Monday, August 11, 2014

Seven New England Restaurants Beyond 100 Years Old

Wayside Inn, Sudbury MA
Given that about 60 percent of restaurants fail in their first year of business, it's amazing to come across New England dining spots in business for more than 100 years. Their longevity is almost always due to keeping the food quality intact, focusing on great customer service and keeping intact unique architecturally historical elements. It also doesn't hurt to have historical icons or celebrity as customers along the way, as well as possessing some unique anecdotal stories that just add to the legend!

With that in mind, here are seven noteworthy New England restaurants that go beyond 100-years-old...

Griswold Inn (1776), Essex Conn. The Griswold Inn stands as one of the the oldest continuously running  taverns in the United States, having served notables from George Washington and Albert Einstein to actress Katharine Hepburn. Originally offering lodging and food and spirits that catered to shipbuilders, the Griswold today retains its rustic, creaky charm in an exceptionally well-maintained setting. With three different dining options offering excellent traditional American fare and 33 charming guest rooms, the spirit of traditional New England resonates so proudly here.

Morin's Hometown Barn and Grill (1911), Attleboro, Mass. Once a dining cable car, Morin's has turned into a bustling 250 seat restaurant featuring breakfast, lunch and dinner, as well as weekly buffets. This Attleboro restaurant remains rock solid as a downtown business with some recent national attention: Guy Fieri featured Morin's French meat pie and fisherman's stew on his Diners, Drive-ins and Dives television show on the Food Network.  Two of the Morin's sons continue to run the business with clear pride of ownership and a knack for turning out some amazing comfort foods served in heaping portions. Read our Morin's dining review here

Union Oyster House (1826), Boston, Mass. Located on the famous Freedom Trail, the Union Oyster House stands as the oldest restaurants in Boston and the oldest restaurant with continuous service in the United States. In this building dating back to the 1600s, Daniel Webster once"drank his tall tumbler of brandy and water with each half-dozen oysters." The Kennedy family has also been known to frequent the Union Oyster House.  And how about this for a rather fascinating, or perhaps dull anecdote, depending on how you look at it: the first toothpick was used here.

Today, the Union Oyster House remains incredibly popular -- a tourist attraction and local favorite. It's amazing, too, that there have been only three known owners since its 1826 inception!

Woodman's (1914), Essex, Mass. Known as the birthplace of the fried clam, Woodman's perhaps represents the classic New England clam shack better than any in the region. The unpretentious atmosphere and delicious fried clams and other fresh seafood dishes truly brings one into the heart of New England's seafood scene. Read our Woodman's dining review here as part of our New England's Best Seafood Restaurants and Clam Shacks article.

Lafayette House (1784), Foxboro, Mass. Gen. Lafayette, Gen. Washington and Benjamin Franklin frequented this sprawling yet cozy restaurant with fireplaces and the oldest stand up bar in the country. The traditional American cuisine and authentic colonial atmosphere -- originally a tavern and inn -- make for an experience one wishes was more common amongst the local restaurant scene. Read our Lafayette House dining review here as part of our Best Colonial Style and Traditional New England Restaurants in Massachusetts article.

Wayside Inn, Sudbury, Mass. Known as Howe's Tavern from 1716 to 1861, this historic landmark is best known as the setting for a group of fictitious characters congregating at the tavern in Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's renowned 1862 book of poems, "Tales of a Wayside Inn." Howe's Tavern eventually changed its name to Longfellow's Wayside Inn -- a legendary dining and lodging establishment listed on on the National Register of Historic Places. The traditional New England fare here is tremendous! Read our Wayside Inn dining review here

Ye Olde Tavern (1760), West Brookfield, Mass. Beautifully situated off the idyllic West Brookfield Town Common, the Ye Olde Tavern today is more of a local watering hole that specializes in brick oven pizza -- it is now known as Pleasant Street Pub and Pizza at Ye Olde Tavern. The handsome colonial building, however, remains intact with a former clientele that included George Washington (boy, he liked to eat out a lot!), President John Adams  and Daniel Shays, the well-known leader of Shays' Rebellion.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

12 Reasons to Love Central Massachusetts

Brookfield Orchards, North Brookfield, Mass. (photo by Eric)

Central Massachusetts represents the heart and soul of New England quite well with its quaint small towns, winding country roads, hills and valleys, and a pace of life that is generally much slower than Boston. The region also features Worcester, an impressive city that keeps getting better each day through its major revitalization projects and a strong cultural and academic base with nine colleges and many cultural institutions.

