Archive for August, 2009

Years ago I bought a tacky souvenir plate at a thrift store -it had a picture of an Oriental Pagoda with the words “Reading Pennsylvania” underneath which didn’t seem to go together at all, I thought it was a mistake. But I was wrong, there IS a Pagoda in Reading PA!

Reading Pagoda on The Hill

The Pagoda just celebrated its 100 year birthday and has reopened with some cleaning and improvements that don’t detract from the wonderful sight of this place atop Mount Penn. The Pagoda is a sight to see from all angles, with its red clay roof and curly cues contrasting against the green of the trees and blue of the sky.

The Reading Pagoda

To get to the Pagoda you drive up the winding Duryea Drive, named after the “inventor and builder of America’s first gasoline automobile”. Even though the inventing was done in Springfield MA (Go Mass!) it makes sense that this Reading road was named after him, as the autos were built here in the city between 1900-1911. Roadtripping old school!

Duryea Drive Reading PA

The Pagoda was built in 1908 as a way to improve the look of the side of Mount Penn that had been made ugly by the stone quarrying that took place there. Hopes of making it into part of a luxury resort  fell and within 3 years of opening the Pagoda became the property of the city of Reading. It has been a local landmark since then.

Pagoda Souvenir Collection


You can walk around it outside or pay a bargain one dollar to climb the 87 steps to the top for the best view. We took the stairs, stopping on each of the levels to read about the history and gaze at the reproductions of the postcards and memorabilia . There are also some rooms that can be rented out- what a cool place for a party!

87 Steps To the Top

As we ascended the final set of stairs we gazed upon a giant bell that came from a Buddhist Temple in Tokyo, and has been part of the Pagoda since it opened.

Ring The Bell When You Reach The Top

I was overjoyed to see my old friend the Coin Op Viewer and his mate standing in the corners of the very top of the Pagoda, almost like a stamp of Retro Roadmap Worthiness of the place.

Coin Op Pagoda Viewer

You can see for miles and miles even without using the viewer, especially on a beautiful clear day like today. That’s Reading in the distance, and a bit further, who knows- Ohio?

View From The Pagoda

Pagoda Roof View

There is a gift shop and snack bar in the first level, where you can get a Pagoda hot dog or perhaps your own tacky plate with the Pagoda on it. I opted for a charm for my charm bracelet and some postcards to send to the Retro Roadkids. You can even see some treasures from the recent filming of local boy M. Night Shyamalan’s ‘The Last Airbender’ movie which is scheduled to come out in 2010.

You never know what you’re gonna find when you’re on the Retro Roadmap!

The Reading Pagoda
98 Duryea Dr
Reading, PA 19601
(610) 375-6399

Read Full Post »

If you worship at the altar of the fried clam, Woodman’s in Essex MA is the place to pay homage to this summer treat. I imagine the faithful genuflect or bow down at the sight of this mighty mollusk.

The Fried Clam Mecca

Woodman’s  has been in business since 1914 and its claim to fame is that its owner “Chubby” Woodman invented  the fried clam in 1916 – and I can’t thank him enough! If you want to get that authentic “in the rough” seafood dining experience Woodman’s is your place.

An American Tradition

Ordering can be a bit confusing for first timers as the place is entirely self serve. Get in one line for food, another line for drinks. Claim your table and wait for your number to be called and then pick up your food at the window.

Sizes at Woodman's

Happiness at Woodman's

You can sit inside at one of the wooden booths or head outside under the tent that is set up alongside the Essex river. Just note that while you can purchase and drink beer and wine inside, alcohol isn’t allowed outside the building.

Here’s my idea of pure summer heaven:

Happy Birthday to Me!(Lest you think I managed to fit 2 fried clam meals into one visit to Massachusetts, never fear, dear reader.  This time I was lucky enough to be accompanied on my trip home by my Retro RoadHusband, who loves to eat Retro Roadfood as much as I do!)

RRH is into the sides, so he opted for fries, onion rings and slaw with his clams. I stayed true to the course with fried clams and lobster (a birthday indulgence) as I always fill up faster than I think I will. And in the words of my late father-in-law Bob, “Don’t fill up on the cheap stuff!”

