Sunday, December 23, 2012

French Fry Diary 450: Allen's Clam Bar

Allen's Clam Bar, on Route 9 in New Gretna, New Jersey used to be my late father's favorite restaurant. Now, keep in mind, my father was a man who did not go out to restaurants. Once he was retired, he went to McDonald's in the morning for coffee and gossip with the other old men, and would grudgingly accompany the family out when my sister from Nebraska would swoop in once a year - but other than that, he was not a restaurant guy.

My father was a woodsman and a hunter, a farmer and a country boy. I could see how this place in the middle of nowhere would appeal to him. And as I accompanied him on many instructional and fun walks and rides in the woods, I can easily see how he would enjoy the one to two hour drive through the Pine Barrens to get to Allen's.

He and my mom would go there on summer weekends to enjoy the air, and the ride - and I suppose also the food and the ambiance. I had the opportunity to go to Allen's twice. The first time I think was my dad trying to show me what he thought a 'real' restaurant was like, and second was the truly painful experience of the parents taking me and a girlfriend to a 'real' restaurant. I miss my parents a lot now that they're gone, but even in hindsight, this latter trip holds no joy.

Allen's Clam Bar is a place out of time. If I recall correctly, and this is going back nearly three decades, the place had a dirt parking lot and a wood floor porch. The inside was more of a small but empty general store out of the 1920s that someone had awkwardly set up tables and chairs in. Cramped and dusty, although not on the tables, I was greeted by a very simple menu, printed on the placemat. As I recall, the waitresses also exude a rustic Piney charm - take that any way you want to.

The menu consisted of a variety of seafood items, most of them fried, that all came with two sides, the only one of which this catastrophically picky eater would eat was the favorite fried food. On both trips I got the fried scallops and two sides of French fries.

Each of my orders - the scallops, the fries, and the fries - came on a big paper plate, so I had three piled high paper plates. I remember that the scallops may as well have been Mrs. Paul's (nothing wrong with that, I love Mrs. Paul's scallops) were it not for their large size. The fries were definitely from the grocer's freezer (regular or crinkle cut, although pics online may indicate they're now natural cuts) and deep fried in the same oil as everything else, so they had that unique fishy tinge - not necessarily a bad thing.

Allen's Clam Bar is still there, but I haven't been back. I understand why my dad liked it, and I'm sure my folks had good times there. I found some pics of the place online. It doesn't seem like it's changed much. I don't remember the shark though. Maybe I'll get back there someday, and have some fries for my dad.

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