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November 03, 2009

Best Bites: Wayside Restaurant & Bakery

1873 Route 302, Berlin

Fall 2009 158

Back in 2006, before I worked for Seven Days, I wrote a comment for the Wayside on the 7 Nights website entitled, "Calvin Coolidge's Ghost Eats Here." I stand by the statement. If the shade of the former president were looking to satisfy an earthly hunger, he would find the food, prices and company most agreeable – and changed little since the Wayside opened in 1917.

Where else in Vermont is honeycomb tripe always on the menu and salt pork with milk gravy a regular special? On my last visit, I think I finally cemented my battle plan: It's cheap, so order a lot. For two of us, we ordered three entrées, all from the specials menu. With that, we got six sides. Cheddar Goldfish was among them (pictured) and the first to arrive, along with the fluffy, doughnut-sweet rolls.

All three entrées, which are relatively small, but very cheap, arrived at once with the remaining five sides. The meatloaf was sweetened with a generous layer of ketchup and smothered in rich gravy. Even when soaked in sauce, the fries on the side remained crisp.

The chicken pot pie was really more like chicken and biscuits, but tender and perfectly seasoned, like grandma used to make — only better. On the same plate, we had a brick of fried polenta and a zingy cucumber salad. The most creative dish of the evening was pork chops with apple and cranberry sauce. The toothsome breaded pork and sweet and sour chutney were a delightful taste of autumn, an idea further bolstered by a creamy side of local squash.

Fall 2009 168 When bread pudding is $1.95 how can you say no? I couldn't, especially once I saw it looked like a scoop of ice cream. The Wayside's "Soon to be Famous" chocolate cake was worth way more than $2.50. The moist layers were covered in a rich ganache that made it seem like it had come from a much fancier restaurant. The Wayside's already famous maple cream pie (pictured) is deservedly so. The deep, dark maple taste satisfies a sophisticated part of the brain few desserts do, almost like a very bitter chocolate. I often find maple desserts excessively sweet, but not this one. It, like everything at the Wayside – from spaghetti and meatballs to fried dough – utterly won me over.

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