Where to: Town Meeting in Lexington.
Why: Lunch and emotion.
The back story: I didn’t expect to drive under a canopy of American flags for lobster fritters, but that’s what I found myself doing on Veterans Day. I was en route to Town Meeting, the newish restaurant at the very quaint Inn at Hastings Park, a few blocks from Lexington’s village green. Chef Michael Arnold (formerly at Blantyre in the Berkshires) launched a to-go lunch menu in September, and it’s classic New England: hot buttered lobster rolls, clam chowder, calamari. Since my remote options have been reduced to cereal and peanut butter sandwiches for the most part, I thought I’d give it a try.
There’s a certain irony in sampling a to-go menu from a restaurant whose name conveys togetherness, but such is life right now, and so I felt a bit glum when setting out for my meal. I hadn’t been inside a hotel since February. I hadn’t “met” with anyone outside my bubble in just as long.
And yet, what was this along Massachusetts Avenue? Traffic? For months now, I had crisscrossed Boston and its suburbs with alarming ease. Now, somehow, I was idling behind a line of cars straight out of “American Graffiti.” Soon enough, I was pausing at a crosswalk to make way for a fellow in a tri-cornered hat. Had I begun some kind of bizarre, pandemic-induced hallucination? What was going on here?
I rumbled along a street lined with kids waving flags, parents applauding, cars honking. Of course. It was a Veterans Day parade, and I had ended up in the vintage car procession. Oh, dear. My green Subaru with an elementary school bumper sticker didn’t quite fit in, but people were shouting and cheering nonetheless. I honked and waved back. I’d assumed that all parades — that any form of togetherness, optimism, or enthusiasm — had been canceled for the moment. Not so. Not here in Lexington. I entered the hotel to grab my food with a pep in my step, passing happy groups eating on the wraparound porch, waving to the cars rattling by.
What to eat: Lobster fritters ($16), served with red pepper jam and basil aioli, are worth any amount of vehicular humiliation. The red pepper jelly tastes more like spicy maple syrup, and you will want to lick every droplet from the thimble. The Menemsha lobster is fresh and sweet but almost beside the point. A house burger ($18) comes with lots of super-sharp cheddar, a tangle of house-made pickles, and caramelized onions on a fluffy brioche bun. The burger is a pleasure to eat — juicy, heavy, unquestionably bad for you — but even better are the fries scented with truffle oil. Truffle fries are kind of a cliché at this point, but who cares? They smell and taste delicious, especially when your usual lunchtime fare comes on Wonder bread.
Another indulgence: a hot buttered — and they do mean buttered — lobster roll ($24) with plenty of tail and claw meat. (Those who prefer mayonnaise can get a tarragon-infused cold option.) Even spinach salad ($13) is fattened up with a warm bacon vinaigrette and shards of parmesan.
The only sour note? Macaroni gratin ($9), which suffered from takeout syndrome: I opened the package to find a sad little spoonful of lonesome noodles. But no matter; a burger alone can be split for lunch and dinner.
The takeaway: I drove back home with the scent of truffles overtaking the car, honking and waving at the masked masses once more. This is probably not how our Founding Fathers intended it, but it was reassuring to know that some traditions are hard to break.
2027 Massachusetts Ave., Lexington, 781-301-6655, www.innathastingspark.com