|An atypically empty picture of The Place|
NOTE: I know Tuesdays are supposed to be NEW post days, but today is my wedding anniversary, so I'm taking it off! Taking it all off baby! But I won't leave you completely hanging. Since we made our annual pilgrimage to The Place last night, I thought it would be a good time to rerun my review of it that originally appeared in the Connecticut Post several years ago.
“This is going to be the best summer ever!” was the prediction/promise I heard every June from the time I was 8 up until I turned 22. Okay, maybe 27, but only because some of my friends matured slower than savings bonds! And every year they had a different reason why that particular summer was going to rock: First it was because someone got a pool. Then it was that we were finally sixth graders (still not sure what privileges that entailed, but we sure were excited at the time.) Later it was that we had our driver’s licenses (or an older cousin’s driver’s license, which we could use to buy beer, so long as one of us could grow a foot…and a beard.) Our 18th summer was going to be “the best one ever” because we could rent (and trash) a cottage on the beach.
Looking back, I can’t remember which summer truly was the best (probably because our last few were spent following the Grateful Dead) but even if I could recall, I probably couldn’t come up with an answer. For one thing, I still have summers left to live. Plus, unlike my friends, I don’t like putting such labels on my experiences because I don’t go into them with such high expectations. In fact, I’ve found that the “best” times happen when I’ve least expected them.
It seems like the bigger, more elaborate, or highly anticipated the event, the less likely I am to have a good time. Invite me to a luau that you spent a year planning (and paying) for, complete with pig roast and hula girls, and I’m the dud leaving before getting lei’d. But throw an impromptu picnic and I’m the life of the party. I’ve had more fun tubing down the Housatonic than cruising the Caribbean. It’s like the more pressure I feel to have a good time, the less capable I am of doing so. And no, I don’t have social anxiety, so don’t send me any Paxil. Nor do I want any Viagra-like pills designed to help get my expectations up – I like them just where they are…low.
Like the old Wall Street wisdom of buying low and selling high, having low expectations has helped enrich my life. It sounds silly, but by not expecting much, I almost always get what I want. Plus, I’m rarely disappointed, and am often pleasantly surprised. Who could ask for more? Note: this isn’t some sort of slacker mentality - I still do a lot of hard work…I just don’t expect it to pay off!
So, when my low expectations and I (along with my wife and a few friends from work) went for dinner at The Place in Guilford, I wasn’t counting on being overly impressed. From what I had already heard about The Place, I was picturing something along the lines of glorified tailgating, minus the tickets to the game. Not much to write home (or a column) about. But, as usual, I got what I expected, and then some.
The first thing you’ll notice about The Place is that it really isn’t an actual place so much as a space, with very little differentiating the parking lot from the eating area, save for the tree stumps, which will be the second thing you’ll notice. The eating area is stocked with tree stumps of various shapes and sizes which serve as seats, as well as foundations for the plywood table tops, so find a stump that suits your rump and have a seat. You might want to bring your own cushion, or even a chair, to make things more comfortable.
Speaking of bringing things, The Place has a BYOB policy – actually more of a BYO A-Z policy, since you can bring in basically anything within reason to supplement your dining experience, from alcoholic beverages to side dishes to zabaglione (or any other obscure Italian dessert.) Some people even bring table cloths, candelabras, etc. to dress up their table, but The Place really isn’t a place for pretensions, or dressing up, as you will get messy. Which brings us to the food.
While sitting on a stump in a parking lot across from a Wal-Mart does have its charms, it is the food that brings the people in, and keeps them coming back. Clams get top-billing on The Place’s billboard of a menu, and seem to be the biggest draw. Rated “best non-fried clams on earth” by U.C.L.A. (United Clam Lovers of America) they are served hot off the rack with a splash of secret sauce, and they are delicious. Even my wife, who has never had a clam in her life, was tempted to try one. She didn’t like it, but she loved the corn, served fire roasted and still in the husk. Other offerings include fresh lobsters, fish, chicken, and steak, all cooked over open flame and served with minimal flare.
We left The Place happy, full, and slightly grimy – and truly impressed with how they managed to do so much with so little. The Place turned out to be my kind of place. I didn’t expect much, but that’s exactly what I got!
891 Boston Post Road