Review by: Michael Stern
Legendary | Worth driving from anywhere
**** NOTE: THIS RESTAURANT IS PERMANENTLY CLOSED ****
Like the Old North Church or the swan boats in the Public Garden, Durgin-Park is a Boston landmark. It is a tourist attraction and can be maddeningly crowded, but if you want true, dowdy New England food, there is no more authentic place to taste it.
Dinner begins with a square of grainy yellow cornbread. Then you can move on to such old favorites as lobster stew or Boston Schrod, or pot roast or pork loin. The house specialty is prime rib, a gargantuan cut that overhangs its plate. Side that with a mountain of mashed potatoes (into which the kitchen indelicately slides pats of butter, still in paper wrappers) and a scoop of fresh apple sauce, and you’ve got a mighty meal.
What could be more all-American than roast turkey with sage dressing … or New England boiled dinner of corned beef and cabbage? The beans Durgin-Park serves are real Boston baked beans, firm and silky, not too sweet, with a whiplash of molasses. The dessert list is tradition itself, featuring hot mince pie in the autumn, apple pan dowdy, deep dish apple pie, strawberry shortcake on a biscuit, and the quintessential Yankee dessert – Indian pudding, served warm, of course. Perhaps the weirdest thing on the dessert menu is coffee Jell-O … invented long ago because the management just hated to throw away pots of undrunk coffee at the end of the day. So they jelled it! And they jelled it without sugar! It’s actually kind of wonderful if you like coffee: cool, quivery, refreshing … and served under a mound of sweetened whipped cream.
The Fanueil Hall Market long ago became a modern urban grazing emporium, and Boston is a city rich with up-to-date, polite places to eat. Durgin-Park is not one of them. Its wide-open dining rooms, with brusque waitstaff and elbow-to-elbow communal tables, are neither modern nor polite. The food is old-fashioned, and nobody gets celebrity treatment. You like it or lump it. We like it!
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