Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Ye Olde Lunch

My best pal had to go to the dentist today, which she didn't want to do. To cheer her up I decided to take her to lunch to a place where I've not taken her before. We both love a bit of seafood so we sallied forth for the Union Oyster House, also known as Ye Olde Union Oyster House, also known as the oldest restaurant in America.

The building went up sometime in the early 18th century. No one is quite sure when. Its had a number of different occupants. One of the country's first newspapers, the Massachusetts Spy, was published for a while on the second floor (they had to move out of town when the revolution started to get kind of shooty). During the war soldiers of Washington's army would go there to get paid. A few years later a guy named Louis Philippe started living there. He made a living teaching French to young ladies (ooh la la, and all that). Thirty four years later he became the last king of France.

It still looks pretty much like this

In 1826 a couple of guys opened a restaurant there. They built a half circle shaped oyster bar. Sitting where we were, in booth #1, I could look at the old bar and imagine Daniel Webster sitting there as he often did, slamming brandy and downing plate after plate of oysters. Up on the second floor is booth #18, John F. Kennedy's favorite spot.

Today the clientele is a funny mix of seafood and history loving locals and tourists. Depending on the time of day you see mostly tourists as the place is right on the Freedom Trail, halfway between Faneuil Hall and Paul Revere's house. A lot of people make a big show of being annoyed by tourists, but I kind of like them. Yup, we do have an interesting town. Yup, we locals are a colorful lot. So here's to you, Mr. Japanese Guy taking photos of the lobster tank. Enjoy your visit.

And I enjoyed my visit to Ye Olde Union Oyster House. The hostess steered us to our booth gruffly, which is how we old Bostonians prefer it. I was reminded that this was the place that hired the first waitress in American history, Rose Carey, back in the '20s. I briefly wondered if she would on duty today when a nice young lady named Elizibeth came over to take our orders. My best pal ordered fried scrod and fries. What is scrod, you ask, you poor out-of-towner you. It is a hunk of white fish. What sort of white fish? Cod? Haddock? Pollock? None of your damn business, you nosy bastid. And who cares, really? It's fish and it's good.

Me, I had something called New England fish cakes. I have no idea what was in them, but they were really good and really filling. They came with a side of fries and Boston baked beans. Damn but I love a good plate of Boston baked beans. The beans, the molasses, and that little unctuous touch of pork fat that pulls it all together. Oh my.
This was preceded by a lovely bit of cornbread and Union's justifiably famous clam chowder. Thick, creamy, with lots of clams and potatoes, a bowl of that could have made a meal in itself.

This was all washed down with a special Sam Adams ale that you can only get in that one spot, a light brown beauty called “Colonial.” Fortified by a pint of that I was more than ready to take on a regiment of redcoats.

That, my friends, is lunch, Boston style.

We took our time, soaking in the dumpy, history soaked atmosphere. We listened as an oyster shucker explained his art to a group of fascinated tourists. We gazed at a portrait of Ebenezer Hancock, the army's first paymaster. We watched the doomed lobsters waving their banded claws at one another. And we briefly considered dessert. The apple cobbler looked good. So did the Indian pudding and the Boston cream pie. But we had to quit there, full of the bounty of the sea as we were.

A lovely lunch, all in all. So to you locals, don't forget your heritage and get yourself some chowder. And for you visitors, stop by. Don't forget your credit card (it only looks cheap). And don't forget to stop at Ye Olde Gift Shoppe on your way out.


Pat Tillett said...

this post contained my three favorite things.

If I had an award for best post of the week, I'd award it to you, for this one!
Hope you have a happy and healthy 2011!

Glenn Whidden said...

Gosh, thanks Pat. I'm blushing.

Jaquandor said...

I haven't been to Boston in nearly 14 years. We should really come back sometime. What a great city. The Wife and I honeymooned there.

Glenn Whidden said...

Jaquandor, I did not know that. How lovely. Perhaps it is time for a second honeymoon. I believe the lyric goes: "Please come to Boston in the springtime . . ."