I've found Central Massachusetts to be a home away from home with an appealing quality of life as well as attractions and events that provide a nice respite from our suburban Boston residence. For starters, here are 12 great Central Massachusetts travel destinations:

Ecotarium, Worcester The Ecotarium, an indoor/outdoor science and discovery center, has a bucolic, campus-like presence that feels a million miles away from the urban bustle of Worcester, New England's second largest city. The museum is modern, clean and features such educational gems like a planetarium, animal educational classes and displays (including bald eagles!), geology presentations, and memory and perception exhibits. There's also an express train, taking you through a wild habitat with red fox, red-tailed hawks, and if you're lucky a glimpse of Kendra the polar bear. The Ecotarium also features The Tree Canopy Walkway where you can experience what it's like to walk at the tops of the trees! More on the Ecotarium...

Brookfield Orchards, North Brookfield More than just one of New England's best apple orchards, Brookfield Orchards has a wonderful country store, as well as serving up some amazing apple dumplings with vanilla ice cream and cheddar cheese. The best part of visiting Brookfield Orchards, to us, is enjoying the scenic countryside, rolling hills in the distance and some of the sweetest smelling air you'll find in these neck of the woods. More on Brookfield Orchards...

Old Sturbridge Village, Sturbridge As mentioned in the previous post, Old Sturbridge Village (OSV) is a true-to-life outdoor living museum that wonderfully depicts rural New England from the 1790s to the 1830s. The appealing village layout includes 59 historic buildings on 200 acres, three water-powered mills and two covered bridges.  The knowledgeable New England historians in costume really know their subject matter, so don't be afraid to ask any questions! At Sturbridge Village, you can also ride in a stagecoach, view antiques, heirloom gardens, meet the farm animals, and take part in hands-on crafts.  Visitors have been coming to Old Sturbridge Village since 1946. I have fond memories of OSV as a kid going on school field trips, but I can tell you that Sturbridge Village is even better today with so many more attractions. More on Old Sturbridge Village...

Brimfield Flea Market, Brimfield This is the biggest flea market in New England, held annually in May, July and September. You'll find more than 5,000 vendors from all over the country come to this tiny, quintessential New England town! More on the Brimfield Flea Market...

Salem Cross Inn, West Brookfield If you're looking for a restaurant that captures the spirit of traditional New England, the Salem Cross Inn will surely satisfy. With part of the building dating back to the 1700s, this charming restaurant with beautiful hardwood floors, post and beam ceilings, a huge fieldstone fireplace and scenic countryside over 600 acres, the Salem Cross Inn also happens to serve some wonderful Yankee fare. We recommend the New England chowder of the sea, chicken pie, Yankee pot roast, and baked New England haddock. The Salem Cross Inn also hosts several special events a year that re-enact colonial history and cooking. More on the Salem Cross Inn...

Quabbin Reservoir, Belchertown The largest man-made reservoir in the United States is also a naturalist's dream with designated access areas for fishing (restrictions apply), hiking, limited bicycling, walking trails, bird watching (we've heard many reports of eagle sightings here), snowshoeing, picnicking and generally, endless scenic views. We recommend visiting the Quabbin Reservoir at 485 Ware Rd. (Route 9) in Belchertown, or calling (413) 323-7221. More on the Quabbin Reservoir....

Southwick's Zoo, Mendon Along with the Roger Williams Zoo in Providence, Southwick's Zoo is, in our opinion, the go-to zoo in New England. Having grown tremendously over the past couple of decades, Southwick's Zoo features a large display of well-known and lesser-known animals, the Safari Skyride where you can view animals from above, a walk-through aviary, a petting zoo, live animal presentations and educational classes and the really impressive Purple Peacock Gift Shop! The zoo is exceptionally well-kept. More on Southwick's Zoo...

Howard's Drive-In, West Brookfield A classic summer destination, Howard's is the place for heaping portions of ice cream at dirt cheap prices, as well as offering great BBQ chicken, lobster rolls, ribs and fried clam plates. Such a nice place -- you order at the window, find a picnic table at the picnic groves and enjoy the feeling of letting someone else create a backyard family-like gathering for your dining pleasure.  More on Howard's...

