Wood-paneled, comfortable, and middle-class, The Village has been a town fixture for more than sixty years. One veteran staff member recalled to us that when it opened as a five-booth café, the owner used to leave the door unlocked so that before the staff arrived in the morning, regulars could let themselves in and cook their own breakfasts on the grill. That doesn’t happen any more (!), but the Village remains the place where locals eat and congregate.
Menus from those early days are posted in the vestibule, and they are a joy to read, not only for the prices (a dollar for a full dinner), but because they list so many of the very fundamental regional items that are still on the Village menu and that make a meal here ring so true. “We serve Essex clams” boasts a menu from 1956. The Village still serves Essex clams, fried to golden perfection. For dessert, you can have echt-Yankee Grape-Nuts custard or strawberry shortcake on an old-fashioned biscuit.
Nowadays, the menu is broad, with something for everyone and a price range from $10 lunch sandwiches to a $30 Fisherman’s Platter dinner. It’s fried clams, lobster pie, shrimp, and scallops that we most adore; but we must confess that there have been occasions, after long days of eating fried clams up and down Cape Ann, when we have come to the Village because we needed a sirloin steak or even, on one occasion, vegetarian pasta! Still, it’s seafood that stars on these tables, simply fried or broiled, or in more deluxe configurations such as haddock Rockefeller. Lobsters are available boiled, fried, or baked in a casserole dish with seasoned breadcrumbs.
Among desserts, we recommend Indian pudding, a true taste of vintage Americana. It is grainy with a powerful molasses kick, and it is served piping-hot with a scoop of vanilla ice cream melting on top. Fancier, but true to local character, is blueberry bread pudding, made of cornmeal and molasses bread and set afloat in a pool of sweet rum sauce.