Restaurant Serving Classic New England Food Marks Centennial
BERLIN, Vt. (AP) — A roadside eatery that started the year World War I ended is still in business and thriving, this year celebrating 100 years of Yankee cooking in central Vermont.
The Wayside Restaurant has expanded since then, serving about 1,000 meals a day. But it’s still a place where you can get New England classics like salt pork and milk gravy, boiled dinner (corned beef and cabbage) and warm Parker House rolls, named for the Boston hotel where they originated.
And that’s not all. There’s also standard diner fare like burgers and fries, breakfast served all day, salads, a hot turkey sandwich with gravy and pie — you name it, from cherry and apple to maple cream — all at reasonable prices. There’s even a gluten-free menu, proof that the Wayside has kept up with the times.
“What we like about it is the food and the servers are friendly,” said Caroline Howe of Barre who with her husband stops in weekly. “The food’s always good. We’ve never had a bad meal here. It’s wonderful.”
The Wayside was started as a small lunchtime spot by Effie Ballou in 1918, below the house where she lived with her husband and children. She made pies and doughnuts at home and brought them to the restaurant. The place has been sold several times over the years to other families, including the current owners, Brian and Karen Galfetti Zechinelli, who have been running it for 20 years.
Sonny Frost said he and his wife have been eating there weekly for years. “I love it. It’s always been great,” he said. “Come on Sunday for breakfast. It’s great for lunch, it’s great for dinners. It’s very reasonable and the prices are great.”
You might just have to wait in line, though, depending on the time of day, to get a seat in a cushioned wooden booth, at a table or on circular stools at the U-shaped counter.
Not only are customers regulars for years, so are staff.
Judy May has been waitressing there for 31 years. She says she’s now waiting on people she once served in high chairs. “I get a lot of pleasure out of serving them,” she said, adding that some patrons have become friends.
She enjoys the chance to brighten up someone’s day. For some folks, particularly the frequent older patrons, the Wayside may be their only outing for the day.
The restaurant has evolved into something so much more than just an eatery, said Brian Zechinelli. “People use the Wayside as a central location to get together with family and see all their friends,” he said.
The Zechinellis make sure to use local produce and meats and fish when they can, including fiddlehead ferns in the spring, fresh corn in the summer, squash in the fall, perch in the winter, Vermont-made liquors and maple sap that’s added to dishes, like maple sap poached eggs and maple sap boiled hot dogs. They make their own ice cream with peach, vanilla and lemonade flavors on a recent menu.
Today, the restaurant plans to host a free ice cream social and fireworks to celebrate its centennial. Descendants of the restaurant’s founder are expected to travel from New York, California and Tennessee to attend.
The birthday will be marked throughout the year with servings of Champagne and a custom anniversary ale from Long Trail, a local brewer, and will end with a New Year’s Eve prime rib dinner special.