A few weeks ago, it looked like this year could be a bust for fall foliage in New England and that leaf peepers may want to wait until 2017. But whether it was the recent heavy rains or the string of mild days, it appears that this prediction can be thrown out the window because colors are now brilliant in southern and central New England. One question that often comes up: What are some good restaurants to go to while checking out the foliage? Ten such places are listed below, all 90 minutes or less from the Boston area and all in the heart of scenic areas for the ever-changing colors.
Rye Tavern, Plymouth
What better way to view fall foliage than along a tree-shaded dirt road? Well, you don’t have to go all the way to New Hampshire or Vermont to do this, as Old Sandwich Road in the Pinehills area of Plymouth is an unpaved lane that feels like it is 100 miles or more from Boston. And the Rye Tavern resides along this old road in a cozy 18th-century structure that comes complete with exposed beams, fireplaces, and nothing but woods and fields surrounding it. The focus here is on New American and classic American fare in an upscale but casual environment, and it is a perfect spot for a date or a special occasion.
RYE TAVERN. 517 OLD SANDWICH RD., PLYMOUTH. RYETAVERN.COM
Johnson’s Drive-In, Groton
Located on one of the most scenic roads in eastern Massachusetts (Route 225), this roadside restaurant is a classic, offering burgers, dogs, fried chicken, and ice cream to customers, who sit at wooden picnic tables inside the place or, on mild fall days, outside in the shadows of a wooded hill. Half the fun of Johnson’s (which is also known as Johnson’s Restaurant and Dairy Bar) is getting there, as it sits in the heart of apple country and also has an abundance of maple trees whose leaves turn brilliant shades of red, orange, and yellow this time of year.
JOHNSON’S DRIVE-IN. 164 BOSTON RD., GROTON. JOHNSONSRESTAURANTANDDAIRYBAR.COM
Vanilla Bean Cafe, Pomfret, CT
If you own a motorcycle, chances are you know about this funky dining spot in the Quiet Corner of Connecticut a short distance south of the Massachusetts line. Located not too far from Worcester and less than an hour from the western suburbs of Boston, the Bean certainly feels a world away in an affluent little hilltop town with nearby views that look a lot like the farm country of Vermont; any approach to the cafe is a gorgeous one with great foliage everywhere. The Vanilla Bean is a good place for a light meal and/or a dessert, and it also serves some decent beers, while at night it features local acts for those who are looking for live music.
VANILLA BEAN CAFE. 450 DEERFIELD RD., POMFRET, CT. THEVANILLABEANCAFE.COM
The Commons Lunch, Little Compton, RI
It is no secret that Rhode Island has some tremendous regional foods, including johnny cakes, calamari, and clam cakes, and this little out-of-the-way place has all of this and more in a peaceful setting in one of the most picturesque towns in all of New England. Just outside the door is a village green complete with white church spire overlooking it, and the surrounding area is a unique blend of farmland, wooded hills and valleys, and ocean. Mainly a local spot because it is so far off the beaten path, the Commons Lunch is a great alternative for diners who try to avoid chains and touristy spots, though granted, this little section of Rhode Island doesn’t have much of either.
THE COMMONS LUNCH. 48 COMMONS, LITTLE COMPTON, RI.
Aprile’s European Restaurant, Chelmsford
If the name “Aprile’s European Restaurant” sounds a bit familiar to you, perhaps it is because it has a connection to a long-gone dining spot in Boston’s North End that was known in part for its outstanding pizza. Some of the old recipes are from that Hanover Street eatery, including, yes, the pizza, which certainly does taste a lot like that of the old European. So what is this place that’s in the outer suburbs of Boston doing on a list of restaurants to go to while on fall foliage trips? Well, it is located in a beautifully restored mill building on a river and at the peak of the foliage season, the views from the windows are pretty memorable—and it is also just off Route 3, so for those traveling to New Hampshire to check out the leaves, it is an easy stop along the way.
APRILE’S EUROPEAN RESTAURANT. 133 HARVARD AVE., CHELMSFORD. APRILESEUROPEANRESTAURANT.COM
Monponsett Inn, Halifax
It seems that too often, people go west or north to do some leaf peeping, while not realizing that some really beautiful routes for fall foliage—including Routes 6A, 105, and 58—can be found south of Boston. And it is this last road that includes a classic American restaurant in a particularly scenic location, perched above a lake out back while also facing a second lake across the street. The Monponsett Inn isn’t actually an inn, but is instead a family-friendly dining and drinking spot that is also used for functions, and because of its gorgeous location, it is a very popular spot for weddings.
MONPONSETT INN. 550 MONPONSETT ST., HALIFAX. MONPONSETTINN.COM
The Lobster Pool, Rockport
The North Shore has some incredible scenery, and the looping, meandering section of Route 127 on Cape Ann has some of the best in the area, including during the fall when the reds, yellows, and oranges of the trees contrast with the deep blue ocean around nearly every corner. There aren’t many restaurants on this road once you leave the centers of Rockport and Gloucester, making the Lobster Pool—which is located right on the Rockport/Gloucester line—a particularly popular spot for hungry travelers. One bonus is that the eatery sits just south of the beautiful Halibut Point State Park, so if the foliage/ocean views at the Lobster Pool aren’t enough for you, it’s a very short drive next door for some equally great scenery.
THE LOBSTER POOL. 329 GRANITE ST., ROCKPORT. LOBSTERPOOLRESTAURANT.COM
Parker’s Maple Barn, Mason, NH
A rite of passage for some in the spring and for others in the fall, this combination restaurant/gift shop/sugar house is a must this time of year when New Hampshire’s “Currier and Ives Country” explodes in color. Located on a winding, narrow, and hilly road in the middle of the woods a bit north of the Massachusetts line, Parker’s is a very rustic spot that is known mainly for its hearty New England breakfasts, with pancakes, waffles, and French toast being popular choices here, though the ribs and turkey dinner at lunchtime are big hits as well.
PARKER’S MAPLE BARN. 1316 BROOKLINE RD., MASON, NH. PARKERSMAPLEBARN.COM
Pickity Place, Mason, NH
Staying in the little town of Mason for a bit, this nearly impossible-to-find spot high up in the beautiful hills west of Parker’s is quite a bit different from that place; while Parker’s has almost a Wild West feel to it, Pickity Place is rather peaceful and laid-back, with a garden center, a gift shop that has almost a New Age feel, and a restaurant that features a gourmet five-course lunch that changes each month. The eatery offers three seatings each day (at 11:30 am, 12:45 pm, and 2 pm) and includes dishes using ingredients that are grown in the eatery’s own garden.
PICKITY PLACE. 248 NUTTING HILL RD., MASON, NH. PICKITYPLACE.COM
The Marshside, East Dennis
Route 6A was mentioned earlier as a great road to hit for fall foliage, and it really is tough to think of many other routes in New England that are as stunning as this one when the leaves change. And just off Route 6A is this casual and slightly upscale spot that features seafood and New American fare, along with views from its porch and dining room that are tremendous any time of year. As you can tell by its name, Marshside is indeed located alongside a marshy area just south of Cape Cod Bay, and some of the window seats at this restaurant have mind-blowing views that will definitely give your camera a good workout.
THE MARSHSIDE. 28 BRIDGE ST., EAST DENNIS. THEMARSHSIDE.COM