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Dining Out: On 10th anniversary a focus on romance


When Marie and Pete D’Costa took over the National Hotel in Frenchtown, N.J., in 2009, they were told over and over again how happy people were to see it reopened.

“Couples would say they met here or got engaged here,” said Marie D’Costa, giving testimony to the hotel-restaurant’s place in the hearts of the community.

To help celebrate the 10th anniversary of their ownership of the hotel, the D’Costas reprised their annual Valentine’s Day essay contest, giving customers the opportunity to put their reminiscences in writing. The essays were to highlight the most meaningful and romantic moment of their relationship, and why they think their story is relevant to Frenchtown or any of the surrounding towns.

The result was so many impressive entries that the D’Costas increased the number of winners from three to six.

The essays are filled with romance and are tied to Frenchtown, the National Hotel, and even the bridge between Frenchtown and Bucks County. Winners are Ember Kimble, Wendy Wildman, Alexandra Walrath, Steven Fecko, Jeanette Flower and Ian Kimble.

“It felt like a natural thing to let people reach out and tell their story,” said Marie D’Costa. “There is so much artistic talent in the Delaware River towns.”

In their 10 years of ownership of the hotel, the owners have continued the tradition of the hotel and its downstairs bar, the Rathskellar, as a favorite gathering place for the community. Along with that comes the need to provide great food.

Marie D’Costa described the restaurant’s menu as New American pub food with an international flair that comes from her and her husband’s backgrounds. It’s a menu that includes dishes as homespun as burgers and fish and chips as well as vegan falafels and Indian dishes such as samosas and potato balls fried in chickpea batter. Entrees range from New York strip steak, to grilled eggplant stuffed with vegan cheese, to the Indian dish chicken mughla.

Dishes crafted by executive chef Geoffrey Thomas highlight local and sustainable foods whenever possible. “We showcase what’s local and fresh,” she added. The restaurant’s seasonal spring menu will debut in the weeks to come.

The National Hotel has a long history of providing food and shelter for visitors to Frenchtown. An inn opened on the site in 1833, followed by the construction of the current building in 1850.

The inn has 10 rooms in addition to the full restaurant and the Rathskeller bar, locally known as “The Rat,” which is known for its live music.