Where: Westwood, Massachusetts
What: Ice cream and New England comfort food
Karma Points: It feels like summer here. Not just this summer, but every summer.
One of Boston’s charms is that in just a few miles of driving, you can be in what seems like a different world from the screeching brakes of subway trains and the dappled shadow of glass office towers.
Just 12 miles down Rte. 109 from Boston, passing first through Dedham and then through almost all of Westwood, the houses get more sparse and the trees more dense, a gentle curve opens on a little gem that has been serving ice cream for sixty years.
Bubbling Brook is only open during the summer months and it’s Today’s Special, our pick of a top eatery in eastern Massachusetts. As the cold begins to break in early spring, it becomes a low-key parlor game in the area towns like Medfield, Walpole and Dover as to when “The Brook” will be open for business.
The June day these pictures were taken, hours before the shop opened, the owner came over to the photographer with a smile and a handshake. “You have everything you need?” he asked, before he even knew why the camera was there. He introduced himself as Ed, said he liked the idea of having his little shop on the Internet for the world to see. He gave his last name, then demurred and asked that it not be posted: “I like to keep it low key.”
Ed has owned the shop for ten years, and is only the third owner in the 60 years it has been in business in this spot. The second owner ran it for the 20 years before Ed bought it. The whole conversation had a very 1952 feel about it.
The lines at the walk up windows are usually 5 to 10 deep on a summer night, and with good reason. They have soft-serve ice cream at the windows on the right, with the novel twist of flavored dips like butterscotch or cherry, which solidify into a sweet crust over the ice cream. They have a wide selection of hard ice cream and usually have a few specialty flavors.
The food inside is truly home-style. Lots of simple sandwiches with sides of fries, but they also do a surprisingly good job on fried seafood. Close your eyes while you are eating a Bubbling Brook clam plate and you might just be able to hear a seagull scream in the distance. Though being so close to a lousy intersection on 109, it might also be someone who needs a brake job. The dozen or more picnic tables spread out to enjoy ice cream are on a patch of lawn that curves behind the building up to the bank of the shallow stream that gives the shop its name.
And lest anyone be confused, the date on the front of the building is not the year it was founded, according to the owner. That is the year that Westwood broke off from a neighboring town and incorporated as an independent town.
The menu at Bubbling Brook is classic New England comfort food, featuring of course its famous ice cream, which comes in a variety of flavors that change often, such as Almond Joy, Banana, Frozen Pudding, Heavenly Hash, Coffee Heathbar Yogurt and classic flavors like orange sherbert. Their popular soft serve ice cream comes in flavors such as peanut butter or the new coconut, which you can try alone or swirl with lactose-free chocolate. They also offer old-fashioned sundaes and milk shakes, but in this part of the country, shakes are called frappes, and they offer extra thick frappes too. Another popular drink here is the raspberry lime ricky.
In addition to the ice cream, people enjoy the fried clam strips and whole belly clams and the standard hamburgers, hotdogs and onion rings. Or try the nightly specials or various club sandwiches such as the Traveler, which is American cheese, bacon, lettuce and tomato. So if you find yourself in this part of Massachusetts, stop by, support this authentic old-fashioned New England mom and pop eatery, and this area’s local economy and enjoy a little taste of New England.
- by David Traub