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Six Terrific Hidden New England Restaurants

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by Eric H.

Don't you just love a hidden gem restaurant? One that feels like your own discovery, perhaps located in the middle of nowhere between East Washbucket and West Podunk, and never fails to humbly serve amazing food in the most low-profile ways?

Here are some New England hidden gem restaurants that come to mind in central and southern New England -- either hard-to-find or off-the-beaten path, but certainly worth the visit:

Shanty Rose Pub, Plymouth Harbor, Plymouth, Mass.
Image of Shanty Rose Pub, Plymouth MA
It's hard to be hidden in busy Plymouth Harbor in Plymouth, Mass., but the Shanty Rose Pub manages to do just that. A former fish market tucked away between Plymouth Harbor and a parking lot, the Shanty Rose, at first inspection, looks like a rather sketchy dive, but turns out to be an excellent Plymouth Harbor dining choice with seafood choices as good as the major players in this area. The Shanty Rose also features friendly, personable, attentive service that you might not find amongst the tourist-oriented restaurants. While the vibe is that of a townie place where locals like to drink at the bar, you'll also find a separate small dining room that is good for families. The New England clam chowder is as good as it gets and the locals know that this is the place to go for lobster specials, lobster rolls, whole belly fried clams, stews, burgers, pizzas and draft beers. Tourists like us have found this to be true, also! The Shanty Rose, 16 Town Wharf, Plymouth MA. Tel. (508)746-7673

Stoggy Hollow General Store and Restaurant, Woodstock Valley, Conn. (Northeast Connecticut)
Image of Stoggy Hollow, Woodstock CT
What makes the Stoggy Hollow General Store and Restaurant a true hidden New England restaurant is that it's located in a equally hidden New England community. Tiny Woodstock Valley may be the epicenter of northeast Connecticut's "Quiet Corner," a place that makes "Green Acres" look like Times Square. Pies, cakes and other delicious baked goods occupy the charming country store side of this ancient 1836 wooden building while hearty breakfast, lunch and dinner selections fulfill the biggest appetites on the restaurant side. The pulled pork is particularly good, but you can't go wrong with the fresh oversized sandwiches and great pancakes. What puts Stoggy Hollow over the edge on the quality restaurant meter is the life that it brings to the community in the most traditional sense -- a place where people congregate to converse, buy the Sunday paper, and enjoy the homemade foods. Stoggy Hollow may be hard to find, but ultimately hard to beat when it comes down to good old country cooking, located in the proverbial "middle of nowhere." Stoggy Hollow 492 Eastford Rd.(Rt.198), Woodstock Valley, Ct. 06282. Tel. 860-974-2889

Reed's Country Store, New Braintree, Mass. (Central Massachusetts)
Image of Reeds Country Store, New Braintree MA
If you're expecting a classic New England country store with quilts, penny candy, home furnishings, the overwhelming smell of candles, and an owner with an unintelligible local accent, then Reed's Country Store isn't for you. While the country store section is pretty much convenience and package store merchandise, the restaurant is what really shines with its family-style breakfast and lunches, and Friday night dinners. Our party of four had omelettes, a fresh salad and chocolate chip pancakes as good as any we've experienced in our extensive New England travels. With stone walls, a pleasant, cozy dining room, an open kitchen and friendly, attentive service, Reed's Country Store represents the best of "local dining," a place that locals depend on, as validated by the crowds. Reed's Country Store. New Braintree Rd, New Braintree, Mass., Tel.: (508) 867-9512

Jimmy's Pub and Restaurant, Mansfield, Mass. (Southwest Boston Suburb) Image of Jimmy's Restaurant, Mansfield
Calling itself "The Best Kept Secret in Southeastern Massachusetts," Jimmy's Pub and Restaurant is actually very well known with locals but seemingly to no one else that lives outside Mansfield. Locals have been packing this rather large downtown, family-run restaurant for more than 30 years for fried appetizers, nice juicy steaks, fish and chips and drinks from the extensive bar menu. The atmosphere is clearly that of an old-school neighborhood joint with the bar serving as the centerpiece of the carpeted, dark dining room with plenty of wood paneling. With an excellent draft beer selection and a lively but civil townie atmosphere, this is the perfect place to watch a football game on one of the many televisions. Jimmy's Pub and Restaurant, 1421 North Main St., Mansfield MA. Tel. (508)339-7755

Victory Lane, Millis, Mass. (Southwest Boston Suburb)
Image of Victory Lane, Millis MA
So who knew that Millis MA has a downtown? For that matter, has anyone heard of Millis? Turn the corner from Route 109 to Exchange St. and about 30 yards down the road (the end of the downtown district just before the wonderfully named Lumpy's Liquor Store), you'll find Victory Lane. This plain looking bar/restaurant with absolutely no pretension serves some of the best Italian-style pizza, burgers, wings and New England clam chowder -- as well as cheap Guinness. Victory Lane has a slightly rough-around-the-edges watering hole, dive atmosphere with a NASCAR theme that brings in predominantly locals, but the restaurant is family-friendly and the service quite pleasant and down-to-earth. The one-pound double cheeseburger with bacon is an incredible sight with amazing taste, and comes in at under $8! Victory Lane, 32 Exchange St., Millis MA. Tel. (508) 376-2595

Colonial House Cafe, Norwood, Mass. (Southwest Boston suburb)
Image of Colonial House Norwood MA
Set in a residential neighborhood and looking like an auto body shop from some angles, the Colonial House Cafe seems like an unlikely place to have a restaurant. Once inside however, the colonial look with nice wooden floors, post and beam ceilings, a fireplace and comfortable booths has the look of a true New England traditional restaurant. The menu is huge, specializing in very fresh seafood -- including lobster specials and excellent New England clam chowder -- Italian dishes almost as good as the North End of Boston, and some very solid steak and chicken dishes. Particularly good are the calamari, steak tips and eggplant parmagiana. Locals who tend to wear baseball caps 24/7 love the bar and dining room sections, but outside Norwood and perhaps neighboring Walpole, Westwood and Dedham, very few people know about this place that looks like just another neighborhood house! Colonial House Restaurant, 33 Savin Ave, Norwood, Mass., Tel. (781) 762-3000

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