sanhope, NJ