The Thrifty New England Traveler is a blog of VisitingNewEngland.com, the travel site for New England.

Cruiser’s on Main Restaurant is “Driven” to Offer Affordable Comfort Food in Walpole, Mass. (CLOSED)

Picture of jukebox at Cruiser's on Main restaurant, Walpole, Mass.

Cruiser’s on Main restaurant, Walpole, Mass. (photo by Eric)

Editor’s note: Cruisers closed its downtown Walpole restaurant at the end of May 2012. If  they open in a new location, we’ll update  as soon as we find out!

Cruiser’s on Main in Walpole, Mass., opened yesterday to a steady crowd, clearly pleased with the comfort food meals, the going-back-to-another-era feel, and the need not to raise their own personal debt ceiling to dine out.

Families, couples out on a date and those looking for a drink or two at the bar came in within hours of Cruiser’s mid-day opening, thus setting the template for owner Cheryl Sullivan’s intended vision: opening a comfortable, budget-friendly, downtown restaurant that appeals to everyone. Many of the meals come in at under $10.00 — excellent, given the challenging economy!

The look is quite pleasing, too — surprisingly spacious with two dining areas and a well-separated bar with 1950s to 1970s collectibles and decor flourishes. A large, multi-colored jukebox is the primary novelty centerpiece, playing everything from the Drifters to Taylor Swift. High ceilings, dark red walls, refinished wooden floors, big storefront windows, dining room tables with space in between, and a long handsome bar help create an appealing ambiance, but none of this would have been to any avail if not for the pride and joy that had gone into making this restaurant a potential downtown Walpole “Leader of the Pack.” Sullivan is a local resident and a “real person” that, quite simply stated, cares about things. Yesterday, she greeted every customer and thanked them for coming to Cruiser’s. This wasn’t your garden variety, generic, phony part-of-the-marketing plan approach. You could really feel the sincere gratitude — like your favorite aunt that makes sure that everything is all right with everyone in the family. That’s nice, as I’m sure Sullivan opened this restaurant for all the right reasons: for the customers, customers, customers!

As one who is always interested in new local business, I personally followed Cheryl Sullivan’s journey to creating this restaurant from virtually day one of late last year. I can tell you that the painstaking effort to come up with something special provided many design and structural challenges in successfully transforming this former retro candy store (and before that, print shop). There was just so much to do, and the constant clutter and the need for upgrades and redesigns made one wonder if the restaurant would open at all this year.  Driving down Main St., you could often see the lights on day and night for several months, with Sullivan trying to attain the desired dream. The persistence, however, paid off as the completed project looks mighty fine!

Cruiser’s featured a “starter menu” last night, but the plan is to introduce a full menu later this week. We dined on mouthwatering fried chicken that was reminiscent of the old Fontaine’s restaurant of West Roxbury, Mass., that gained legendary status through the years (you remember Fontaine’s, the place with the spastic, waving, blue neon chicken sign out front!). Accompanied by a very good iceberg salad (with excellent Italian dressing) and French fries and perhaps the best grilled eggplant personally consumed to date, I can hardly wait to order this plate again — noteworthy, since I’m not much of a “fried chicken” person. But when fried chicken is good, it’s personally worth the occasional indulgence. The New England clam chowder was also fantastic — loaded with clams and with the right thickness, potatoes and seasonings.

At this writing, menu  items include a wide variety of chicken wings, as well as salads, sandwiches (including burgers), soups, and a limited number of pasta, chicken, steak and seafood dinners. The selections should greatly increase within each of the aforementioned categories (and dessert, too!) later this week. Also, pizza and chicken pot pie are expected to make their way onto the Cruiser’s menu. Additionally, one definite highlight that will soon be introduced: New York System Wieners –a pork hot dog, served on a steamed hot dog bun, and topped with a topped with a meat sauce seasoned with spices like cumin, paprika, chili powder and allspice — and covered in chopped onions, celery salt and yellow mustard. Wow!

Based on this first-time dining experience, I predict Cruiser’s will be a staple in the emerging downtown Walpole dining scene.  Looking across the dining and bar area, I just got a good feeling — perhaps a microcosm of why Walpole is known as “The Friendly Town.” Customers talked over their meals and drinks about Walpole happenings, sports and politics. Sullivan was right there with them, taking interest in each and every person while running her restaurant in a professional manner. The tunes on the jukebox sounded great, kids and adults watched a Harry Potter movie on the large screen television, and the plates of freshly-made food looked like something out a “Diners, Drive-in and Dives” segment.  What a nice, comforting, “hometown USA scene” with the look and feel of a restaurant that felt like it had been open for years, not five hours.

Cruiser’s on Main
944 Main St.
Walpole MA
(508) 668-0900

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