Post Office Fruit Luncheonette (Manchester, NH)

(The Post Office Fruit Luncheonette closed in April 2009.  I’ve heard that it will be reopening, but this review is from the prior establishment)

Both my job-related travel and my volunteering as coach of the Lebanon Robotics Team give me plenty of opportunities to roam around downtown Manchester on a regular basis. One of the places that has always intrigued me is the Post Office Fruit Luncheonette.

This is one of the those little businesses that seems like it is right out of the Twilight Zone. It’s basically a small convenience store style storefront, which used to sell groceries, magazines, stamps, and lottery tickets (the last of these apparently providing the bulk of their revenue). However, it’s plainly obvious that aside from lunch-counter related items, the grocery operation has been slowly petrifying over the last decade or so, with a few tired packets of aspirin and Pepto bismol with a healthy patina of dust on them being the last major holdout.

The centerpiece is a long lunch counter that takes up approximately half of the store, and is a perfect time capsule of a 1960s lunch counter (aside from some minor price corrections due to inflation). They’ve got what is probably the smallest grill in New Hampshire (measuring approximately 18 inches by 18 inches), so the menu is basically a variety of grilled sandwiches, and they also can do basic lunch counter treats like milkshakes as well. But, most importantly, the place is still staffed by the same two people that apparently have been staffing the place since it opened, Effie and Kay. They, too, are authentic lunch counter veterans, complete with gloves and hairnets.

So, this place somehow pulled me in, and I felt compelled to buy a bacon and cheese sandwich (at right). Sure, as sandwiches go, it wasn’t anything special (but for $2, I can’t be picky). But I had already determined that this wasn’t about the food, but about the whole immersive experience of being served food right out of the 1960s, in authentic 1960s decor, by authentic 1960s lunch counter ladies. Somehow, I came away satisfied.

I’m not alone, either. Several other people stopped and ate there while I was visiting. And I’ve found that the group Moe’s Haven even has written a song about this place (available from the iTunes Music Store!).

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