Walk through the doors of the Horse & Hound Inn, situated along one of the many winding roads in bucolic South Salem, and you may feel transported to a simpler time.
Predating the American Revolution, the building was originally constructed as a homestead, though its earliest records in 1749 describe it as an inn. From there, the building served a variety of purposes — as a schoolhouse, a gin-and-rum mill and a stagecoach stop. According to owners Susan and Silvano Vales, the adjoining rear building was used both as a blacksmith shop and a rest area for horses making the journey along the Old Post Road from New York to Danbury.
Today, photos documenting the history of the centuries-old landmark at 94 Spring St. line the walls of the long-standing building, chronicling the changing scene. Antiques sit along shelves and within wooden cabinets dotting the eatery’s interior. Large windows and fresh flowers lend the restaurant an Old World charm.
“It almost feels like you’re coming into someone’s home,” the restaurant’s manager, Steve Rosenschein, tells us. “That’s what we hope it feels like.”
A space on the left side of the historic building serves as a pub — a common meeting place for locals — and frequently plays host to concerts, or “pub sessions.” During the warmer months, guests can take up seats on the restaurant’s outdoor patio, while children run freely in the open yard below.
Moving to the dining room, Steve shows us to a seat near the cozy fireplace. A basket of warm rolls is soon served with an aesthetically pleasing bowl of olive oil and garlic cloves. Creamy baked brie follows and is wrapped in a flaky filo dough that pairs perfectly with sliced apples and crackers. Crisp calamari is lightly breaded and served with a sweet marinara for dipping. Butternut squash ravioli is a standout, slightly sweet and covered with a creamy sage sauce.
Our main course begins with a Belgian endive salad, a recommendation from our host. Slightly bitter endives are balanced by a smattering of apples and sun-dried cranberries that mingle with crumbled blue cheese and chopped walnuts, all tossed in a house-made balsamic vinaigrette.
Juicy cuts of duck are expertly pan-roasted and served rare, drizzled in a Grand Marnier sauce, over creamy mashed potatoes and with julienned squash, zucchini and carrots. An entree of chicken marsala features a roasted, French-cut chicken breast slathered in a traditional Marsala sauce and paired with a side of mixed greens. While the chicken is both juicy and well-seasoned, the sauce lacks an essential sweetness, leaving the dish somewhat underwhelming.
Sue, who is both the establishment’s owner and chef, gives us glimpses of the evening’s specials, which range from pork osso bucco, with an onion thyme glaze and an apple chutney, to a stemmed glass of seafood salad. We settle on an entrée of filet mignon, a decision that proves divine. The thick but tender cut of meat — “I feel like I don’t need a knife,” my guest remarks as he slices a portion — and the sweet cream sauce are nothing short of perfection.
Dessert always proves to be one of the more difficult decisions for us. Do we want rich and creamy? Or simple and tart? Perhaps salty and sweet? We share our dilemma with our host, who goes on to describe one of the restaurant’s more popular evening-enders: Imagine all the goodies you’ve collected during an evening spent trick-or-treating, then mash them up and mix them together.
Who could say “no” to that?
Steve’s description did not mislead. We’re presented with a slice of whipped chocolate mousse atop a crumbed Oreo crust, garnished with crushed Reese’s cups. Delightfully rich, we finish our sweet treat in record time, choosing to pair our dessert with an Irish coffee, another recommendation from our helpful host, served in a stemmed glass and topped with lightly whipped cream.
After acquiring more than two centuries of rich history, Horse & Hound continues to offer a comfortable, tasty stop for both travelers and locals alike.
For more, visit thehorseandhoundinn.com.