Our food was incredibly tasty, and it was fun to look around as we were eating, at the local folks in business suits having lunch, the families on vacation, and overhear foodies from NYC dissect their meals. And to realize that all of us were becoming a part of the history of Woodman’s, like photos that cover the walls.

Woodman's History

The lines can be long in the summer weekends so there are some benches set up for the pilgrims. We were there on a Monday so it was much more manageable.


To me this place is as summertime as it gets, and even though I was stuffed and shiny with fried, I was – HA! Happy as a clam at Woodman’s.

121 Main St
Essex, MA 01929-1305
(978) 768-6057

Nicks Nest on Urbanspoon

Read Full Post »

Nichols Candies has been a Gloucester (Gloss-ter) Massachusetts institution since 1936 and has been at this highly visible location off of Route 128 since 1954. The shop is still run by relatives of the original owners, Walter and Margaret Nichols.

Nichols Candy House

The shop interior is as charming as when the place opened, with original nautical themed wallpaper. I mean honestly folks, when is the last time you saw wallpaper, scenic wallpaper no less!

Nichols Candies Wallpaper

There’s a window where you can catch a glimpse into the workings of the place as they are an actual candy manufacturer. Fresh Candy Daily.

Fresh Candy Daily

They’ve got a big selection of fudge, candies, chocolates, bark, cordials, nuts – it’s hard to choose!

Home Style Candies

They carry one of my fave old fashioned candies here, barley sugar pops. I loved these sweet clear sugar lollypops as a kid, and for some reason the lobster shape is my fave. Maybe it’s because I’m from Mass and it reminds me of summer?

Pop Lobster

All I know is that as soon as I saw these I turned into Auntie Beth and bought one for each of the nieces and nephews, hopefully passing on the love of this treat to the Retro Roadkids.

I wanted to get an assorted box but I knew the chocolates wouldn’t last the long drive home to PA (they’d melt or we’d eat too many!)

Nichols Ocean Home Candies

So I opted for one of my favorite sweet treats from home, Penuche fudge. Penuche (Pen OOH chee) is only found in New England and is made from caramelized brown sugar and is light and sweet and delicious.


Luckily Nichols is vintage and modern at the same time, as you can click the link below and order all sorts of treats to be shipped directly to your door. So even if you’re states or countries away from Massachusetts you can still enjoy the fresh taste of candies from here, year ’round.

Nichols Candies
1 Crafts Rd
Gloucester, MA 01930-2184
(978) 283-9850

Read Full Post »

It’s hard to believe that this is the last official weekend of summer! That’s why I want to quickly tell everyone about the sweet roadside stop Boehringer’s Drive in in Adamstown PA -it is only open for the spring and summer season  and closes this year on Sunday September 13.

Boehringer's Sign

Boehringer’s started in 1936 and has been at this roadside location since the late 1940’s. Still owned and operated by the original family, the Schnader family is the fourth generation to delight roadside travelers with their hot dogs, hamburgers, sandwiches and home made ice cream.

Boehringer's 1949

The building itself is clean and simple with no indoor seating. Signs indicate to “Step Up To Order, Stand Back To Wait” and that process works well.

Step Up To Order Step Back To Wait(These folks have stepped back to wait!)

The interior is covered in wonderful knotty pine paneling, harkening back to the 1950’s, as does the Coca-cola clock and the big barrel advertising Pennsylvania Dutch rootbeer. I love the menu boards and regional Zerbe’s chips!

Clock Zerbes Cones n Stuff(Doing some internet digging I find tell that Zerbe’s chips come from Denver PA and are made by hand by one guy! Read more about Zerbe’s chips here.)

Root Beer Barrel

Picnic tables line the edge of a stream that flows behind the drive in, parallel to the busy street, and half the fun of eating here is watching the ducks in the water, and the kids interact with them. As we sat eating our cheeseburgers and chicken cheese steaks, we heard many a loud “Quack! Quack!” from a blonde haired little girl and it reminded me of going to feed the ducks with my dad when I was small.

Table With A View

We did not get to try the ice cream, and I’m kicking myself now, because it’s home made! Do both of us a favor, get yourself out to Boehringer’s before it closes for the season, get yourself a cone or sundae, and report back!

