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Blue Plate Special

Lunch at the Foxtown

  • Recorder/Paul Franz<br/>Pulled Pork topped with slaw and Very Berry Cobbler at the Foxtown Diner in Shelburne Falls

    Recorder/Paul Franz
    Pulled Pork topped with slaw and Very Berry Cobbler at the Foxtown Diner in Shelburne Falls

  • Recorder/Paul Franz<br/>Lynn Black with Very Berry Cobbler at Foxtown Diner

    Recorder/Paul Franz
    Lynn Black with Very Berry Cobbler at Foxtown Diner

  • Recorder/Paul Franz<br/>Making the slaw at the Foxtown Diner

    Recorder/Paul Franz
    Making the slaw at the Foxtown Diner

  • Recorder/Paul Franz<br/>Pulled Pork topped with slaw and Very Berry Cobbler at the Foxtown Diner in Shelburne Falls
  • Recorder/Paul Franz<br/>Lynn Black with Very Berry Cobbler at Foxtown Diner
  • Recorder/Paul Franz<br/>Making the slaw at the Foxtown Diner

The Foxtown Diner was buzzing when photographer Paul Franz and I visited the eatery on Bridge Street in Shelburne Falls in the early afternoon a couple of weeks ago.

The lunch crowd was happily munching the day’s special, and one regular customer (who wished to remain anonymous) was slowly perusing The New York Times while he waited for berry cobbler to come out of the oven.

Presiding over the chaos with a smile was owner Judy Grader. Grader purchased the restaurant almost two years ago after working there for 11 years. “Before that I was a hairdresser for 22 years,” she informed me, “but I always loved food.

“My mother cooked. My father cooked. My grandmother was a wonderful baker. I took a part time job here, and I just ended up loving it.”

Grader has made a few changes to the restaurant, a fixture in Shelburne Falls for decades. She cleaned up the walls and decorated them with vintage food signs and tins. And she changed her work home’s name from the Foxtown Coffee Shop to the Foxtown Diner to distinguish it from other local coffeehouses and to indicate that it served full meals.

But she hasn’t changed the eatery’s food profile. It still serves classic, wholesome American fare in reasonable, generous portions. Grader and her twin sister, Lynn Black, who assists her, have expanded the menu. Daily lunch specials and weekend breakfast specials have proven particularly popular with customers.

Asked what she likes best about the Foxtown, Grader explained that she loves the variety in her clientele. Early in the morning “the guys” (older male regular customers) line up outside the door, which opens at 5 a.m.

Lunch sees more women eating, as well as couples, drawn by the food as well as “the gossip and the talk.” Weekends (the restaurant is open on Saturdays from 5 a.m. to 6 p.m.) welcome lots of families to the Foxtown.

Grader’s least favorite part of her job is the hours. “It’s hard getting up at three in the morning,” she said. “Once I get up, I’m fine.”

Lynn Black, who does much of the diner’s baking, agreed with her sister that the customers are the best part of working at the Foxtown. “I like being able to laugh and joke with them.”

The customers are so treasured that once a year Grader organizes a Customer Appreciation Day during which she takes regulars on a field trip.

She and her sister move smoothly and swiftly between the grill and serving area behind the counter and the small kitchen in the back of the diner. “You have to be organized in such small quarters,” said Grader.

The small quarters house a lot of family members. Grader’s children work at the restaurant, as does a niece. She calls the couple of non-blood relatives who work there “my other children.”

Despite the family atmosphere, Grader is clearly in charge. “She can have all the headaches of owning this place,” her sister said with a laugh. “I’m fine with that. I just do what I’m told.”

The two prepared a classic summer lunch for Paul Franz and me — pulled pork (which Grader called “super easy”) and colorful coleslaw on a toasted roll, with berry cobbler for dessert.

FOXTOWN PULLED PORK

WITH COLESLAW

Serves 12 generously.

for the pork:

4 pounds pork tenderloin

1 16-ounce bottle root beer (plus a little more if needed)

1 18-ounce bottle (maybe a little more) Sweet Baby Ray’s barbecue sauce (or the sauce of your choice)

for the coleslaw:

1/4 head green cabbage

1/4 head purple cabbage

2 medium carrots

salt and pepper to taste

Mrs. Dash original seasoning blend to taste

1/4 cup red-wine vinegar

1/2 cup mayonnaise (plus additional mayonnaise as needed)

Place the pork in a slow cooker and cover it with the root beer. Cook on high heat for 6 to 8 hours, or until the meat pulls apart freely. Cool the pork and shred it with a fork or tongs. Stir in enough barbecue sauce to make it nicely moist. Return the meat to the slow cooker and keep it warm until you are ready to serve it.

Next, make the coleslaw. Shred the vegetables. Combine them in a large bowl, and stir in the other ingredients. Adjust seasonings to taste.

To make sandwiches, toast both sides of buns; then fill them with lots of pulled pork and a little coleslaw.

FOXTOWN VERY BERRY COBBLER

for the fruit mixture:

4 to 6 cups berries (Lynn Black used strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries the day I visited)

1/2 cup sugar

1/3 cup water

1 tablespoon cornstarch

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 dash nutmeg

for the biscuit topping:

3 cups flour

6 tablespoons sugar

4-1/2 teaspoons baking powder

3/4 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup shortening

3 eggs, slightly beaten

3/4 cup milk

1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Prepare the fruit. Combine all its ingredients in a large saucepan. Cook and stir over medium heat until the mixture comes to a boil and then thickens. Stir and simmer for 1 minute. Pour into an 8-inch square baking dish. Place the in the oven, with a cookie sheet on the rack below to catch any overflow.

For the biscuit topping combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Cut in the shortening until coarse crumbs form. Combine the eggs, milk, and vanilla. Stir them into the dry mixture just until it moistens. Remove the baking dish from the oven. Drop the biscuit mixture in 8 to 10 mounds on top of the hot fruit.

Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown. Serve warm with cream or ice cream.

This recipe serves 8, although the Foxtown would use it to serve four VERY generous helpings.

Writer and singer Tinky Weisblat lives in Hawley. She is the author of “The Pudding Hollow Cookbook” (www.merrylion.com) and the forthcoming “Pulling Taffy” (www.pullingtaffy.com.).

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