Take in some history over a relaxed, authentic-colonial dinner
by Jim Johnson
Longfellow's Wayside Inn, Wayside Inn Road (off Route 20) Sudbury
(978) 443-1776, (800) 339-1776
Sun. noon-8 p.m.
Mon.-Sat. 11:30 a.m.-3 p.m., 5-9 p.m.
Major credit cards
Not handicap accessible
In few restaurants in America can one sense our country's heritage as palpably
as at Longfellow's Wayside Inn. The inn first served guests in the early 18th
century, when most of the nation's founding fathers weren't yet children.
Today, nearly 300 years and only eight innkeepers later, the Wayside Inn still
offers meals and overnight lodging.
The Wayside started as How's Inn in 1716. In 1746, Colonel Ezekiel How renamed
it "The Red Horse" and used it as the meeting place for the Sudbury farmers he
led to Concord on April 19, 1775. After the publication of Henry Wadsworth
Longfellow's Tales of a Wayside Inn in 1863, the Inn became popularly
known as the Wayside Inn. Today, as part of a nonprofit educational and
charitable trust established by Henry Ford, it is both a working inn and a
A man in the three-corner hat greeted us and pointed us down the hallway. We
were early for a 5 p.m. Saturday reservation and decided to explore the old
building. Our tour revealed that little had changed since Longfellow's time,
when he described the "stairways worn, and crazy doors/And creaking and uneven
floors/And chimneys huge, and tiled and tall." Upstairs, rooms had been
restored in colonial style, including beds that typically held three or more
The night was frigid, and we headed to the bar to warm up by the fireplace.
What looked like the original setting, the bar was outfitted with plank floors,
plaster walls, tables decked with flickering candles, and pewter mugs hanging
from the ceiling. Instead of ordering a rum-based coow woow, reputedly
America's first mixed drink, we opted for a Cabernet Sauvignon of more recent
We were called to our table quite promptly, where a costumed server delivered
a dish of cheddar dip and small trays of crackers and fresh vegetables. While
my tablemate continued with wine, I switched to hot mulled cider, which served
the setting and my still-low core temperature. As we studied the menu, we
ordered clam chowder ($1.50) and lobster bisque ($1.50), and our server
returned a few minutes later with our cups and a pile of raisin and corn
muffins and steaming rolls. The bisque was thick, rich, and creamy with plenty
of lobster flavor (and lobster bits) and the right touch of sherry. The chowder
was just as good, a nice mix of cream and broth with a generous helping of firm
potatoes and sweet clams.
We also ordered smoked peppered mackerel ($3.95) that offered a pungent
interplay of smoke and black peppercorns. A creamy horseradish mustard sauce
provided the perfect complement.
Entrees change frequently, and our choices included baked scrod ($16.95),
baked salmon Dijonaise ($18.95), filet mignon in brandied mushroom sauce
($21.95), and boneless breast of chicken with cranberry walnut stuffing
($15.95). Prices aren't low, but they do include certain appetizers, a choice
of three salads, a choice of two vegetables, and dessert.
Feeling the holiday spirit, I ordered roast goose ($16.95). My friend chose
Block Island swordfish ($18.95).
For my salad, I was tempted to order the Jerusha Peach Mold, named for Jerusha
How, known in the early 1800s as the "belle of Sudbury." Jerusha became engaged
to an Englishman, who left her behind as he headed home to get his family's
blessing. He never returned, and Jerusha lived out the remainder of her life at
the inn, spending much of her time playing her beloved pianoforte. Local legend
has it that her ghost still resides there, and guests have reportedly felt her
presence, even hearing her play the pianoforte and smelling her perfume. A sad
and wonderful story, but I ordered the garden salad.
The goose was a delight, tasting much like duck but not as greasy or gamy,
with its rich flavor drawn out and balanced by a light glaze of tangerine
sauce. Bits of apples and apricots gave natural sweetness to dense bread
The swordfish, though billed as baked, must have been poached at some point to
gain so much moist tenderness. It seemed fresh from Atlantic waters.
For vegetables, we enjoyed green peas served fresh and firm with a hint of
mint, as well as butternut squash and potato each whipped to creamy
Desserts included grapenut pudding, Indian pudding, pecan pie, and deep-dish
Our server strongly recommended the Indian pudding but graciously added that
if I didn't like it, he'd bring me something else. Although he seemed somewhat
aloof throughout our visit, the cause was more efficiency and perhaps a touch
of colonial role-playing more than any rudeness. We decided he was great.
As was the Indian pudding, which consisted of cornmeal ground at the inn's
nearby grist mill and just the right amount of molasses. The pecan pie would
have made the Southern colonies jealous.
Our evening of history, relaxation, dining, and drink cost just under $60 for