Davis Farmland and MegaMaze, Sterling This family-run working farm showcases the largest sanctuary of endangered livestock animals in the United States. It's a pleasing, wholesome family-friendly destination that also happens to be a lot of fun. Some highlights includes meeting the farm animals, figuring out the enormous corn maze, taking a pony or "safari" ride, a zero depth "spray  ground" to cool off on hot days, and Adventureland where you can dig for dinosaur bones, or drive on the pedal car track. There's plenty more to see and do here, and it's easy to spend a whole day at the farm! Here's more on Davis Farm Land... 

Worcester Art Museum, Worcester There is life beyond the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, when it comes to art museums in New England. The Worcester Art Museum is one great example, featuring more than 35,000 works of art including  European and North American painting, prints, photographs and drawings as well as Asian art, Greek and Roman sculpture and mosaics and contemporary art. I remember going here are as kid in the 1960s, and can tell you that the multiple expansions since then have made it truly one of the premier art museums I've been to in the six-state region. The Museum also is part of an underrated arts, culture and education scene in Worcester. Think about it: the city has nine colleges and universities, six museums, and more than 20 music, theater and dance organizations, including the Massachusetts Symphony Orchestra. But I digress and recommend starting with the Worcester Art Museum! More on the Worcester Art Museum..

Dean Park, Shrewsbury What an absolutely beautiful park! Graced with a scenic pond, pleasant walking trails, and lots of tree shaded areas, idyllic Dean Park features a terrific playground, sports fields, basketball and tennis courts, a bandstand and picnic pavilions. A well maintained and attended spot, Dean Park is the prototype for what a park should look like. More on Dean Park...

The Book Bear, West Brookfield For lovers of independent bookstores, the Book Bear is a great read. With more than 90,000 used, rare and out of print books, this pleasant store with wonderful old-fashioned customer service and a warehouse look is one of the best bookstores we've been to in New England. More on The Book Bear...

Friday, August 8, 2014

Greater Gardner Furniture Outlets Features More Than 200,000 Sq Ft. of Furniture

OK, please be seated: the Greater Gardner Furniture Outlets in Gardner, Mass., features three family owned and operated  furniture stores offering more than 250 names brands in more than 200,000 square feet.

The Factory Coop, La Chance Furniture Showroom and Rome Furniture Center comprise the Greater Gardner Furniture Outlets. The experience is amazing, offering a fantastic variety of furniture while coming across as authentic. Sometimes, those heavily-advertised furniture stores with the bombastic radio and television commercials seem like they have lost their personal touch. The Greater Gardner Furniture Outlets, on the other hand, comes across more true to their roots -- being born many generations ago in a sometimes gritty city that has held onto community pride through the furniture industry, an ongoing interest in town revitalization, and some of the nicest residents you'll ever meet. I know, having worked with many Gardner residents at one point.

The first time visiting the Greater Gardner Furniture Outlets blew me away, given the enormity of the collective furniture stores, the excellent variety of every genre of furniture, and that employees treated us like family. Purchasing some bar chairs from La Chance was a breeze, and the sturdy quality of the furniture remains intact several years later.

Billed as the "Furniture Capital of New England," this is an apt description for the Gardner Greater Furniture Outlets. While Gardner is not exactly a vacation destination, the Greater Gardner Furniture Outlets stands as a fabulous New England, north central Massachusetts travel attraction.

Find out more information about the Greater Gardner Furniture Outlets.

Lobster Chow Mein at Evelyn's Drive-in, Tiverton R.I.

We had to travel all the way to the Far East to sample some lobster chow mein -- the Far East of Rhode Island, that is.

Evelyn's Drive-in serves this most unusual yet delicious dish. What sounds like a potential culinary disaster actually combines exceptionally well to result in a tasty mix of generously served lobster and noodles. Food icon Guy Fieri took notice of the lobster chow mein by featuring this meal on his Diners, Drive-ins and Dives  Food Network television show.

This unpretentious, seasonal clam shack overlooking Nanaquacket Pond has been in business for about 45 years, specializing in fried whole bellied clams, Rhode Island clam chowder, clam cakes and fried seafood platters. You'll find this type of restaurant all over New England, but Evelyn's seems to turn out higher quality meals while also getting creative with their dishes -- with lobster chow mein at the forefront!

Evelyn's Drive-in is located at 2335 Main Rd. (Route 77) Tiverton RI. Tel. 401-624-3100


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