In the Mood for Moody's
Maine Maple Sunday was a good enough reason to drive up to the Goranson Farm on Merrymeeting Bay in Dresden for this wonderful farm’s maple day festivities. I like maple syrup well enough, and I have untapped jars of it at home, which I occasionally use in a pie or baked bean recipe.
But in the back of my mind this Sunday outing was more an excuse to take the 20 mile detour to Waldoboro to have lunch at Moody’s. Yes, it’s Maine’s most classic diner, an icon of the genre and still very much a local haunt and lure for summer tourists.
At any given time the place is generally filled with regulars who’ve been going there for years for fried clams, Johnny cake and split pea soup, liver and onions or the elusive seasonal smelts. Their desserts are a mainstay, too. Those big-crusted, chewy fruit and pudding pies to mile high meringues, slabs of cake with peanut butter frosting and the ubiquitous trio of puddings--Indian, grapenut and tapioca--are hard to pass up.
I like to think each is its own invention, serving home style fare from the short-order cook’s repertoire. I love the fish cakes and beans at the Maine Diner, but you should also try the Rockland Café’s version. Cole Farm's cole slaw is as good as its reputation. The A1 mixes it up with standard diner grub with a counterpoint of more rarefied dishes.
Most of these menus ignore modern diet trends. Except for the A1, sustainably raised or organic doesn’t enter the lexicon. You can bet that the hundreds of eggs used each day for Moody’s breakfast specials with all the fixings for under $5 per serving are not from pastured, free-ranging heritage birds.
If I’m there for breakfast I usually have their blueberry pancakes. They’re far from being the best in the world. But the blueberries are the local wild variety, and the pancakes are as thick as a pile of dollar bills.
For Sunday lunch, I chose the chicken croquettes with mashed potatoes, peas, gravy and the house biscuit. The croquettes are an old-fashioned dish harking back to the heyday of the famous Howard Johnson’s version. They’re pretty tasty with big chunks of white and dark meat surrounded by a stuffing like filling. The gravy is wallpaper paste thick, but the mashed potatoes are real and flavorful, the frozen peas are not cooked to death and Moody’s biscuits are still winners.
My friend had meatballs and spaghetti, their version being as uninspiring as American chopped suey, another palpable invention of short-order cookery.
Sometimes the croquettes haven’t been cooked enough, coming from the deep freeze to the deep fryer and still cold inside. No problem. They’re put in the microwave, which heats them up but leaves the otherwise crispy croquette soggy.
I’ve frequented Moody’s for probably 20 years, and many of the same waitresses are still there, literally flinging the hash like connoisseurs, wearing their lives on their sleeves and being as sociable or snappish as they like. Sometimes the service is slow. Even on a quiet day, your waitress seems missing in action until she returns, arms carrying those heavy diner dishes, and all is well again.
John Golden makes no bones about sharing his opinion. If you'd like to share yours, email him at email@example.com.