263 West St
Berlin, MA 01503
I wanted to take a minute to write about the restaurant that Ben and I have been waiting to try since we moved here. The Train Stop is a little tavern-type eatery tucked in the woods next to some defunct (I think) train tracks. Once we got there, Ben and I realized that we had been there years earlier for the baby shower of his boss at the time. The previous meal had been a lunch, and we went for dinner, so we had a good feel for the place across the board.
The Train Stop, like most of the places I have entered since moving to Clinton, has been given several honors in the past few years from The Item, a local newspaper. The entrance is adorned with these computer print-out awards. The place is very dark, with tall, pew-like booths and several antique paintings. Rustic accessories are sprinkled over beams and shelves. When you enter, you face a small counter with a cash register; to your left is a bar with signs and mirrors, and additional seating. To your right is another small area with more booths.
We entered at 7:30 on a Wednesday evening, and it was a sad sight. There was one mother/son table finishing their meal, and two men dining. For a dinner rush, this felt disappointing. Still, it took a few minutes for anyone to realize that we had even come in, and when a waitress wandered out, working on tallying a bill, she smiled in our direction and had us wait
a few more minutes. Then she sat us down and gave us menus accompanied by a handwritten and photocopied scrawl of the nights specials. As a former waitress in mid-range formal restaurants, I was so far not impressed, but Ben was thrilled by our view of the tracks and the way we had the place to ourselves. The tall booths did offer some comfort and privacy, and the dark was somewhat cozy.
When we opened the menu, there was a range of price options. Sandwiches and sides were offered from $5.50-$9.95. Seafood, steaks, and Italian dishes were offered from $12.50-market prices for lobster and clams. There were beers and a comprehensive wine list, sodas and juices (no refills), and offerings from the bar. A range of appetizers were available, and delicious warm rolls were placed on our table as soon as our drinks were.
Ben ordered the New York Strip steak with mashed potatoes and rice. This simple meal was perfect for his palate, and he really enjoyed his dinner. I wanted to try some seafood, so I went for the fried calamari served with cocktail sauce and a side of the clam chowder. The servings of both were very generous, but the calamari could have used more time in the fryer, coming off as slightly mushy and definitely underseasoned. I didn’t finish hungry, but in all honesty, I didn’t feel satisfied, either.
Dining on a gift certificate from Ben’s mother, we decided to go for dessert. The dessert menu was well priced with many different offerings. I almost sprung for something called Banana Fritters, but at the last moment chose the Strawberry Shortcake. Ben tried the Homemade Brownie ala mode. Our desserts came, once again with large portions but sloppy delivery. My biscuit was stale and the whipped cream was from a can, not even formed into any gentle pile, but slopped over half-heartedly. Ben was happy with his brownie. I’m sensing a pattern here.
Basically, the place felt deflated. I know the economy is hard on this type of restaurant especially, but I felt like their depression seeped into their food and service. Ben and I were extra goofy in the empty restaurant, giggling and visiting each other in our seats, and we made our waitress crack a smile a few times, but I never felt like she was actually there.
I would think that in this climate, they would be fighting to make an impression that would warrant a return visit. This was not the case. While I felt bad and left a good tip, I know that I wouldn’t go back for a second meal. I’m going to keep looking for new local restaurants to try. I put money aside to treat myself and support restaurants in town, but I’m not going to throw my money away on a depressing night.