Driving in unfamiliar territory at lunchtime, I was famished and cruising for a place to grab a bite. Despite being on the alert for food, I would have missed a tiny gem of a take-out eatery if not for the sign. It wasn’t a brightly colored internally lit piece of plastic or beckoning twists of colored neon that caught my eye, but a rather large, rough cut wooden hot dog with a streak of mustard across the top and a phone number emblazoned on the bun. I made a hard, sudden turn into the next driveway without even having seen the restaurant.
Tammy’s is a tiny plywood shack painted a startling red and yellow and set back from State Route 32 in rural North Franklin, Connecticut. Without the giant hot dog it would be almost invisible from the road since it’s dwarfed by a large metal automotive repair shop immediately next door. A sign along Tammy’s roof justly boasts “Good Food . . . Fast,” but cheerful service and friendly customers are equal reasons to make a stop.
Tammy is a buxom blonde with an easy, welcoming manner and a smile to brighten the cloudiest day. Behind her at the order window was a tiny kitchen that with its stainless steel vent hood and other gleaming appliances was vaguely reminiscent of a diner. After gazing at a menu board offering classic roadside food ranging from steak bombs to chili dogs and sweet potato fries to onion rings, I ordered the kielbasa with kraut, a savory choice I didn’t regret.
Following some small talk about the weather and local politics I asked about the sign. She came upon it by accident, she said with a grin, when a customer who had it lying in his back yard offered it for $100. She wasn’t sure where it had originated, but speculated that the uniquely crafted tube steak had been used at another restaurant. “Best investment I ever made.”
When my sandwich arrived I grabbed a seat at one of several picnic tables, though I could have avoided the chill breeze in a dining shack with crossbuck doors that stood at a right angle to the kitchen. A couple other customers engaged in low conversation as they waited for their meals were seated nearby.
On each table was a clear, two liter soda bottle turned upside down and filled with water. They weren’t there to slake thirsts brought on by clam rolls or Georgia red hots. Instead they’re used to scare off flies, Tammy said to the nod of the other patrons. Apparently, when one of the pesky insects lands on a table near the bottles, they see a world so enlarged and distorted that they dart off in terror. “It works just fine,” she responded to my skeptical glance.
In my hunger, I wolfed down my meal in just a few minutes. I didn’t linger long, but I left not only with a comforting bellyful, but with the tasty memory of having stumbled on a special place, however humble. I’d gotten not just a delicious lunch, but some local flavor that couldn’t be found on the menu of a chain burger joint or chicken outlet.