The upgraded Bucks County Playhouse finally appears to have a restaurant companion worthy of its electric buzz. Jose Garces’s Stella opened in June in the newly renovated Ghost Light Inn (formerly the Playhouse Inn), next to the Playhouse, along the Delaware River in New Hope.
It’s been a long time in the making
Word of the restaurant first leaked in 2016—and a lot’s changed for the Iron Chef over that time. Initially, a restaurant in New Hope made perfect sense. While most of Garces’s empire resided within Philadelphia’s limits, he also owns a 40-acre farm in Ottsville that partially supplied the produce for his restaurants. So he was no stranger to Bucks County.
But then Garces declared bankruptcy, sold his restaurant group, and watched a few of his restaurants close in the process. These days, Garces has pulled back from the business side to focus on the food at the remaining restaurants, including Stella. His official title is chief culinary officer for the newly formed company that runs the restaurants.
In other words, this is now a comeback story, with Stella unexpectedly cast in one of the leading roles. It’s a lot of pressure when there’s already plenty to go around for a new restaurant. But the early indications are that Stella should flourish under the renewed attention.
New Hope (and, for that matter, Lambertville) does not lack quality restaurants. The recent additions of The Salt House and The Ferry Market have only upped the game of a town that was already hitting for a respectable average. But Stella, through proximity and name recognition alone, makes for a natural partner for the Playhouse.
Even once the newness wears off, Stella’s (somewhat) locally sourced menu is inventive enough to hold its own. A sampling of the early offerings: Barnegat Light scallops with Carolina Gold rice cream; Pocono rainbow trout with country ham and a burnt chili chimichurri; and duck liver mousse with grilled sourdough.
And, suddenly, the idea of a dinner and a show in New Hope no longer sounds like a cliché date.
The Playhouse, for its part, has come up with an appetizing pairing, Always … Patsy Cline, which opens August 9 and runs through September 7. It’s the true story of how a housewife, in 1957, became an immediate fan after hearing the American music icon on the radio. Through a chance meeting and many letters, they formed a lush, probing friendship that lasted until Cline’s death in 1963.
Oh, and it stars the legendary Sally Struthers.
Our advice, for what it’s worth: Go with the tasting menu. For one of this caliber, it’s a bargain at $55. And then get comfy at the Playhouse. It’s gonna be a bumpy night.
Please note: Stella’s is an independent entity and has no affiliation with the Buck’s County Playhouse