Westminster Village Square, Westminster , MA
By Bernie Whitmore
For good ol’ country excitement it’s hard to beat a trip up scenic Route 140. Shop at roadside fruit and vegetable stands; no cash registers here, just pay by the honor system. Then there’s Redemption Rock, a towering granite slab upon which ancient American Indians once ransomed fairy princesses. Just off the highway, visitors were once lured into Westminster by the aroma of buttery goodness and the promise of free samples from the cracker factory.
All these lovely distractions soon worked us up into a hearty appetite and, fortunately, around the corner from that now-defunct cracker factory my friend and I encountered a real-life strip mall set back from Westminster’s Main Street. In it is nestled Joseph’s Bistro Restaurant.
We pulled into the parking lot and soon found ourselves seated in the gleaming knotty pine dining room. It was mid-Sunday afternoon ~ that sweet spot in the day when both breakfast and the full entrée menu are available.
Thoughts of French toast vanished as we watched football on several flat screen TVs. This was the first game of the season and the Patriots were spanking the Jets ~ how could we not celebrate with Buffalo wings? Joseph’s accommodated with their Chicken Wings appetizer that comes “mild or buffalo hot.” The order was perfect for sharing, a combination of eight wings and mini-drumsticks came with two plastic cups of chunky blue cheese dressing. Although I’ve had much spicier, when finished with my share of chicken I found the crunchy celery sticks and lumps of blue cheese cool and soothing.
Joseph’s must be Westminster’s main event in morning hours; the menu listed six “Hearty Appetite” breakfast meals, a variety of omelets, country breakfasts and featured the “Town Hall He Man Special.” It might be worth a return visit to watch some strapping North County guys try to hold their own against the enormous stacks of fluffy pancakes.
Lunch was also well-represented by at least twenty different sandwiches. Is there anything that doesn’t taste better when served on a bulkie? But when I think ‘bistro’ I think of unpretentious home cooking and, with autumn here, comfort food. For this you’ll want to turn to the menu’s “Everyday Specials” section.
My friend chose the Chicken Pot Pie served with a side of smashed potatoes. Any chef who actually cooks (as opposed to thaws & deep-fries) has his or her own approach to pot pie. But not many will match Joseph’s deep tin filled with rich gravy, big chunks of chicken and fresh vegetables. All this goodness was topped with golden-brown biscuits and served next to a mound of potatoes. Here’s a meal that had size going for it, but beyond that, the flavor balance of fresh herbs and chicken-richness had my friend raving.
On my side of the table, the Macaroni & Cheese entrée caught my attention, and ~ aware of the revival this dish has been enjoying as of late ~ I decided to give it a try. In doing so, I realize I was taking a risk because the mac-n-cheese world is divided into orange-soft-n-saucy and white-thick-n-stretchy camps. Neither the menu nor the waitress offered a clue as to which schism Joseph’s belonged.
As luck would have it I was served a huge bowl of orange-soft-n-saucy. It was topped with crumbs browned crunchy under the broiler. There was a very pleasing flavor to it that reminded me of Seafood Newberg and the dish was brimming with homemade, comforting goodness – sure to please lovers of orange mac-n-cheese.
On my next trip to Joseph’s Bistro I’m already planning to order the Mile High Lasagna or the Meatloaf Dinner. Or maybe see how I stack up against the locals when it comes to putting away one of those He Man breakfasts. When dinner for two costs just twenty-six bucks, it’s worth the drive.
Photos by Bernie Whitmore