It is easy to pin the label “neighborhood restaurant” on a dining spot, and in fact you could say that nearly every restaurant not within a mall, major shopping center, or office park could be called this—at least one chain is known for using this term even though many of its locations are nowhere near any neighborhoods. Some eateries, however, are true neighborhood spots that attract locals day after day and week after week while the rest of the world doesn’t even know of their existence, and Ashley’s in Braintree fits this description to a T. And in a town known in part for a huge mall and lots of commercial development, it makes this tiny greasy spoon even more appealing in some ways.
Braintree has several “village centers,” including Braintree Square, Weymouth Landing (which is at the Braintree/Weymouth line), and South Braintree Square, which is home to Ashley’s and a number of other independent dining spots and stores. Like most of the storefronts in South Braintree Square, Ashley’s is very small, and it doesn’t take long for lines to form out the door, especially on weekend mornings. Although it resides in a narrow space, it goes back quite a ways, so it has more tables than you might expect. As all good diners and breakfast joints seem to have, there is a good amount of counter seating off to the left where old codgers are often seen reading the paper (and muttering under their breath if the local sports teams aren’t doing so well).
You would think that an old-fashioned neighborhood breakfast and lunch spot such as Ashley’s would focus on familiar dishes, and while this is true to an extent, the menu here is quite long and features a few items that range from interesting to head-scratching (but in a good way). Mixed in among the waffles, pancakes, omelets, and bacon and eggs are such breakfast items as a stuffed French toast, which looks a bit like a grilled cheese sandwich but is in fact two slices of French toast with sweet cream cheese in between; a breakfast skillet that includes eggs, cheese, bacon, tomatoes, and home fries in a white-hot plate; a Portuguese omelet with linguica, peppers, and onions; and a New England Patriots pride omelet, which includes hot Italian sausage, steak, and cheese. The lunch menu at Ashley’s includes the usual burgers, hot dogs, BLTs, and tuna melts, but it also features an Italian sausage with spinach, American chop suey, liver and onions (which is what some might call a “generational dish”), and a steak marsala. Prices for most of the meals at Ashley’s are extremely low, with some items being paid for with pocket change, while service is about as quick and efficient as you will find anywhere.
Every community should have a dining spot like Ashley’s; indeed, there is something special about a place where workers and customers often talk to each other on a first-name basis while also being welcoming to people outside the neighborhood and first-timers. There are neighborhood restaurants and then there are true neighborhood restaurants, and this little eatery most definitely fits into the latter category.
ASHLEY’S. 916 WASHINGTON ST., BRAINTREE. ASHLEYSBREAKFAST.COM