A Tank Away

More than history in Sturbridge

Josh Newman behind the raw bar at Sturbridge Seafood.
Josh Newman behind the raw bar at Sturbridge Seafood. (Ellen Albanese for the boston Globe)

This town’s reputation as a center for preserving and celebrating New England history is well deserved. But there’s more to Sturbridge than Old Sturbridge Village. Leave the interstates behind and you’ll discover historic and modern lodgings, working artisans and offbeat shops, and restaurants to please the most discerning foodie.


Old Sturbridge Inn and Reeder Family Lodges (371 Main St., 508-347-5056,, $119-$199), adjacent to Old Sturbridge Village, offer the historic ambiance of the 10-room Oliver Wight House, built in 1789 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places, as well as 29 modern lodging units, each with a private entrance. At the Wight House, check out the expansive mural depicting life in earlier times that wraps around the entrance hall and continues up the stairs; it’s original to the house. At the Publick House (277 Main St., 508-347-3313, rooms and suites in the historic inn, dating from 1771, run $99-$289; rooms in the modern motor lodge, which overlooks the outdoor pool and woods, run $69-$149. At Comfort Inn & Suites Colonial (215 Charlton Road, 508-347-3306,, $125-$205) rates include a hot buffet breakfast, and there’s an indoor pool. You’ll also find a range of rooms and suites and an indoor pool at the Sturbridge Host Hotel & Conference Center (366 Main St., 508-347-7393,, $109-$189).


A quiet revolution in the town’s restaurant scene is under way, and Table 3 Restaurant Group is on the front lines. Owned by brothers and West Brookfield natives Bill and Michael Lyons, Table 3 has opened three new restaurants in Sturbridge in the past four years, all overseen by executive chef Enrico Giovanello. Avellino (502 Main St., 508-347-2321,, dinner $13-$29), on the site of the former Whistling Swan, is smart and contemporary, with warm Tuscan colors and a gleaming open kitchen. The menu is upscale Italian. Above Avellino is Duck (502 Main St., 508-347-2321, www.theduck, $10-$33) a more casual venue with a sunken bar, and high, beamed ceilings (it was originally a barn on the property). Just down the road is the group’s third restaurant, Cedar Street Grille (12 Cedar St., 508-347-5800,, $6-$35), which specializes in tapas and small plates and offers lunch, dinner, and Sunday brunch. Table 3 has also opened a function facility and catering business and plans to add a cooking school and cafe next year. Another newcomer that’s packing them in is Sturbridge Seafood (376 Main St., 508-347-2600,, lunch $8-$16, dinner $16-$42). Our waitress told us the chef buys fresh fish every day, then builds the menu on the daily catch. Oysters from the raw bar, fish tacos, and fish and chips are big sellers. Old favorite B.T.’s Smokehouse (392 Main St., 508-347-3188,, $7-$23) frequently turns up on lists of the best barbecue spots in New England; try to save room for the “bread puddin” with bourbon caramel sauce.



Iridescent vases at Sturbridge Pottery fired using the raku process.
Iridescent vases at Sturbridge Pottery fired using the raku process.(Ellen Albanese for the boston globe)

Old Sturbridge Village (1 Old Sturbridge Village Road, 508-347-3362, 800-733-1830,, $24 adults, $8 ages 3-17), a living history museum that replicates New England life in the 1830s, is getting all decked out for its 12th annual Christmas by Candlelight celebration Dec. 5-7, 12-14, and 19-21, from 4 to 9 p.m. each day. Village historians will share the origins of holiday traditions such as roasted chestnuts, Christmas trees, and sugar plums. Local and professional musicians will perform. And visitors can vote for their favorite gingerbread house, craft a tin ornament, and tell Santa what’s on their holiday wish lists. (The village will be closed during the day Dec. 1-25 and return to its daytime schedule Dec. 26.) At Mole Hollow Candles (208 Charlton Road, 800-445-6653,, you can watch candle makers hand-dipping the taper candles for which the company is known. Tours run 15-30 minutes, “depending on timing and interest,” said David Dunn, whose family has operated the business since 1969. Made with beeswax or food-grade paraffin and cotton wicks, the candles burn slowly with minimum drip, Dunn said. Don’t miss the “factory seconds” room in the store. Master potters Gary and Ann Malone create, display, and sell their work at Sturbridge Pottery (99 New Boston Road, 508-347-9763, Some of the loveliest pieces in the sunny gallery are made using the raku process, which results in an iridescent metallic glaze in striking colors. Ikebana vases, which hold just a few select stems, are also popular, Ann Malone said. There’s an extraordinary range of items at Sadie Green’s Curiosity Shop (283 Main St., 508-347-1449,, from jewelry to gourmet kitchen ware to glass wind chimes made of beer and liquor bottles.


Sadie Green’s Curiosity Shop on Main Street offers an array of items.
Sadie Green’s Curiosity Shop on Main Street offers an array of items. (Ellen Albanese for the boston globe)


The Stageloft Repertory Theater (450A Main St., 508-347-9005,, tickets $8-$18), performs a range of dramas, comedies, and musicals year round. The holiday classic “It’s a Wonderful Life” opens Dec. 5. You’ll find more than Hollywood’s current crop of movies at Cinemagic (100 Charlton Road, 508-347-3609, The cinema also presents cult classics and live feeds of the Metropolitan Opera. For live music, stop by Admiral T.J. O’Brien’s (407 Main St., 508-347-2838,, which hosts local musicians on Friday and Saturday nights.


Ellen Albanese can be reached at