We went up to Appleseeds in Bradford for Valentine's Day. My wife had won gift certificates from the radio station - which she often does - and we eased up 114, past places heavy with childhood nostalgia for me. How was the food? The restaurant itself was of a type common in NH, refashioned from an old house, with a woodstove in the dining room. A good fit with the used book stores on the way up and the old hardware store that still has wooden floors in the town before. Even more, with the still-in-use covered bridge a half-mile down the road. The decor is objet d'histoire indigene, usually including farm tools from grandfather's day or older, photographs of local sites taken in 1930, and perhaps a map of a nearby lake.
It's the sort of place you file away to bring prospective daughters-in-law from Alaska, or Texas, or even Norway.* A distilled version of local charm, possibly convincing them that moving here wouldn't be such a bad idea. Though perhaps only convincing them that their own region's nostalgia is far to their preference. Very nice. How was the food?
Chain restaurants sometimes attempt this nostalgia, but even when they've got really good items, it doesn't quite work. And even at Appleseeds, a few items were a stretch. An "Amoskeag Seamless" bag is appropriate to NH in general, but Bradford is an hour away - likely two hours or more in those days. The adjustable grocery store coffee grinder, circa 1960, might have come from just down the road, but could also have come from anywhere in America. Vague oldness isn't quite the thing. But the posters on the wall were first rate: advertisements for Saturday night Barn Dances in Bradford. admission $1.00, $.50 for children; the annual Armistice Dance at the Armory in Laconia with Gene Krupa, "The Ace Drummer," with door and raffle prizes of a Four Door Sedan of unspecified make or a Hot Point stove; the MV Kearsarge docked on Lake Sunapee. And license plates dating back to 1914. Vanity plates were common in NH long before most other places, and there were plenty up there from the 60's and 70's. The SD 311 put me in mind of remembering what county prefixes went where and posting about it.
The menu has sandwiches named after original owners or regular patrons. Now you're talking. What was on that menu? There are regional beers (Sam Adams, Long Trail) plus the standard modern imports (Guinness, Newcastle), and one surprise, Pabst Blue Ribbon, designated PBR on the dry-erase board, which tells me that Pabst is making a comeback with the hipper crowd. Never liked it myself, but I'm glad they've found a way to carve out a new niche.
Nice little place, run by the same people that do the dinner cruises on Lake Sunapee. The food, dammit! I don't care about all that other stuff on a restaurant review. I want to know if the food's good.
No you don't, actually. Food is well less than half of the reason we choose a restaurant. We care about the type of food, hankering for one ethnic type or late-night breakfast. We care about distance, price, noise level, sports on TV, and atmosphere - at least, that's what our actions say, regardless of what words we spout.
The food was fine. I almost had the Canadian pork pie but had a spicy cheese soup, then some chicken/teriyaki/garlic thing, and Tracy had a chicken/maple/apple thing with sweet potato. They have fish and chips, scallops baked or fried, some sandwiches on different breads with various sauces on beef or ham or turkey. That sort of thing. The usual, and done pretty well. You'll like it fine.
*From Romania, perhaps not so much. Wooden pitchforks and deteriorating maps hold less charm when they are still in use at your house. Not too far along, though, nostalgia will kick in there also, and old men will point to pictures on the wall and tell the young cashier "We used to go fishing there." So snap up the best of the memorabilia from old barns when you visit; it will have value sooner than you think. I'm already regretting not buying a battered violin hanging in a shelter next to a pig sty in Remetea in 1998. It would have been called a gypsy fiddle by the time it made it back here, of course.