by Anna Idler
For 35 years, the Lambertville Station has been bringing culinary excellence and adventure to the Delaware River Towns, including their highly anticipated Wild Game dinners. Located along the Delaware River in Lambertville, New Jersey in a beautifully renovated train station, this restaurant offers a contemporary American menu, delicious cuisine, excellent service and gorgeous views.
Co-owner Dan Whitaker is very proud along with his partners, Rose Carbonara, Michael Dougherty, and Skip DiMarco of their restaurant, especially the massive amount of repeat guests that come to Lambertville Station.
It’s not unusual for guests at the Lambertville Station to request their favorite servers and arrive with an appetite for their favorite dish on the menu. Whitaker recognizes how “incredibly gifted” the restaurant’s staff and dedicated kitchen staff are.
“My job is to get guests to come in the first time,” Whitaker explained. “Once they walk in the door, it’s our talented servers’ jobs to get them to return.” And they do.
Whitaker first grew passionate about the restaurant business when he was living in Florida. He worked in real estate during the day and had a job as a waiter at night. He enjoyed being a waiter, looking forward to clocking in at the restaurant and getting to meet and talk with unique customers.
“I never looked at my watch to see how much longer I had to work,” Whitaker said.
He thrived on making his customers happy and seeing them satisfied with the restaurant’s meals, service and atmosphere. He listened attentively to customers’ feedback and regularly thought of effective ways in which the restaurant could improve.
He would bring his ideas to management and work to collaborate with them on innovative solutions. Whitaker soon realized he wanted to be in a leadership role at a restaurant of his own.
When thinking of menu ideas, he drew inspiration from a restaurant in Fort Lauderdale that had “bugs” listed on their menu. Yes, you read that right.
This restaurant was constantly crowded with curious patrons waiting to try out this strange dish. As customers learned when they ordered, “bugs” was a nickname for a specific type of Australian shrimp. But this way of listing the appetizer drew inquisitive people in the door; Whitaker does the same with the exotic Wild Game selections offered from January through March on Lambertville Station’s menu.
“We want to encourage customers to try something new,” he explains. “We love when people experiment with food, and taste different things.”
The Lambertville Station’s kitchen staff, some of whom have been with the restaurant for up to 30 years, find joy in crafting inventive, delectable ways to prepare the wild game selections. The seasonal selections include python, kangaroo, alligator and wild boar.
When asked what a successful day looks like for the Lambertville Station, Whitaker doesn’t miss a beat with his answer.
“Making sure that every guest who comes into the restaurant feels listened to,” he said. “It’s not about the sales, it’s about guest satisfaction. We eat, sleep and breathe that philosophy.”
The relationships Whitaker has been able to form with Lambertville Station staff and customers alike is one of his favorite parts of his career. He told me a touching story about a kind elderly couple he became close friends with, who came into Lambertville Station weekly for ten years. They drove from Long Island every Tuesday afternoon for lunch, enthusiastically asking the hostess “where’s Danny?!” when they arrived. They even recognized Whitaker’s car.
“They looked forward to eating at the restaurant all week long,” Whitaker remembered. “I will never forget that couple.”
Schedule your own wild culinary adventure this winter at the Lambertville Station:
For more on Lambertville Station, visit their website www.lambertvillestation.com. You can also follow Lambertville Station Restaurant & Inn on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.