Thursday, January 08

MONTEREY — The Roadside Store on Route 23, listed by Bon Appetit magazine as one of the 10 best places in the U.S. to eat breakfast, has shut down. But not to worry, omelet lovers.

Mary Brant, executive director of Gould Farm, the nonprofit organization that runs the Roadside Store, reported Wednesday that the store will re-open in a few weeks. There will be a grand re-opening in early March, she said.

The store was in dire need of some interior renovations, said Brant. So it was decided that while "The Roadside" — as virtually everyone in Monterey and Great Barrington calls the store — serves a high volume of meals most seasons of the year, winter is the slowest time.

"We thought this would be a good time for the work," she said.

In addition to some work on the interior and replacement of the cash registers, said Brant, Gould Farm will also be repaving the driveway.

"We are well aware of how important the Roadside Store is for many area residents," said Brant, "so we'll be moving as quickly as we can on the work we've planned."

Brant said Gould Farm is also contemplating offering entertainment at the diner, although those details have not been completely worked out.

Brant added that the Roadside's menu will also be tweaked.

"We're going to revisit the menu," she said.

That's probably a good thing, because the menu hasn't changed much in the 35 years the diner has been open. Still, in 2004, Bon Appetit, based in part on the huge, delicious pancakes served at the diner, listed the Roadside as one of the top 10 places in the country to eat breakfast.

In addition, most of the ingredients of the offerings at the Roadside are extremely fresh, as they come from Gould Farm.

"Tell everyone not to worry," said Brant with a laugh, "the pancakes are safe."

To many people who frequent the place, the Roadside is a pleasant, cheery haven on Route 23 in which to enjoy breakfast or lunch — albeit a place where the staff turnover seems higher than most culinary establishments.

That, of course, is not surprising, because the Roadside is a little different from most eateries. The Roadside Store is actually a mental health facility first and a diner second. It is the therapeutic arm of Gould Farm, created to be a transitional treatment facility for those seeking treatment at the Farm.

Thus, the waiters, waitresses and cooks are, for the most part, guests of the Farm, although there is also a manager on site, as well.

The usual plan is that instead of discharging their guests back into the outside world, Gould Farm assigns them to the Roadside for anywhere from a few weeks to a few months to aid their transition.

But since the place is mostly run by volunteers and owned by Gould Farm, the overhead is minimal. Prices are extremely reasonable. As the saying goes: It's tough to spend 10 bucks at the Roadside.