Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Slow down for good food, free books and beautiful birds

Inside The Traveler Restaurant, which is is near the Connecticut-Massachusetts border, you won't be able to hear the incessant roar of trucks and other traffic on nearby Route 84, an interstate highway.

The best seats in the house are in front of a plate-glass window with a view of bird feeders, a lake and a two-lane country road. Customers who order a meal are entitled to take home three donated books, which fill shelves in the dining room.


If there is anything worse than the sameness of traveling on interstate highways, it's the food service -- an endless procession of McDonald's, Nathan's Famous, Sbarro and similar fast-food chains.

Route 84 in Connecticut doesn't even have service plazas, but not far from the roaring interstate, you'll find a unique place to stop, The Traveler Restaurant.

Here, you can fortify yourself for the rest of the journey with good food, free books and watching the tail feathers of birds instead of staring ahead at tail lights.  

Shelves of books in the dining room, above, and just inside the entrance, below.

'Books and Eats'

On Tuesday, as we drove back to New Jersey from West Newtown, Mass., I was discussing the food options off of Route 84 south with a companion.

He recalled stopping at a place he called "Books and Eats" a decade ago, and told me to look for a sign.

But not seeing any, we took the exit for Union, Conn., and crossed to the other side of the highway to find The Traveler Restaurant with a big sign, "Food and Books."

One of the many author photos.

A seat near the birds

The dining room was empty when we walked in around 4 on Tuesday afternoon, and the waitress seated us at a table with a view of three bird feeders.

Soon, we stared in fascination at the goldfinches, cowbirds and the others that swooped in to eat at the feeders or peck at the feed on the ground.

One bird my friend couldn't identify was all black with white/red streaks on its side feathers.

I was so caught up in taking photos of birds I forgot to do the same for the food.

A goldfinch, above right and below.

One poster, above, says the restaurant is open 7 days, but another suggests it is closed on Mondays, below.

A full menu and specials

The specials board near the register listed tacos with fresh haddock, a Gorgonzola Burger and other dishes.

I was going to try the tacos, but the waitress said flour tortillas are used and instead of chopped onion and cilantro, coleslaw is served with them.

I ordered the fresh spinach salad without the chicken and bacon listed on the menu ($8.99). Coffee with 2% milk was $1.79 with free refills.

My friend had Pesto Pasta with grilled vegetables and garlic bread ($13.99).

The pesto was made in house, the waitress said.

He also ordered a wedge of carrot cake to go ($4.99).

Free books to go

If you are in a rush after your meal, you can grab three shrink-wrapped paperbacks near the door. Books also are for sale on the lower level.

The three books I took home are:

"Chesapeake" by James A. Michener, "Sybil" by Flora Rheta Schreiber and "High and Mighty," a 2002 book on the dangers of SUVs.

The Traveler Restaurant, 1257 Buckley Highway, Union, Conn.; 1-860-684-4920.

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