Parker's Maple Barn: a New England dining legend
and photo by Eric H., lifelong New England resident
MASON, N.H. --Parker's Maple Barn is located in the middle of nowhere. From any direction, you're sure to experience endless winding roads, pine trees that join for miles, and disbelief that 79,000 people living in Nashua are only 20 minutes away from seemingly the most quiet place on Earth.
Why anyone would want to travel to seemingly the other side of the universe for bacon and eggs is sincerely answered upon arriving at the bumpy, dirt parking lot. You feel like you're home, at a nice, warm safe place -- perhaps a reminder of what New England used to be like before the population boom and commercialization of scenic areas.
The maple barn is actually an authentic 1800s dairy barn and silo. Inside, the antique cow stanchions integrated into handmade wooden tables and antique farm items hanging on the walls create an instant time warp atmosphere set to dim lighting, bright service, and absolutely electrifying comfort food.
Sometimes on weekends there can be a wait -- especially on Sundays -- so a walk through a charming covered bridge en route to the appealing Corn Crib Gift Shop makes the time go by quickly. In the gift shop, the smell of scented candles easily soothes the formerly tense feelings of waiting for a seat. Maple products, jams, gourmet coffee, toys, herbal teas, a folksy book collection, natural log furniture and a great Native American section downstairs with arts, clothing and jewelry make the time go by quickly. Another great way to pass time is visiting Parker's Maple Sugar House (only operating six weeks of the year, usually March and part of April). Maple syrup production is done the old-fashioned way using wood-fired evaporators --it is a great appetizer to what's to come when seated at the dining room.
When that time arrives to be seated in the dining room, be prepared for a down-to-earth feast-- Parker's serves breakfast all day and offers some truly unique lunches. For those interested in breakfast, the Parker's Special ($11.99) is the acknowledged standard with two eggs, two pancakes (or one french toast), two bacon strip, two sausages and ham or ham hash in place of all meats, home fries and toast. Particularly delicious are the pumpkin pancakes, as far away from artifically flavored as could be.
Without a doubt, the best lunch item (it's actually a dinner portion) is the sumptuous maple ribs ($14.99). Why haven't other restaurants thought of this concoction? A half-rack of these gems goes in a hurry as its succulent quality demands for rapid eating.
Other great lunch choices include maple baked beans with ham ($8.99), and a fresh roast turkey dinner ($12.99). A great soup choice is the flavorful french onion -- at $4.50 for a bowl, it's a meal by itself.
The hearty maple swiss burger with maple caramelized onions ($8.25) is more a universal favorite rather than an acquired taste, as the flavors somehow come together. It's a nice alternative to the ribs, if looking for a lighter meal (although it's not exactly light)
Recommended drinks to go along with the ample portions of food are the delicious maples frappe ($4.75) or hot spiced apple cider ($1.65, but be prepared to go for a second cup of this addictively spiced beverage). The seasonal blueberry pie with wild Maine blueberries is a top choice for dessert.
The service is always pleasant with salt-of-the-earth waitresses, or salt-of-the earth-in-waiting younger staff.
Parker's may be in the middle of nowhere, but true New Englanders living in distant regions know that the journey can be as enjoyable as the end result. It's much like New Englanders enduring the long, cold winters, knowing there is a jewel at the end. The same can be said about making the effort to get to Parker's and then experiencing its wonderful food.
Parker's Maple Barn, 1316 Brookline Road, Mason, N.H. Tel. (603) 878-2308
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