Full House
The Freight House in Doylestown earns high marks for its menu of reinvented American classics
by Brian Freedman


If you were a judge-by-the-cover kind of person, the undeniably attractive montage of images on the homepage of The Freight House’s website could cause some initial concern: the brightly colored cocktails in martini glasses; the perfectly cross-hatched beef; the iconic label of an Opus One bottle off to the side. It’s all beautifully rendered, of course, but could give the impression that this is an expense-account sort of spot that places a higher premium on the proverbial sizzle than it does the literal steak.


This is not the case. Rather, this cavernous steakhouse by the tracks at Doylestown Station—and large enough to fit a locomotive, with room (and style) to spare—gets right what I wish more such restaurants would: Its sprawling menu of American classics finds its footing, and the root of its success, in quality ingredients and a refusal to peddle solely in the standard.


Much of this flair is a result not necessarily of the focal-point proteins but, rather, by what they’re accompanied by. Flat-iron steak, mineral and taut, was grilled exactly to the requested temperature as I’d expected it would be; but the large Anaheim pepper—roasted, peeled, seeded, stuffed with a three-cheese symphony that tasted like some sort of Latin-inspired Boursin, beer-battered and fried—really made the dish.


Brilliantly tender duck breast, sliced finger-thick and fanned out like a beautiful brown-and-pink flower, benefited from a sous vide bath with thyme and garlic, a deft hand with the simple seasoning, and an accompanying puddle of toothsome grits given mystery and character with the addition of applewood-smoked maple syrup: perfect and evocative.


Blackened swordfish avoided the trap that far too many such preparations fall into: An over-reliance on the charred crust of spice and a resultant overcooking. Here, the blackening of the spice lent the meaty flesh a smoked note that, while framing it well, never overpowered it. Accompanying collard greens, cooked to the perfect intersection of fibrous and tender, were kissed with a splash of Frank’s hot sauce that vibrated through each bite.


There were, of course, some missteps. Carefully diced sweet potatoes with that swordfish were devoid of much flavor, as if more attention had been paid to their geometry than their taste. Sautéed mushrooms and peppers with the steak seemed like a bland afterthought. Fluffy, espresso-perfumed cheesecake could have used more electricity, more concentration of flavor. The wine list mark-ups are breathtaking.


But these were minor issues in an otherwise consistently enjoyable procession of successes.

Jalapeño macaroni and cheese, gooey and oozy under its crisped-up cap of panko. Snappy, thick-cut onion rings all creamy and molten inside. Calamari that’s more than just a conduit for the dipping sauce. In fact, here, both the sauce (a sweet-souled, cooked-down tomato affair that is as far from the typical ramekin of marinara as you’ll find in the region) and the rings (shockingly tender) demanded attention. A special “German soup” that, aside from under-crisped bits of bacon floating throughout, was a smoky, potato-dense winner. Bacon-apple cobbler, despite its overly smoky popcorn ice cream, was a dessert of real character and thought.


And then there are the cocktails, the first of which, whatever you order, will quell any nerves the website montage might have stirred. Yes, there’s an extensive martini list. And yes, there’s another list of housemade creations, many of them sounding fruity and, you’d be forgiven for assuming, sweet. But here’s the thing: They’re not. These are serious drinks for grownups, reliant on fresh juices, careful layering of flavors and a sense of balance.


The Blue Coat Rickey was a miraculously savory affair, the triple-sec and citrus of the Philly-distilled gin framed by a generous muddle of lime and orange. When one of my guests ordered a raspberry hibiscus margarita and was told that not all of the key ingredients were in stock, the waitress, who also bartends here, created her own concoction based on similar flavor parameters. It was a hit, a raspberry pomegranate mojito with concentration and character to spare, and not a drop too much sweetness.


The drink seems to sum up The Freight House: creative yet rooted in well-established principles, pleasurable, and demanding enough to pique and hold your interest yet not so overwhelming that it exhausts you.


None of this comes cheap, but the payoff more than justifies the expense.


The Freight House

194 W. Ashland Ave., Doylestown




Brian Freedman is a food and wine writer based in Philadelphia.

Rob Hall is a photographer based in Plumsteadville.