Memories of Closed New England Restaurants from the 60s, 70s and 80s
Looking back at some of the restaurants in New England that brought a smile to our face!
Article by Eric H.
Yoken's Restaurant in Danvers, MA, was famous for inexpensive seafood and the smiling blue whale sign out front. Ah, that smiling whale sign -- why can't we have such positive, realistic portrayals of blue whales like this anymore?
King's Grant, Danvers, MA -- The King's Grant, located in the King's Grant Inn, realistically captured all the elements of the 14th Century Tudor Dynasty with plush carpets, bi-level dining, a staff with thick Boston accents (some wearing glasses, so common in the 14th Century), an overly-chlorinated swimming pool nearby, and a buffet table with enough heating elements to keep the entire North Shore warm. All kidding aside, the King's Grant featured one of the best Sunday brunches in the region, almost hitting a home run with every dish -- expertly created by obviously talented chefs. On our last visit, however, a major source of irritation occurred when the King's Grant featured a "theme brunch," with actors and actresses portraying 14 Century types. They visited each table performing lame magic tricks, speaking in an odd combination of Old English and Boston accents, and generally impeding our mission to eat and be with family. Historians know that Henry VI eventually went insane; we weren't far behind after suffering through this misguided performance that, perhaps, was the earlier day version of the old lady becoming annoyed at the Renaissance Fair in the recent FreeCreditReport.com television commercial. Soon after our visit, the King's Grant closed. Don't get us wrong -- for a long time, this was a tremendous restaurant with a great management staff. Unfortunately, the quality of food slipped and the sideshows became unbearable before the closing.
Lums, Braintree, MA, and other locations - We loved the named, as it reminded us of Mike Lum, a mediocre baseball player with the Atlanta Braves from 1969-1975. We didn't love the restaurant, sort of a bad version of Howard Johnson's with tiffany lamps over every table and the horrendous "Ollie Burger" with
"secret spices" that disgraced every hamburger. The hot dogs steamed in beer were actually pretty good and allowed us to brag to our friends about consuming beer (pretty pathetic, indeed). Lums' founder was a man named Stuart Pearlman, so we have often wondered where the name Lums came from. Comedian Milton Berle was once the spokesman for Lums! Unfortunately, the joke was on the customer who thought low prices and beautiful tiffany lamps for ambiance would equate to great food.
Toll House Inn, Whitman, MA - All that's left is the sign, located between a Wendy's and about seemingly 10,000 pharmacies within a one-mile radius. The Toll House made history with by inventing the toll house cookie in the 1930s. The restaurant was charming with its traditional New England atmosphere and food. Unfortunately, the Toll House burned to the ground in 1984, and was never rebuilt, thus paving the way to this now faceless stretch on Route 18.
The Town Lyne House, Route 1, Lynnfield, MA -- The Town Lyne House, in its white, colonial-style house glory, stood as the last bastion of grace and dignity on a road filled with restaurants that had plastics cows out front, and giant sausage and "Leaning Tower of Pizza" structures outside their respective restaurants, and that hideous 50 ft. orange dinosaur in front of the miniature golf course. The Town Lyne House was a traditional favorite serving terrific Yankee fare for people ranging in age from 95-120. But then, something oddly revolutionary happened to the Town Lyne House where you could here some of the worst Karaoke music coming out of the bar. It was just too much having Karaoke in a place that your grandmother loved. To stick with the colonial theme, the Town Lyne House could have at least had a sense of humor if they were to play Karaoke and perhaps spin some Paul Revere and the Raiders songs.
Aku Aku, Cambridge, MA -- We're not talking about the second version of this legendary Chinese restaurant that was located at Alewife Station in Cambridge. Before that, we enjoyed the Aku Aku, located on Route 2 near the Arlington line. It was so dark in here, we bumped into walls and had to read the menu about an inch away from our eyes (which eventually we would be doing in our advanced age, anyway). Funny Story: My Dad and his friends went to the Aku Aku for the lunchtime specials. He ordered "Number One." His friend said, "Me, too," and got the "Number Two" special. We loved the hokey, colored lights and manufactured water views inside the restaurant, which provided a pathetic respite to this busy, charmless stretch of Route 2 where a bowling alley and the unfriendly looking Arthur D. Little Building served as the local tourist attractions. We miss the first Aku Aku: the pu pu platter was beyond reproach, and the service was pleasant, unlike some of the nastier waiters that were employed at the second restaurant. Now all that stands at the former Aku Aku Building is a vacant building and parking lot that makes you long for the day of old school Chinese restaurants like this.
