The Upside of the Off Ramp
Another weekend, another adventure. This time, I packed up the car on Friday and drove the kids down to Providence. Again.
Sure, I could try and blame the kids, but in reality I was the one running late. My original plan had been to pop off the highway at B.T.’s Smokehouse in Sturbridge for some of their magnificent barbecue. But we had a performance to catch on Friday night. One of my sister’s short films was being shown outdoors at an arts festival.
So there I was with two hungry kids, getting ready to bite the bullet and bring them to McDonald’s. Then fate stepped in.
Just as we were pulling into the parking lot, two school buses filled with high-school-aged kids ran into the restaurant for their dinner on the road. One chaperone looked into my car and gave me an appropriately apologetic look.
Realizing that it would take significantly longer to eat and get back on the road than I had anticipated, I figured there had to be a diner nearby. The kids were gung ho. The idea of breakfast for dinner was appealing. And I was excited to try some idiosyncratic local spot.
I knew it was going to be dicey, since Yelpers gave the place mixed reviews. But it was awful. If you really want to read about the miserable details, you can find many of them here.
Rarely do I say, “We should have just gone to McDonald’s.” However, this was one of those cases. And that’s amazing, because I would rather have suffered behind those two buses of high school kids than make this side trip to an iconic old-fashioned diner off the beaten path.
But there is a reason why people choose national chains over local independent businesses.
Fortunately, on the way back from Providence, we had a fair bit more flexibility with time. Unfortunately, Sturbridge was too close, and since we had just come from my mother’s art opening filled with cheeses, cookies, and other nibbles, we wouldn’t be hungry for dinner by the time we would be pulling up to B.T.’s Smokehouse. Drat, foiled again.
Dinnertime would be closer to when we were pulling through West Springfield.
So I found a place called Spice Kitchen Cafe, and it looked perfect. An inexpensive, vegetarian, Indian restaurant attached to a grocery store. Sounds like one of my favorite Albany places, Parivar. So I was excited to try it out.
Young Master Fussy loves dal, and was happy with his dal tadka. I wasn’t sure what Little Miss Fussy would prefer, so I ordered both a masala dosa and chhole bathurae. I’m still looking for one of those Indian fried breads that rivals the version I first fell in love with at Vik’s Chaat in Berkeley. It’s hard to get a sense of scale in this picture, but it’s freaking huge.
She was more into the fried bread with spiced chickpeas. And that makes sense. Plus both kids were delighted with their mango lassis, which were thick and sweet. A far cry from the thin and watery versions they were served in Providence our last trip.
It just goes to show that even good food cities can have bad versions of beloved foods.
We ended up bringing home leftovers, and I’m super excited to have found this delicious place within a stone’s throw of the highway. It looks like the restaurant is relatively new. I do hope the place finds a local audience, because the flavor and value are fantastic.
The hardest part was not ordering even more dishes. While the more unusual things appealed to me, when I’m traveling, I often put the kids’ needs before my own. Harumpf. Parenting is hard. It means no vegetable haka noodles for me. I’ve never even seen them before, but homemade napali noodles, cooked with onions, peppers, and a spicy Chinese sauce sounds fantastic!
Fortunately, I think this summer I may have a few more trips to Providence on deck. It’s good to have a few places to stop that have been vetted and are kid approved.