Presidential candidates love to go to diners to mix it up with the common folk, but we also recommend the campaigners visit authentic working-class local restaurants as a further way to connect. Much like a diner but without the familiar dining car architectural style and neon and chrome, local restaurants, when done right, bring in crowds of locals on a daily basis with their tasty comfort foods, casual atmospheres, quick efficient service and lack of pretension.
We will be updating this post with more recommendations in the near future, but let’s start with these humble local restaurants in the Boston area that seem tailor-made for presidential candidate visits — and, ultimately, most importantly, for the hard-working people of this region to enjoy on a regular basis…
Walk into the Central House restaurant and you’ll feel like you are walking into someone’s house. It’s cozy, welcoming and Westborough’s oldest restaurant going back to the pre-prohibition days. Owner Dan Flood has lived in this quaint west-of-Boston suburb virtually his whole life and seems to pretty much know everyone. He and family live right down the street from Central House. Frequently, his wife Sandi and four-year-old son come down to the restaurant to bond with the “guy with the big beard and glasses (Sandi’s words),” Dan loves the commute and quality of life.
Dan’s parents, Fred and Helen Van Dam, revived this restaurant back in the 70s when it had a history of allowing no women into the bar and having no women’s room. Now, the Central House is welcoming to all and packed pretty much every day with people who like delicious no-frills food in a fully non-pretentious atmosphere.
Dan has refreshed the menu replacing all previously frozen foods and cooking fresh every day. Friday nights are best with an expanded menu featuring fish and chips, prime rib, scallops and clam rolls, fish sandwich, homemade fish chowder and scallop and clam plates.
The Central House is located at 44 South St., Westborough. Tel. (508)366-2088.
My Sister and I, Bridgewater
Looking at this downtown Bridgewater townie restaurant conjures up images of “Leave it to Beaver,” Mayberry RFD, “It’s a Wonderful Life” and something you would see on the cover of the “Saturday Evening Post.” From the nostalgic Coca Cola logo on the restaurant’s exterior sign to the old counter and tables under warm, ambient lighting where locals meet inside, My Sister and I, thankfully and to our benefit, looks way out of place in a chain restaurant world. They make fabulous kale and chicken noodle soups, and egg dishes, pancakes, muffins, club sandwiches and pies, as well as the homemade dinners made on Friday night (the only night they are open) that are the next best thing to great home-cooked meals. The restaurant feels like an old-friend and Barbara and owner Robert make you feel right at home. It’s a cash-only establishment, but with an ATM on the premises and — get this — an old-fashioned payphone! This is truly one of the best local restaurants for breakfast and lunch in eastern Massachusetts.
My Sister & I is located at 32 Central Square., Bridgewater. Tel. (508) 697-9544
Located off-the-beaten-path behind on a side street close to downtown Milford, the Depot Street Tavern is no secret locally as there can be up to a 90-minute wait at this small townie restaurant and bar. The portions are huge and the drinks selection plentiful. Owner Adam Hicks is a salt-of-the-earth type with a Johnson and Wales University culinary degree and a “You just can’t teach this stuff” gift for creating comfort food dishes that go way beyond the norm. The salads, appetizers, steaks, chops, chicken, seafood and Italian food take on serious upgrades here.
Milford is an extremely close-knit, working-class community with people that have a knack for knowing what’s real and phony. The Depot Street Tavern could have never survived if not authentic and genuine. Adam Hicks is a real person running a real restaurant with real people coming in droves!
Depot Street Tavern is located at 45 Depot St., Milford. Tel.( 508) 488-6844.
Woodman’s is reportedly the birthplace of the fried clam and dates back to 1914. While Woodman’s has become a north of Boston tourist attraction, this seafood shack is ultimately, at heart a local restaurant that never forgot its working-class roots. The Woodman family has owned the restaurant through the generations through good times and bad and truly epitomizes the American Dream through its hard-working folks and pride of ownership. The family is close-knit and, on many levels, a great friend to the community they love so much. Plus, the fried clams and other fresh local seafood is as good as it gets in New England! This is the ultimate seafood shack, but more importantly, a community gathering place that is also equally welcoming to visitors from out of town. If the world acted like the Woodman family, it would truly be a better place.
Woodman’s of Essex is located at 121 Main Street, Essex, MA. Tel. (978-768-6057.
Here’s a rarity in Massachusetts: a thriving local doughnut shop with friendly customer service from another era In business more than 50 years, Country Kitchen Donuts brings in all the generations, including a regular senior base that engages in townie conversation every day. We recommend sitting at the counter or seats, take in the local, small-town flavor and enjoy popular items like the traditional, freshly-made chocolate, jelly and cream-filled doughnuts and the large coffee cakes, blueberry muffins and some locally beloved New England Coffee.
Country Kitchen Donuts and Coffee is located at 745 Main St., Walpole. Tel. (508) 668-4044
Mr. Bartley’s Burger Cottage, Harvard Square in Cambridge
Mr. Bartley’s is located right across the street from liberal Harvard University and has been been in business for more than 50 years. A no-frills place, to say the least with some tacky wall decor, Mr. Bartley’s is the place to go for homemade burgers, onion rings, French fries, frappes, and lime rickeys. The cross-section of people is a sight to behold — from the truck driver and factory worker to the radical student and professor, and everyone else, for that matter. The burgers remain substantial and delicious with more than 30 versions to choose from.
Mr. Bartley’s is located at 1246 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge. Tel. (617) 354-6559
What are your favorite local restaurants in Massachusetts? Please comment below!