Food & dining

Insider: The only prison restaurant open to the public in the country

To eat lunch at this restaurant you should arrive around 11:30. There are no reservations and the room fills quickly. You might have to wait for a table — there are only 12. It’s not a logical place for a lunch spot. The eatery, with its minimal decor and plastic tablecloths, is the Fife and Drum at the Northeastern Correctional Center in Concord. The pre-release and minimum-security prison sits on 300 acres of farmland. Much of the produce and herbs the restaurant uses come from its own gardens. The meals are made from scratch, well prepared, portions generous, and desserts are delicious. The prix-fixe menu costs $3.21. The Fife and Drum offers culinary training for inmates, a program run for 22 years by Eddie Jacobs, a trained instructor and former restaurateur. It’s the only prison restaurant open to the public in the country. Inmates work as the cooks, bakers, servers, busboys, and dishwashers. After release, Jacobs says, some go on to good restaurant jobs. A former inmate is on a Food Network show. One afternoon, a menu choice included a cup of beef vegetable soup; a garden salad; cranberry-and-apple-stuffed chicken breasts; sautéed zucchini; and a heaping mound of rice. The salad tomatoes and zucchini were freshly picked from the vegetable gardens run by the prison’s horticultural program. Dessert is a juicy blueberry peach tartlet; the lattice top crust perfectly weaved together. Other days on the menu are scrumptious red velvet cake bites with a cherry surprise in the center. It’s a recipe created by one of the inmate bakers. 976 Barretts Mill Road, Concord. Lunch is served from 11:30 to 12:45. Stop at the front desk to give your ID and sign in.

ANN TRIEGER KURLAND

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