Revisiting the Connecticut Dairy Bar and Farm Diner
I was in my hometown of Windsor, Connecticut recently and I had the kind of craving that goes beyond food and deep into nostalgia. And in sharing this remembrance of things past, I’m hoping to get some help from any locals or restaurant historians who might know something about the breed of restaurants that I’ve only ever seen in my home state.
The restaurants were dairy bars and farm diners with names like A.C. Petersen and Shady Glen. A.C. Petersen still has one remaining branch in West Hartford, and Shady Glen, best known for their signature crispy cheeseburgers, lives on in Manchester. What they all typically shared was a menu of diner classics (burgers, onion rings, club sandwiches, etc.), an ice cream bar supplied by local farms, and a unique floor plan that positioned the booths and counter stools around a central service area where the drinks were dispensed and the ice cream was scooped. Most of them were also decorated with painted wall murals depicting idyllic rural landscapes.
But here, let me be more specific. The restaurant I recently revisited was the old A.C. Peterson’s, now known as Windsor Farms, in the Windsor Shopping Center on Route 159. After driving by this restaurant hundreds of times in the past twenty years, it occurred to me that it might be nice to return to where we used to celebrate dance recitals with ice cream sundaes and root beer.
It looked almost exactly the same, thankfully.
Even the original ice cream menu was still hanging from the ceiling…
…as were the original booths. If the producers of Mad Men are looking for a pristine period set to shoot a lunch scene, here’s the place.
They’ve even kept the old mural.
I ordered a patty melt, coleslaw on the side.
And for dessert, orange sherbet
Sometimes, you can go home again. Thanks for staying true, Windsor Farms.
Now I want to know more. Could these dairy bars really be unique to Connecticut? It seems unlikely. I’ d love to hear from Yankee readers on this, maybe compile a list of these wonderful old diners. There aren’t many of them left and they’re worth remembering.