Yoken's, Danvers, MA -- We had previousy mentioned the Portsmouth Yoken's, but I actually liked the Danvers one better. The reason: it was closer to our Arlington home. Yoken's had two separate dining rooms, each identical to each other. The manager featured my Mom's art work at the restaurant. The staff was nice to us in a grandmotherly kind of way, and often threw in an extra piece of fried fish and extra scoop of ice cream. Most importantly, Danvers also had the smiling whale logo sign (see above) -- a warm, innocent, positive mircocosm of another area.
The Kitchen, East Lexington, MA -- The best thing about the Kitchen was that it was tucked away in the basement of a brick professional building in Lexington. How many other restaurants could claim something as unique and enthralling as that? With a cozy, informal atmosphere and really good air conditioning (unfortunately, sometimes in the winter, too), finely painted wall murals and the feeling of being in the pizza house version of a speakeasy, the Kitchen was not your average quick-serve restaurant. They never said "15 minutes please" with that patented disinterest so familiar at some sub shops. The Kitchen baked its delicious pizzas with consistency, and overloaded the subs with meats and cheeses on a perfectly done toasted sub roll. It was a place you could call your own, as, at times, nobody seemed to dine at the Kitchen. The Kitchen gained a nice reputation amongst our elitist crowd (driving mainly Ford Escorts and Dodge Neons at the time), however, as the best restaurant in East Lexington, not to mention one of the only restaurants in East Lexingtion.
The Cottage Crest, Waltham, MA -- What I remember most about the Cottage Crest was walking upstairs to an old-fashioned dining room where I ate very good steak, chicken and seafood dishes food with my parents and people who, mysteriously, had blue hair (today, it's not quite so mysterious). The Cottage Crest was terrific for quite some time serving great home meals away from home, but then slipped and fell into generic, function room food specializing in dried-out chicken. It's kind of sad when a landmark, household name restaurant like this slips in quality and then closes, as the tradition of going out to eat locally at a friendly place like the Cottage Crest brings back some of the most pleasant dining memories of my childhood.
Peking on the Mystic, Medford, MA -- The family that ran the Peking on the Mystic really went the extra mile to make their customers satisfied. These kind, unassuming owners frequently came over to our table, made the effort to get to know us, and were generally grateful for our patronage. Their low-key, warm personalities made us feel comfortable and the great spare ribs, dumplings and chicken fingers satisfied our demanding but limited, childhood Chinese food requirements.
Franks' Restaurant- Hartford, CT -- Frank's (picture below) proudly served Continental, Italian and American Cuisine, but it really seemed all Italian. Aside from our juvenile minds being amused at its location on Ayslum St. ("Ha, ha, it must be a crazy street!"), Frank's impressed us with its elegant black booths, pleasantly dim lighting and multi-colored tile ceiling. We had one of the nicest waiters in the world, but he could not pronounce the word "spaghetti." He asked us,"Would you like some 'bizghetti,'" so we had to look to our dad for some translation. My Dad was a multi-linguist, so he was able to help. We had one of the best Italian dinners, to date, and wish Frank's were still open -- or Hartford, for that matter.
Frank's was really elegant looking, but so friendly and informal. What a shame it closed. I still remember the great spaghetti dinner from when I was eight-years-old. The thing that looks like a cobweb in the top left corner is actually an old piece of 1970 tape used to put this postcard in my 1970 green notebook that my Dad bought for me at Ingall's Stationary store (yes, that's closed, too) in Lexington, MA.
Peking Garden, Lexington, MA -- Peking Garden was a somewhat elegant looking Chinese restaurant with little of the gaudy decor excesses of its competitors. Still, the Peking Garden had its flaws. It could be a place where a brusque waiter would say "NO SEPARATE CHECKS!" to our polite request. They always had a fabulous luncheon buffet with all the Chinese food bells and whistles, although pork fried rice was frequently missing from the latter day buffets. I once heard a story from many years ago of two cooks flying out of the kitchen's swinging doors and into the dining room -- duking it out in front of mortified customers. Peking Garden wasn't really this kind of place, however. It actually turned into a popular dining destination for locals who enjoyed the buffet, the diverse and sometimes creative menu , and some often polished and gracious service and hosting. The Peking Garden kind of evolved into something worth going to, and then closed its doors on us, forever.
