I recently was telling a good friend about my many great experiences driving across this amazing country of ours eating almost exclusively out of the exhaustive archives of Jane and Michael Stern’s travel books, Good Food (long out of print), Road Food and Eat Your Way Across The USA. The retelling of these wonderful tales, forever entrained in my mind and stomach made me crave some good old road food. So, it was with great satisfaction that found myself having a true Road Food experience coming from Cape Cod and heading East into Massachusetts on July 1st, 2007. I just happen to have been traveling with my trusty Road Food AAA highway maps that were pre-highlighted with every Good Food, Road Food and Eat Your Way Across the USA eating establishment, so with a easy glance I knew that I had a choice between something in Bellingham and Woonsocket.
As it turns out the Bellingham was a more on a direct route with the Mass pike, so I opted for that.
When I got off 495 I had that immediate and unmistakable feeling of, Holy crap, what if I cannot find something that looks like a Road Food establishment, unique, interesting, old school, etc. You see it was Sunday and Bellingham looked like a pit and even though my AAA maps are marked with all the road food spots, the exact names and locations are not on the maps, that information is to be cross referenced from the books themselves, none of which I had with me.
I drove through town, saw a few, (two exactly), candidates for what might be a road food spot, both were closed. I was dejected, but not giving up. In my back pocket I had the knowledge that before entering town there had been a sign saying “Ma Glockner’s” with an arrow. It was my last hope, and off I went in search of this fascinating sounding place. Well, it perfect Road Food fashion with the sun getting lower and my blood sugar rising rapidly I came around a country bend and entered the large, handsome, old school world of Ma’s.
The silhouettes of people inside were quite the welcome site. I parked and entered in the side door. At first I sad, Oh, no, it is Sunday and only the bar is open or, business is so bad that nothing but the bar was open at all because I waled through room after room dark empty booths.
I came around a corner and sighed a sigh of relief, there was indeed yet another room (there were a total of at least five that I counted, Good Food, which is the only Jane and Michael Stern book I could find Ma’s in states it can seat 500!) that was more than half full of diners. I had found the right place.
After giving the menu a cursory glance, there was only one clear choice. Ma Glockner’s famous “Berched Chicken”. I ordered from the smiling, attentive and amusing waitress who answered each and every order with the question: “What kind of potato do you want: baked, roasted, sweet, fried or pasta?
While I waited for my “Berched Chicken” I listened to another waitress give endless shit to a table occupied by a man with his family. She was saying things to the Dad like, “Do you even know what you want yet, I can see in your eyes you have no idea, I’ll come back later” and brusquely walk away form the order. When she returned she said, “Any idea yet?, you have no idea do you?” He was stoically silent during the whole encounter.
As I waited I also noticed beautiful old brass tacked vinyl booths, the wooden detailing that was orange from years of varnish and the odd other world feeling as there was very little natural light in the room. It was transforming, relaxing and other worldly.
The first thing to arrive here cinnamon buns, yup, “Ma Glockner’s” does not serve bread, but home made cinnamon buns as there bread source, there is nothing more to say about that.
The “Berched Chicken” was a sight to behold. Clearly one of those regional secrets that stemmed form some sort of a mistake in the kitchen. It looked as though it had been run over by a truck many, many times. The entire half chicken was flattened onto the plate and pressed into a crispy, crunchy splat of meat of juice. My guess is that they heavily brined a bird, partially cooked it in the oven and then finish it in some sort of heated press like an industrial panini machine. The results? unreal, somewhere between friend chicken and chicken stew. So soft and juicy you can cut it with a fork!
A delightful meal and a delightful place that reminded me of the beauty of traveling out of ones way to eat some real, slow food.
151 Maple St.
Bellingham, MA 02019