Taking a break from the movie write-ups to recount my outing for lunch this past Thursday. I am thinking about doing a series of 'cheap restaurants of New England' posts, at least through the fall, as all of the children are back in school now except for the baby, and it gives me an excuse to get out of town and take a ride once a week during this really lovely season of the year. Of course I have to be back by 2:30 to hand the baby off to her mother and go to work so I cannot go very far away or linger in a place for very long, but I can manage anywhere within 90 minutes if I leave by 10 am, which given my location covers a fair amount of good territory, including most of the state of New Hampshire. I have also devised some internet word search games to generate restaurant possibilities, though for this initial excursion I opted to finally go to a place that I have had a hankering interest in going to for many years, but which has not been practical because it was either too crowded or I have had too many children with me, and which I also mentioned in my summer vacation post, the old-fashioned luncheonette attached to the Goldenrod taffy-candy-gift store, both because of this interest and because I thought they might be closing for the season after Labor Day (though in fact they are remaining open through Columbus Day; maybe I will go down again before then).
I am going to set these posts up in the category style, which has always been popular with consumers of ephemeral media.
Usually when going to Maine from Concord I take US-4 to Portsmouth and pick up I-95, or if I am really not in any hurry, US-1. This is a pleasant ride, 50-55 mph the whole way, minimal stoplights, antique stores, book stores, old barns and churches, lakes and lake houses, woods, farms, the famous New Hampshire Trojan horse (said to have been built by a disgruntled old isolationist Yankee in the 50s as a protest against the U.N.), and it takes a hair over an hour to get to the Maine state line, and a further 15-20 minutes to get to York Beach. However all of the internet mapping sites claim that the fastest way to get to the ocean from Concord is to take the interstate south to Manchester and go east on NH-101, which is a highway on that stretch, so I tried that, but that way took me 90 minutes (and route 101 from Manchester to Hampton is for New Hampshire an unusually blah road as far as scenery goes, though the part of it that runs west to Keene, a humbler two-lane blacktop, is a quite beautiful, if plodding route). I took Route 4 home and it was the usual 75. I have really come to love the old U.S. highways in recent years, most of which outside the congested Boston-D.C. corridor you can keep up a good speed on most of the time (and even in some places in it, such as US-301 from Wilmington to Annapolis, and even US-1 between Philadelphia and the Verrazano Bridge and Holland and Lincoln tunnels is usually just as fast as taking the turnpike) and I try to take them now whenever possible.
I think it is perfect, 100 yards from the beach, but as the beach isn't visible the view out the curtained windows gives the sense of being in a densely built little city through which a constant stream of pedestrians are moving, a really charming effect that, due to the rarity of it anywhere in this country, I had forgotten about in recent years.
It was nearly 90 degrees, so it still felt like summer, though with school being back in session the beaches on a Thursday had only about half the crowds they would normally have, and the amusement arcades, though still open, were practically deserted. I am guessing they will close up after the Labor Day weekend. As I left home an hour later than I wanted to, I was only able to take a quick peek at the beach before I had to hurry off home.
Well, I'll read to you from their brochure: "Step back in time to when things were simpler...the classic New England dining room...The heavy beamed ceilings, oak tables and stone fireplace set the stage." It's a great space. It is one big room, but it has a long, not entirely straight perimeter, with a little alcove in the back that I actually could not see. I was given probably the worst table (as I usually am, I guess because I am so ugly and unimportant looking), in the middle area right next to where the people stand when they are waiting to be seated. My ambition for my next visit is to get a seat by one of the windows. The bathrooms are up an interior, dark, narrow, carpeted, wood-paneled staircase lit by yellow light bulbs in sconces, reminiscent of one of the better old bars in Boston. The bathroom itself was more modern, but it did have nice dark-wood doors, both at the entry and in the stalls, that looked legitimately old.
Due to the absence of school-age children, it was mostly older people and people with very young (pre-preschool age) children. I was with my own 7 month old daughter, who is so well-behaved that I do not have the slightest pause about bringing her out with me on these excursions. There were a couple of 20ish New England rocker chicks out for the day with their biker-looking parents, and one MILFy type, petite and wearing glasses, long curly-ish hair, who was giving off a moderately "I'm not dead in that way yet" vibe. I did overhear an overweight, slovenly dressed, doofus-y looking family discussing having seen The Philadelphia Story recently, with the mother claiming it as one of her favorite movies and expostulating a little on the appeal of Cary Grant, which surprised me, especially as in appearance she looked about as far from the Cary Grant style ideal as it is possible to get. As at an increasing number of restaurants in touristy areas around here, the wait staff consisted entirely of young people from non-western countries--the ones here looked to me to be Russian or elsewhere in the former Soviet Union.
My waitress was the cutest one of the bunch, though by 'cute' I mean in the way a serious, mildly severe Russian girl would be cute, not like a cheerleader. She was not especially friendly, but she was not unfriendly either. Neither was she terribly conscientious, though she was not completely indifferent. She was busy, I guess (the dining room was about 60% busy) and her mind was elsewhere. The first time she came to take my order I was not quite ready, so she went away and didn't return for 20 minutes. I began to wonder whether this was deliberate, that the hard Russian girl was going to amuse herself by ignoring me and making me have to loudly call after her or make some public complaint which she would know at a glance someone like me would be inherently loath to do. However, I think she just forgot about me, as she did apologize, sincerely if not weakly or obsequiously, when she came back. I just ordered a BLT, but I am happy to report that it was a extremely good one, the lettuce and bacon and even the side pickles, which I usually skip, were of a perfect crispness. So I am a believer in the product now, whatever I get the next time. Due to my late start and the additional 20 minute delay in taking my order, I was up against it for time and was unable to linger any longer to have coffee or dessert, which of course I love to do, because I really don't have anything important to do in my life, ever, or anywhere to get to accomplish amazing things, unless someone else has arranged for me to have to be somewhere. But I had frittered away all of the time that was my own and I had to get back. But I will return now, for certain.