The Midget Deli, Cambridge, MA -- As a child, I liked going to restaurants with funny names. There was Shakey's in Nashua, NH, Rudy's Rail in Old Forge, NY, Brillo's in Framingham, MA, the Wursthaus in Cambridge, MA, the previously mentioned Lums, and of course, the Midget Deli in Cambridge. Much to our disapointment, we never saw any midgets there. The deli selections weren't as good as Jack and Marion's and Rubin's. So why did we bother with the Midget? I don't know, life can be like that sometimes, OK?
Buzzy's Roast Beef, Boston, MA -- Located on Cambridge St. under the Charles Street Train Station and next to the Charles Street jail, Buzzy's seemed to be open at all hours. This outdoor, order-at-the window food stand was best known for its heaping roast beef sandwiches, french fries, onion rings and curt, brusque "What do you want pal?" service. Buzzy's attracted drunks, sober late night owls (in the minority), Massachusetts General Hospital staff, refined Beacon Hill types showing their alter egos, and other purveyors of the best in greasy food. Local comedians abused Buzzy's many times in their stand-up routines. I remember one comedian (the name escapes me) saying that Buzzy's used to throw its food over the wall to feed Charles Street jail prisoners -- and the prisoners threw it right back! Buzzy's could have very well contributed to higher traffic at the Mass General Hospital cardiac unit, but I remember it as a beloved place from youth. Granted, I never went there much (even as a nearby Suffolk University student), but just the sight of this bustling, old-fashioned outdoor food stand made me feel good -- from the comfort food aromas to the undeniable presence of a local business succeeding.
Our readers reminisce about New England restaurants that are no longer with us:
like to add the following favorite, now closed, restaurants to your
list: Kaffestuga, (Swedish restaurant) in Sudbury, Mass.; Peg Leg in
Rockport, Mass.; Dill's in Marblehead, Mass.; and last but not least,
Atlantic Restaurant - a Marblehead restaurant with the best clam
chowder and lobster duchess ever tasted.
Thanks for the article,
really enjoyed it. Here are a few names from my files.
The Fantasia Restaurant on Concord Avenue, Cambridge, MA, was renowned for its minestrone soup, businessman's specials, and a gaudy, watered-down Chateau de Ville-esque "function room" where you were guaranteed a wonderful banquet menu, with the scrod being the best thing....Many weddings, communion breakfasts, bar mitzvahs, "appropriately attired" family dinners and birthdays were celebrated there, and the old-timey professional waitstaff and menu were perfect. And along the same lines as Fantasia was good old Dinis on Tremont Street. It was "the home of the Boston scrod" and nobody but nobody had it so good, unless you compared it to Warmuth's which was down on Washington Street in what is now called the Ladder District. There were actually three places that in my mind were somewhat interchangeable in downtown Boston: Dinis, Warmuths, and Cafe Marliave. Of the three Cafe Marliave is technically still around, but in name only...the days of the "complete dinner" are no longer there. As far as incomplete dinners (i.e. snacks and/or light meals) goes, let's not forget the Marble Spa (and its macaroons) at Gilchrist's nor Thompson's Spa on the alleyway behind Washington Street. Also, The Brass Lantern at Jordan Marsh had the delectable blueberry muffins we all miss so much. I could never decide which was better, those JM muffins or the croissants at Harvard Square's C'est Si Bon Cafe (also sadly gone). Francis, submitted May 7, 2009
McIntire's Clam Shack, Rowley, MA
McIntire's was an icon I remember
fondly. Because of the abundance of places around, New Englanders are
Missing Several Greater Boston Restaurants
I'm a life-long Boston area resident
from Revere, and now
New England Restaurant Memories from Rich O., North Cambridge, MA:
list nearly brings tears to my eyes and a rumble deep in my gut. Nicks
Beef and Beer (aka "Nick eef and Bee Hose"), The Wusthaus, and
Chadwicks hit very close to home. Harvard Square simply lost most of
its remaining charm when the Haus, The Tasty, and the Bow closed. At a
recent gathering of old friends, we discussed this very topic at length
and came up with a few (pardon me if any seem repetitive):
Remembering the Casa Mexico in Cambridge, MA
My favorite mexican restaurant hands
down was Casa Mexico in Harvard Square, Cambridge. It had the best
Chile Rellenos, Enchilada Verdes, and the reried beans had such
character. Not to mention the homemade margaritas. Miss it so!
in the Boston area (and beyond) that have closed in
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