Greater Harrisburg's Community Magazine

Past & Repast: Historic Middletown tavern gets a new life—and a very old name.

What’s old is new again along E. Main Street in Middletown.

When Thomas Pavlovic took over operations of what was formerly the The Lamp Post Inn, they embraced the concept of serving the community, while preserving a part of local history.

There are actually two kinds of history operating at the newly named Black Horse Tavern. First, there’s personal history.

Pavlovic, a Middletown native, used to visit his grandmother nearby. As a child, he lived just blocks away from the property.

Bob Shoenfelt, who manages the kitchen, is also a native son and brings some of the old Lamp Post favorites back, like the “steak for two” and the crab cakes.

“People love Bob,” said Pavlovic.

Then there’s the colorful history of the building itself, which dates to the mid-1700s.

At one time, taverns were centers of often-raucous town life, places where people had meetings, made speeches, socialized, drank, fought and even voted, and a review of the local news archives shows exactly that.

An 1891 article in The Times of Philadelphia mentions the Black Horse Tavern as the site of a sometimes-contentious meeting held there by the Delaware County Whig Convention.  

A year later, the Harrisburg Daily Independent shared a story about a civil suit brought by a Middletown man against the Lancaster, Elizabethtown and Middletown Turnpike Co. due to a buggy that overturned near the tavern. And a 1910 story tells of a certain Harry Hagen of Ephrata, who was accused of manslaughter after a well-landed punch to the jaw led to the death of Henry Waltz of South Lebanon Township.

Much more recently (and peacefully), Peter Zoumas, who owns The Hearth in Lebanon and The Manor Lounge in West Hanover Township, bought the building and mounted an extensive restoration, while preserving the building’s charming old character.

“We installed new floors, updated the plumbing, the electric, the air conditioning, you name it,” he said. “What can I say? I like to punish myself.”

The building may appear a little different these days compared to The Lamp Post, but its historic nature remains, along with many quaint architectural details.

After the renovation, Pavlovic took over, reviving the original Black Horse Tavern name.

Food-wise, he designed the two-page menu to offer something for everyone. “Shareables,” include items like nachos and mozzarella sticks and “Black Horse fries,” which are topped with bacon, jalapeños, onions, tomatoes and cheese. Reubens, wraps and other sandwiches comprise the “Handhelds” section of the menu. Additional casual fare such as wings, salads and soups is also available.

A selection of pasta dishes includes shrimp scampi, spaghetti with meatballs and fettucine Alfredo. A “Beef and Reef” section showcases steaks and seafood like broiled haddock, crab cakes and scallops.

Pavlovic uses his mixologist background to create special, pre-Prohibition-era cocktails on Sundays.

“I put together a small list I release on Facebook that is true to the era like a French 75, which includes gin and champagne with fresh lemon, and a Vieux Carre, which contains brandy, rye, bitters and house-made syrup crafted with demerara.”

Pavlovic said that the new venture has been embraced by a community that is loyal to area businesses.

“I’m at the end of a long journey towards ownership,” said the businessman, who credits restaurateurs like Nick Laus and Max Randazzo for passing along their knowledge of the industry to him.

“I cut my teeth in this town and am happy to work in an atmosphere that I love,” he said. “I’m excited to be part of the growth within this community,” said Pavlovic.

The Black Horse Tavern is located 101 E. Main Street, Middletown. For more information, call 717-944-0450 or visit their Facebook page: Black Horse Tavern.

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