Lunch 2/20/23

Onion, mushroom, and Swiss burger

We’ve had a bunch of days in the 50s and low 60s lately, not typical for February in Massachusetts, but you will never hear me complain about mild winter weather. Yesterday was one of those days, and a holiday as well, so we took a ride down to Concord to have some lunch and stroll around the downtown area. Concord does get a fair amount of tourists, though not on the scale of Salem, and downtown is a collection of shops that cater to locals and tourists alike.

Our favorite place for lunch in Concord is Helen’s. It opened in 1936, but operated as a Brigham’s Ice Cream parlor for many years, until Brigham’s closed many of their retail locations. The family of the original owners re-opened it as Helen’s about 20 years ago. Like Brigham’s and other similar family restaurants of yore, they offer sandwiches and burgers, ice cream, coffee, and such. And they have kept one of Brigham’s signature menu items, the raspberry lime rickey.

I ordered an onion, mushroom, and Swiss burger, and Bridget had a tuna melt. It’s a 1/3 lb. patty, which in my estimation is the best size for a hamburger. The patty is fairly flat, but not really what these days is called a “smashburger”. It is topped with freshly grilled mushrooms and onions and Swiss cheese, as the name implies. It also came with lettuce and several slices of tomato – I really don’t like lettuce and tomato on a burger, so I removed them and ate the tomato slices on their own. The lettuce got left on the plate, as it deserves. The fries were nice and fresh, but I got a lot of little nubby ones on my plate.

As always, the restaurant was slammed when we got there, although our arrival timed perfectly with a table opening up, so we didn’t have to wait in a line like we usually do. By the time we were done, though, there were several groups of people milling about outside waiting for a table. There aren’t a ton of dining options in downtown Concord, so I think most people end up at Helen’s. The waitstaff work their butts off keeping things coming and going from the kitchen. Since our last visit, they have finally given into modern convenience and now accept debit/credit card payments. It was always a hassle to have enough cash on hand, and there is also only one ATM in downtown Concord.

After lunch, we browsed through a British goods store that is just a couple of doors down, and then made our usual visit to the Concord Book Shop, which is one of the best anywhere. I’d hoped to hit up the cheese shop, but they are closed on Mondays, as was the little chocolate-and-nut shop. Ah, well.

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