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By Bernie Whitmore
The Olde Post Office Pub
Rte. 140 and Ray Street, No. Grafton
My expectations of pubs are very basic: a good list of draft beers, relaxed environs and uncomplicated cuisine. That’s a formula for a good night out, so when I received my Post Office Pub assignment the day started looking up. And it just kept getting better when my friend and I entered the dining room.
Looks aren’t everything ~ but they’re important enough to form lasting impressions. Post Office Pub’s dining room is tastefully decorated with an early version of the knickknack theme so overworked in national chains. Post Office Pub was a pioneer in the form, but their postal-service decor is restrained and kept fastidiously neat year after year. It’s interesting and fun without being a distraction. And the place was sensibly bedecked for the Christmas season.
We were seated right away and Suzie, our waitress, arrived with greetings and menus. She asked if we’d care for a drink and passed me an index card listing the draft selections. I went with a Sam’s Winter Brew. Then I began a study of the menu. In addition to a line-up of classic soups, salads and appetizers, the regular menu was divided into Beef, Chicken, Pasta, Mexican, Seafood and burgers & sandwiches. Yes, that’s a lot of sections, but each has a tight set of selections ~ it’s not over-reaching.
On Suzie’s assurance that the onion rings were home-made we chose them for our appetizer. What’s wrong with factory-frozen rings? All too often they’re just fat-soaked breading gaskets. Post Office Pub’s were served in a wax-paper lined bowl, their crispy-thin coating of golden-brown breading encasing wide rings of onion cooked ‘til soft and sweet. Nice start!
With our salads Suzie brought a bread basket containing buns shaped like large wieners. We christened them BunStix® and had a playful time slicing them lengthwise to apply butter. Salads were sturdy affairs of chopped iceberg lettuce, shredded carrot, cherry tomatoes and crunchy rings of red onion. I requested bleu cheese dressing; it was rich and creamy with large lumps of sharp-tasting cheese.
Carefully maneuvering past the chalkboard’s “All-you-can-eat” special, I settled on another of the day’s offerings: Orange Poached Atlantic Salmon. In less capable hands, this dish might have been a disaster of lollipop proportions. But Post Office Pub’s chef has mastered subtle, so the fresh salmon steak received but a glance of orange citrus flavor. The pink flesh flaked apart and was topped with classic béarnaise sauce. Emerald green broccoli provided a crunchy contrast.
My guest’s Prime Rib au jus entrée was a slab of slowly roasted beef served juicy-red on a plate sporting the stars and stripes ~ worthy of the Postmaster General! It came with a foil-wrapped baked potato kitted out with plenty of butter and sour cream. Between forkfuls, he’d remark, “Very tasty…perfectly cooked…flavorful!’ I snuck a spoonful of the jus and discovered it was real beef juice ~ not the salty bouillon-cube affair you get from lesser kitchens.
After entrees, our attention turned to the front of the dining room where an assortment of pies and cakes are proudly displayed in the tall dessert carousel. Parfaits of shimmering red and green Jell-O endlessly parade past, weaving their magic spell. Thus bewitched, we ordered a slice of Banana Cream Pie. Unlike any other I’ve sampled, this version was composed of chunks of banana that rather tumbled apart. Strange, but nevertheless it soon disappeared under the withering attack of our forks.
The Post Office Pub bills itself as “Family owned for over 25 years.” It shows. This is a family that pays attention to every detail ~ service, quality and value. In the times I’ve dined there I’ve never left anything but delighted. They just keep getting better!