Pinecroft Dairy and Restaurant
539 Prospect St, West Boylston
At the end of hot summer days an age-old tradition, ‘going out for ice cream’, usually meant a trip to Pinecroft Dairy. After all those trips to Pinecroft I thought cones and sundaes summed them up. Who knew they also had a restaurant? I guess all those large chocolate cones dripping down my fingers had diverted my attention.
Then I started hearing buzz about their seafood dinners. Based upon the reliable advice of Cheryl Monopoli, our waitress at Dinky’s diner, we escalated Pinecroft to ‘must try’ status.
After arriving at Pinecroft we were immediately seated, our places kitted with silverware wrapped in napkins set on paper placemats; those advertising pieces I love to read. This one invited us to Paul’s Reptile Circus, “New England’s premiere traveling reptile show.” Why settle for anything less?
As we scanned Pinecroft’s layout of tables and prep areas, the pristine cleanliness and family-friendly atmosphere, both my friend and I at once thought: Friendlys!
Indeed, Pinecroft channels the best years and features of the old Friendly’s restaurant chain. The place was packed with families, lots of children (there’s a special kid’s menu) and groups of friends. It seemed as if everyone knew each other, the room echoed with exuberant greetings and happy conversation.
Pinecroft’s menu is a compact sheet of, basically, seafood. Fried seafood, that is: clams, scallops, haddock, and shrimp. Lobster meat is, of course, not fried. Meals come in three formats: Baskets, Rolls and Platters. They even feature the Seafood Frenzy, a combo large enough for small groups. For those not keen for seafood there are burgers, chicken tenders and hotdogs.
After placing our dinner orders, I was amazed at how soon we were served. Pinecroft’s workforce is a smoothly operating team; any number of people may take your order, serve it, and check up on what you might need. The glue that binds them together – at least from my observation – is the personal connection made with their customers.
My dinner, a scallop basket with onion rings, arrived steaming hot and deep-fried to pale golden brown. Six large scallops, ocean-fresh, moist, and mild in flavor were arranged over a tangle of onion strings and served with a plastic cup of creamy coleslaw.
Whoever oversees the frying operation must be very fussy about maintaining clean oil and perfect fry time. There’s no heavy burnt flavors or greasy mouthfeel. The scallops were impeccable, the onion strings soft and sweet, encased in a thin crunchy crust.
After starting with a bowl of creamy New England clam chowder (good clam flavor with small pieces of clam and potato), my friend continued with Pinecroft’s Lobster Roll upgraded with French fries and onion rings. On presentation, the toasted buttery hotdog bun was crammed-to-overflowing with chunks of lobster meat that bristled with those skinny red strips of claw meat. It was placed aside a pile of onion strings and fries on waxed paper in a plastic basket.
Between fork loads of lobster meat, he dispatches, “Very little mayonnaise. A dash of celery seed… So much lobster! Sweet and tender!”
I’d already discovered how delicious Pinecroft makes onion strings, now it was time to discover their fries; long, thin, pure potato flavor with a crispy crunch. He munched on lobster for quite a while before the bun was unpacked enough to pick it up and eat it as a handheld. That’s one huge lobster roll, perhaps the best in the county.
For once I’d been to Pinecroft Dairy not for ice cream. This was a totally different experience that exceeded all the buzz. As we walked out into the early evening dusk, we passed cars filled with people licking ice cream cones. The tradition endures.