By Ann Needle
Considering my family lives in the town’s eastern-most home — Sarah Palin could see Maynard from my house—I try choosing restaurants to review that are closer to the majority of readers. This stop brought me to Michael’s Bridge Diner in Lancaster, which is closer to literally every reader than to me. Of course, that makes you closer to the Alaskan Palins, but I digress.
It turns out the Needles have been living in their own east coast (we’re on the Assabet) bubble. On this recent school day off, half of Nashoba Regional High School was at Michael’s, with the rest of the tables filled by folks who all knew each other. The vibe is definitely friendly.
The food fits well into any diner, but the place is decorated in early hunting lodge, from the rustic pine to the … stuffed animals. No, not the kittens on your daughter’s bed, but big, taxidermic creatures presumably brought down in the wild. And many, especially the bears, appear to want your omelette — now.
Online pundits tend to rip the place up in the name of animal rights, without a word about the pancakes and coffee. Sucking up precious cyberspace by saying nothing of the food is annoying. Besides, the small children in the place seemed fascinated by the wildlife. Seriously, if the animals would disturb you, be warned.
Meanwhile, hubby Jeff and I seated ourselves by a huge display of creatures, plus their antlers where applicable. The waitress was quick to take our coffee orders, and even faster to ask if we were ready to order breakfast. Stop here on a work day and you’ll be out before you know it.
The menu is your typical diner fare of eggs any way you want them, cereal, pancakes, plus plenty of lunch specials and sandwiches. And no, there was no squirrel pie on the list. If anything, this is a serious diner, with breakfast served all day, and closing at 3:00 p.m. most days.
Big Food with Dignity
Jeff went with the huevos rancheros omelette, a hearty, plump egg jacket wrapped around those Mexican munchies of cheese and salsa and sour cream. My egg sandwich of fried egg, hot sausage, and cheese was tucked into an uber-fresh bagel. Breakfast sanwiches are such the miracle, cutting out the need to make decisions about what to eat first on the plate. I personally would not have minded spicier sausage, but most will likely find it perfect. Both our meals were accompanied by heaps of hash browns, just crispy enough.
The remarkable thing about these dishes was their big, fat size, but all rolled up neatly. Until Michael’s, I believed fitting this much food on a breakfast plate meant literally losing your shirt to the stains of dripping sauce or stray egg pieces. You will never see a neater stack of huevos rancheros ingredients, the sandwich never called for silverware (and it came cut in half!), and there was plenty. It seemed fitting to have this clean work share space with the precision jobs of taxidermists.
My only disappointment was the eggs benedict, or lack therefore; these are only served on the weekends, despite rave reviews. How you tuck these into a neat package I don’t know, but I’ll bet Michael’s does it.
This being my first visit—and nosy— I cornered a few of those NRHS students hanging about. You can only imagine how loquacious these teenagers were at 8:30am on their day off. However, asked about favorite dishes here, as one young woman put it, “The hash browns are da bomb!” Just the mention of the taters had students waking up to make cooing noises. There also were several plates to be seen of sausage, biscuits, and gravy. All I could see is the blanket of beige gravy, though the young ‘uns assured me it is always good for what ails you.
Speaking of ailing, be prepared if you venture here on the weekend. I’ve had folks confirm that there often are waiting lines on Saturday and Sunday mornings. And, for a diner, Michael’s is sizeable. So, come here with the kids on a weekend, and you can shoot some photos with the wildlife while you wait. If you want eggs benedict, I suspect this is when you’ll visit anway.