Route 1 in Saugus and Lynnfield, Massachusetts: a Unique,
Irresistible Slice of Americana
Steak House (closed), Prince Pizzeria and the Kowloon in Saugus, Massachusetts
by Eric Hurwitz. Updated 12/19/16.
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Many New England childhoods have been scarred by
heartbreaking Boston Red Sox teams, the end of the Larry Bird and Bobby
Orr eras, and the closure of the carnival atmospheres at Paragon Park
and Pleasure Island. But for me, I was scarred in a most endearing way
by the cheesiest, road in America, Route One in Saugus and Lynnfield,
I will never get out of my mind that stupid, orange 50 foot tall dinosaur at the
miniature golf course. He always peered over drivers on Route One with
the most pathetic smile. It really had no purpose at a miniature golf
course. I always thought it would have looked better at a toll booth,
or perhaps at a hospital entrance. Regardless, that stupid orange 50
foot tall dinosaur has served as a microcosm of what resides on this
famed "slice of Americana" road. Unfortunately, the mini golf course
complex will give way to hotel, restaurant, retail and apartment
development. Good news: the orange dinosaur will stay!
Some more favorite memories include:
The Diamond Head Restaurant,
now closed, was famous for its huge triangle entrance. The structure
was supposed to recreate some sort of Asian architecture, but ended up
looking more like a bloated teepee. Inside the staff served food to go
along with the MSG. The Diamond Head had a reputation as a breeding
ground for future alcoholics, although one could argue that the
mountains of MSG had a far more deleterious effect.
Augustine's, also now closed,
featured a dear and charming elderly lady in tennis sneakers playing
modern pop songs on an organ. I liked when she played keyboard covers
of The Rolling Stones. We loved that memory -- so real and heartwarming
as her presence warmed up the restaurant. Augustine's had some
excellent Italian food and, in the latter years, started featuring a
buffet table about five times the size of Rhode Island. Augustine's
surprinsingly closed on us when we had begun to enjoy the restaurant
more and more.
I thought the The Hilltop Steak House
would last forever, but it closed in 2103. I am crushed. The Hilltop
always served outstanding aged steaks and those large rooms had such
timeless, appealing personalities -- especially the comfortable yet
bustling, carpeted Kansas City and Dodge City rooms. Too bad those
special memories of those plastic cows in front of the restaurant, the
huge neon cactus sign, and several hundred people being seated within
several rooms at one of the largest and best-known steakhouses in
America are now a distant memory. As a kid in the 1970s, I remember
walking down the long corridor to the area where a lady with blue hair
and a smoker's voice said, "Number 2,000, honey, go have a drink in the
bar. Three hour wait." At the bar always seemed to be some overweight
guy with a square head and disproportionate hairpiece, smoking one
cigarette after another. Beside him was always a woman with plantinum
blonde hair and a quick temper. It was from these people that I was
introduced to profanity.
Bottom line, though is that the Hilltop delivered the goods for us
steak lovers, perhaps better than anyone else in the area.
Valle's Steak House, now closed
(do you detect a pattern here?) was the place to go when you couldn't
get into the Hilltop. People usually came here with their heads hung
low, quite dejected about not being able to get into the Hilltop. I
don't remember much about Valle's. It was hard to eat steak with your
head hung low. I never really saw the decor because of the same reason.
If Valle's were open today, they would probably offer Prozac to their
Prince Pizzeria stills stands
tall, with the exception of the "Leaning Tower of Pizza," a humongous
structure on top of the restaurant emulating Italy's Leaning Tower of
The Prince still offers some of the best pizza served by truly great
people in a colorful, friendly atmosphere. I remember with fondness
former owner the late Arthur Castraberti who took care of us like we
were first family. Perhaps your children will experience this fun
place, It's really tremendous for pizza and pasta, and the newer
generation of Castrabertis has followed the high standards of Arthur.
The Ship restaurant always looked
out of place. I'm not sure why. Perhaps it might be the fact that this
Titanic sized authentic ship was nowhere near the ocean.
How about the giant sausage in front of the old Karl's Sausage Kitchen location on
Route 1 (now at one Bourbon Street in Peabody)? It actually rivaled
that stupid orange 50 foot dinosaur as one of America's more peculiar
sites. Karl's Sausage Kitchen never seemed to be open at its Route 1
spot. Where the hell was was Karl?
The Bali Hai was always a fun
place. While not on Route One, it was close enough to be mentioned. I
remember...old Asian men in Hawaiian shirts playing "Don't You Love Her
Madly," by the Doors. I remember getting food poisoning twice. I
remember fish tanks with dead fish. I remember sterno darting into my
forehead. I remember waiters lying about no MSG in the food -- my head
knew otherwise. But I loved the place. I am not sure why.
The Kowloon. Some of my friends
had their first and last dates at the Kowloon. Could it have been the
plastic tiki Gods, the waterfalls, the combination of Cantonese,
Szechuan, Polynesian and Thai cuisines and a comedy club all under one
roof? Or the Chinese version of Disneyworld look of the exterior? I
wonder how many accidents were caused by drivers being stunned by this
architectual gem. All in all , however, the Kowloon has always served
truly exceptional food by an amazingly nice staff.
Speaking of Chinese restaurants, anyone recall Weylu's, a glitzy model of the
Imperial Palace in Beijing, that showcased ponds, bridges, fountains,
teak booth glass and walls, and views of Boston from the
not-so-pristine rocky hills of Saugus?
The Town Lyne House in
Lynnfield stood out as a model of grace on an often tacky Route 1 with
its charming white Colonial-style house appearance. Everyone
seemed to love the Town Lyne House, which served tremendous traditional
Yankee fare for people ranging in age from 95-120. I'm not sure why I
said that. 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
Remember the Blue Star Lounge
with its country music acts, virtually across the street from an
oversized grand ballroom with a huge chandelier and curved staircase up
called the Chateau de Ville --
a place where people loved to "disco" and later tell stories of their
miserable high school proms?
How about Full of Bull Roast Beef
with its big sign featuring a menacing bull? Not exactly a welcoming
sign (no pun intended), but the roast beef was so darn good!
And who can forget the former Russo's
Candy House, where the sweet smell of chocolate and the
welcoming voices of even sweeter, little old ladies helped make our
childhood even that much more special back in the day. It's sad to see
"personality" torn down and replaced by a building with no personality.
Years have passed and Route One is still one of America's hideous,
tacky gems --with its odd charm still shining at us in its neon,
kitschy glory. I still get goosebumps just looking at this charmingly
manufactured mix of roadside oddities. Traditions, are indeed,
priceless, and ultimately, timeless.
England Restaurant memories, Part 1 and Part 2 here Or, go to the Old
School Boston blog for more back in the day memories
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