A few weeks ago, we were trying to think of a way to get out of the house on a cold Sunday morning. We decided to head over to the Time Machine Hobby Shop to see the giant model train layout (see some pics of that here). But the train layout wouldn’t be open until 1:00 p.m., it was only 11:00 a.m., and it was one of those mornings when we just needed to get out of the house and fast, if you know what I mean 🙂 So we thought we’d grab some cheeseburgers and ice cream (yes, I am aware of all the snow on the ground in these photos but I firmly believe that ice cream is a four-season food) at the Shady Glen restaurant in Manchester, Connecticut. For those of you who aren’t familiar with this Connecticut institution, Shady Glen has been a Manchester fixture since the middle of last century. It repeatedly shows up on all kinds of “best of” lists and has even been featured on the Food Network. Recently, it won a James Beard Award (and if my post doesn’t make you want to run out and try it, click through on that link and watch the video– you’ll be heading out the door pronto, I promise!). Most of the praise is reserved for their homemade ice cream and very unique cheeseburgers. It actually has two locations in Manchester. We had been to their second location before, which is located in a big shopping plaza at 360 Middle Turnpike West. Here’s a pic of that one. Do you see it smack-dab in the middle there? But we had never been to the original location before, which is located at 840 Middle Turnpike East. It’s been expanded over the years, but it’s still the site of the original building. It has a nice big parking lot, which is good because this place can get pretty busy. More parking to the side of the building… Once inside, you can’t help but smile at the vintage diner decor. Even the wait staff dresses the part 🙂 If there’s no line, you can just go ahead and seat yourself. Basically, there are two seating options: booths and stools. The swivel stools are probably lots of fun for kids a little older than Boo. And the booths are great for corralling antsy toddlers who are also anti-high chair. But there are high chairs too. When you sit down, don’t look like a newbie and wait for a menu. The menu is posted on the wall. Except for the Kids’ Menu, which will be on the table. As you can see, this is not a place for great variety of fare (you want that, try the new Maggie McFly’s in Glastonbury with the phonebook-size menu), but let’s face it, we’re all here for the cheeseburgers anyway, right?
The service was pretty fast, although we did go on the early side–I think we got there before noon–so I can’t say for sure what it’s like when the place is full. But the surrounding hustle and bustle makes for a very good distraction.
Here’s what we ordered: One coffee milkshake, served up old-school with the metal mixing cup. Yummm. One kids’ grilled cheese. I kinda wanted to eat that myself it looked so ooey-gooey. Fortunately, it came with a little wet-nap, which was perfect for dealing with both the ooey and the gooey post meal. An order of onion rings to share. Here’s Boo trying his first onion ring. I think the jury’s still out on these. Funny story. We watched him eat a few bites and marveled that our pickier than picky son, who doesn’t like french fries or tater tots or mashed potatoes, was actually eating onion rings. Then we realized he was pulling the onion out first and just eating the fried batter. Oh well.
And here we go….drumroll please…the famous crispy cheeseburger! Uh-huh. That’s ALL cheese. They take four slices of cheese and meet the corners in the center of the burger, then let the cheese crisp up on the griddle. And it’s delicious. Now, in doing my “research” (i.e. Googling) for this post, I came across a lot of individual reviews that poo-pooed the delectable crispy cheeseburger (of course, the vast majority were overwhelmingly positive), drawing unflattering comparisons to more upscale burger joints such as Plan B. Folks, this is not an upscale burger restaurant. If you want blue cheese or sprouts and avocado on your burger, then this is not the place to go. What you will find here is a good ol’ fashioned burger, hot off the griddle with a toasty bun. I wouldn’t say this place falls into the “cheap eats” category, as the cheeseburgers are around $5 each, and the sides cost extra. But the prices are certainly reasonable, which makes it a great family dining destination.
And then there is the ice cream. That alone is worth the trip. I wasn’t quite sure what size sundae to order, so I picked the small, figuring it’d be enough to share. Just be warned, they could probably label this the “tiny sundae” and that would be more accurate. But it was actually the perfect size for Boo, with a couple bites left over for me and hubby.
One other very important tidbit, this place ONLY ACCEPTS CASH. Fortunately, I knew this beforehand because most days I’m lucky if I can find $2 in my wallet (I’ve been known to swipe my card to buy a pack of gum). Don’t despair if you forget, though. I was happy to see that they do have an ATM located at the back of the restaurant near the restrooms. I am sure that comes in handy often.
Speaking of the restrooms, they are individual restrooms and I know that the women’s room has a changing station. I feel like I peeked in the men’s room and didn’t see one, but I didn’t write it down and now my memory is fuzzy.
After lunch we zipped up the road to the very nearby Time Machine Hobby Shop for a quick visit with the model trains. The main attraction–the giant train layout–opens at 1:00 p.m. (every 1st and 3rd Sunday of the month), so the timing was perfect.
A little lunch, some tiny trains, and another day successfully rescued from the brink of tantrum disaster with a fun outing 🙂
840 Middle Turnpike East, Manchester, CT
Get directions here (to the location above):
Monday-Saturday, 7:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. (serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner)
Sunday, 10:30 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. (no breakfast; serving lunch and dinner only)
Tips & Things to Bring:
- BRING CASH! But there is also an ATM on the premises if you forget. They don’t take any other forms of payment.
- Lots of convenient parking.
- If you walk in through the front door, to your right will be a giant and colorful wall mural, which may appeal to little eyes (if you can find a seat over there).
- High chairs available.
- Limited space for a stroller. You could probably bring a collapsible umbrella stroller and either slide it under your table or prop it up against the back wall.
- Take-out available, including containers of their famous ice cream.
- Go for an early lunch to avoid a wait, especially on the weekends. On a Sunday, we left around 12:45 p.m. and we passed quite a line waiting for tables on our way out.
- Ignore the calories and order the cheeseburger! C’mon, you know you want to 🙂
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