Boehringer’s Drive-In
3160 N Reading Rd
Adamstown, PA 19501
(717) 484-4227‎

If you go- Adamstown Pennsylvania is a gigantic antiques and collectibles mecca with thousands of dealers- I recommend the Mad Hatter shop as it’s got lots of mid century and vintage items and clothes. It’s across from Dave’s diner, a vintage diner to try out on the off season when Boehringer’s is closed!  There’s also Stoudt’s Brewery and down the road is the site of the original Zinn’s diner (alas, renamed, restuccoed and the big stuatus of Amos the Amish is gone) but just so you know that it was there.

<a href=”http://www.urbanspoon.com/r/193/1022001/restaurant/Lancaster/Boehringers-Drive-In-Adamstown”><img alt=”Boehringer’s Drive-In on Urbanspoon” src=”http://www.urbanspoon.com/b/logo/1022001/biglogo.gif&#8221; style=”border:none;width:104px;height:34px” /></a>

Read Full Post »

Our swell friends at Oklahoma Modern sent us this neat video from the re-lighting of the vintage neon sign for El Rancho Grande Restaurant in Tulsa Oklahoma. They write:

El Rancho Grande is a local fixture here in Tulsa, having been in their current location on Old Route 66 since 1953. A few weeks back they decided to spruce up their vintage sign that hangs on front of the building. Last night we dropped in for a “lights on” ceremony as they fired it up for the first time. The get-together was sponsored by Modern Tulsa and I was happily surprised by the attendance.

You can see a “before” photo of the vintage sign here and the Oklahoma Mods say the restaurant is OK too. Thanks you guys, you’re more than OK in my book!

El Rancho Grande
1629 E 11th St
Tulsa, OK 74120
(918) 584-0816




Read Full Post »

Dear pal and ace reporter Anna Borg brings us her first missive from LA LA Land, Los Angeles California. Anna has got her finger on the pulse of all things cool and vintage on the West Coast, and this is just one of many posts sure to follow on her beat, detailing what is hip and happening over on the other side of the country!

Los Angeles is a town of reinvention, so finding a juicy vintage gem is rare.  After a few disappointments, I learned to temper my expectations and look at the positives in the vintage joints while allowing for some deviation from authenticity.

Crouched in the shadow of the legendary, perfectly restored, Wayne McAllister designed Bob’s Big Boy, is a sweet little place called Papoo’s Hot Dog Show.  Who is Papoo?  What is a Hot Dog Show?  The answers to these questions remain lost to the ages, but they were no doubt inspired by the popularity of theme restaurants in the late 1940s.


The whimsical sign out front shows a wiener dog with wings flying inside a brightly colored stage.  Appetizing?  Not quite, but amusing and curious?  Absolutely!


Papoo’s has been located on the same busy Burbank corner for 60 years and they have a small, but loyal clientele.  In a town where everything seems super sized and on the go, Papoo’s is a place to grab a heart-backed soda fountain seat and enjoy a Hoffy brand hot dog, a Showburger, or a solid breakfast.  Look closer at the menu and you will find a real, old-fashioned egg cream (rare on the West coast,) and assorted dinner platters and salads.  Most items are made from scratch and priced very reasonably.


(note the thrifty prices from the 1949 menu!)

For my first meal at Papoo’s, I had to have a hot dog, show or no show!  I settled on the melted cheese dog after seeing it listed on one of the original framed 1949 menus on the wall. Two small sides are included, so I tried the house made coleslaw and the “famous” baked beans.


I loved sitting at my little Formica table, using the ancient napkin dispenser.  Each table had a dispenser from a different era, so it was like a “Napkin Dispensers Through The Ages” exhibit.

The floor is classic black and white linoleum and the counter stools are a mix of old wooden and restored chrome.


Continuing the trip through the decades, you can settle in for a game of Ms. Pac Man, play a cd on the juke box, or watch one of the brand new plasma screen TVs set up on the walls.  This unfortunate intrusion into the vintage cuteness of Papoo’s is a necessity in the age of 24-hour sports monitoring.  One way to avoid the TVs is to sit on the adorable enclosed patio.

There is a decent sized parking lot behind the restaurant and the restrooms are in a separate building, another common feature of older joints.


All in all, Papoo’s is a fun, bright place to grab a snack while supporting a local, independently owned business.

Papoo’s Hot Dog Show
4300 Riverside Dr.
Burbank, CA 91505
(818) 846-1511

Papoo's Hot Dog Show on Urbanspoon

Read Full Post »

During my entire week in Massachusetts there was one food that remained on the top of my list, fried clams with bellies. I had to schedule this treat so I could properly appreciate their goodness and not be overstuffed from other meals, so I made the Clam Box in Ipswich the last stop of my Mass Retro Roadmap tour.

The Clam Box Ipswich MA

Buily in 1938, the Clam Box is a mecca for roadside enthusiasts, with it’s vintage “programmatic architecture” – aka built to resemble something – like a duck, or a barrel or a basket. I don’t think anyone would be surprised to know that the Clam Box was built to look like a clam box!

The Clam Box Memories

The clam box is the holy grail of foodies and regular folks alike, who drive for miles for a taste of  the delicious seafood and clams of Ipswich.  On my own personal pyramid of favorite foods, fried clams with bellies are up there at the very top- as you can see from this sign I have hanging in our kitchen:

Fried Clams

The Retro Roadmap gods were on my side during my visit to the Clam Box, that is for sure:

  • Rain Rain Go Away! As I pulled into the gravel parking lot of the Clam Box the  pouring rain suddenly let up. The Clam Box is small and infamous for long slow lines that snake  around the building, so the fact that it wasn’t raining made my wait in line much more tolerable.
  • Change Yer Oil, ma’am? The other thing that the Clam Box is infamous for is that they change the oil in the fryers every day “around 2:30”.  I was in fact the last person to get an order in before the oil change, saving me another 20+ minutes of waiting in line- thanks Retro Roadgods!
    Some folks like to be the first in line to get the freshest fried, but I’m no purist in that respect, and knowing I was on the North Shore at 2:25 and wanted to get to Rehoboth Beach Delaware for last call, I needed to save all the time I could.

So yes,  you wait in long slow moving line,  you order at the window and wait for them to call your number. There is a small dining room just past the windows, and the friendly hostess enforces the “please don’t claim a table ’til you’ve placed your order” rule while pleasantly assisting folks who have ordered find  a seat.

As you wait on the bench inside you can reviewat the positive press tacked up on the walls, conveying the history of the place and it’s local and international fame. Jane and Michael Stern, authors and stars of the  Roadfood website, have given the Clam Box their blessing calling them  the “best fried clams in the universe” and I am not one to argue with that.


My order arrived quickly compared to the wait in line and my luck held out as the rain started to pour down AFTER  I  got into my car.  What did I care what was going on outside?  I was about to partake of a  meal meant for the gods- the Retro Roadgods that is!

As I ripped open my brown paper bag of hot fried goodness  I saw that my wait was worth it.  My fried clams with bellies were hot, crunchy, briney and delicate all at the same time. I delighted in devouring each one.

Clam Box Bounty

As a nod to the research portion of the trip, I opted for the combo plate that had onion rings. While they were good, I think everything pales in comparison to the glorious fried clam. It was probably a good thing I didn’t get an entire order of just clams (though I might in the future), as I didn’t need to get a case of fried clam belly on 8 hour drive to Delaware.

As I got out of the car to get rid of my trash I noticed that they had picnic tables under the trees for days that weren’t so dreary, but use at your own risk!

Clam Box Picnic Tables

Doing one more loop around the building for photos I commented to the folks in line that they must be regulars, as everyone had their giant golf umbrellas open.  Despite the rain they were patiently waiting in line for the glorious fried clams from the Clam Box. I don’t blame ’em.

Clam Box In The Rain

The rain started coming down harder then, and as I pulled out of the parking lot, snapping one last photo from my car, I knew that was the Retro Roadmap gods letting me know that the fun was over, and it was time head south.

Clam Box
246 High St
Ipswich, MA 01938
(978) 356-9707

Oh and P.S. – cash only!

Clam Box of Ipswich on Urbanspoon

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: