April 10, 2008


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Drive-ins open for the season
Burgers, barbecue and ice cream are blooming all over
By Linda A. Odum food@hippopress.com

Brick House offers taste of fun
In the past 24 seasons, the Brick House Drive In has seen a lot of young people work behind the counter.

Twenty-year-old Sarah Moody has been there so long she can’t actually remember for how long. This is either her fifth or sixth season.

“We’re all like a family,” she said, and then smiled. “A big dysfunctional family. This is a great place. A fun place to work. I’m still here.”

Owners Rosanne and Gary Cote are proud the kids come back to work each season, which begins in March and runs to Labor Day. All but two of the returning workers have been there for five or more years. Rosanne thinks it is the fun atmosphere and flexible hours. “They get to have their day at the beach and still work. I’ve got college kids who have worked here forever. Many started at 14 and kept working every summer. One girl graduated from college and has a full-time job, but she still works here part-time,” she said.

“Fun” is the operative word at the Brick House. “I am not a serious person,” Gary said; he pointed to his Spongebob Squarepants collection as proof. He makes acoustic guitars as a hobby — three instruments a year are all he has time to create.

Ownership of a summer drive-in was the farthest thing from Rosanne’s mind 24 years ago. She was a single mother with a nursing home job, all set to take a new position at a youth center and study to be a recreational therapist. Then a friend asked if she would be interested in a restaurant manager’s job.

The Brick House’s previous owners, the Gaudettes, wanted to find someone without any restaurant experience so they could train them in their methods. Rosanne, as a single mother, liked the idea of winters off. Both her daughters worked in the restaurant as they grew up. Youngest daughter Leisha brought Gary over from the mini-golf business he owned with his brother next door.

The mini-golf is gone, but the Brick House lives on with some of the recipes passed down from the Gaudettes — namely the onion rings, the lean 90/10 hamburgers and the coleslaw. The Cotes bread all their fried foods, and the fried fresh seafood is the number-one thing people come back to enjoy. That and the Giffords hard and Oakhurst soft ice creams.

The Cotes added grinders to the menu and now serve Sausage Heaven sausages. They also added healthy food choices such as garden burgers and buffalo burgers. Tuna and lobster salad can be made with fat-free mayonnaise. They will grill chicken for a sandwich instead of the fried version. “We started serving healthy options because we stared eating healthy, too,” Rosanne said.

The couple works seven days a week, and on a busy day in the summer they can process 300 to 400 orders. By September they are more than ready to not see another onion ring. Business has stayed busy even during hard economic times, and they understand what an accomplishment it is to survive 24 years. Roseanne said, “It’s a long time to be in the restaurant business, but being seasonal helps. And now that the kids are grown, we get our winters off.”

Cremeland has a secret burger weapon
For a drive-in to be around for 61 years, it must do something right.

At Manchester’s Cremeland Drive-In what they do right is serve high-quality, old-fashioned summertime food. Even when the temperature says otherwise, there is a warm feel to the single-story white building that evokes images of shorts, flip-flops, baseball uniforms and sunscreen.

“It’s amazing how the tradition has hung on and how people get excited to come here,” said Tom Queena, who with his in-laws and wife Nicole owns Cremeland. “I have three children and everyone inquires about them.”

Queena has worked at the drive-in since the summer of 1992 after a stint in electrical sales at the Home Depot. He moved to fulltime in 1998. His title is operator, but ask him his position and he will tell you operator, dishwasher, fry cook: “I’m a hands-on person. I enjoy the camaraderie of the young people. Working here is more than just cooking food. It is a sense of community. A sense of family.”

Customers will find all their favorites, such as hand-breaded onion rings and grilled hot dogs. The hamburgers are made with meat from a family-owned Boston company that grinds it straight from the side of beef at 4 a.m. and has it to Cremeland by 9 a.m. All the seafood is fresh, not frozen. The drive-in is known for its fried whole clams, and the lobster rolls are made with meat from the knuckle and claw, without fillers.

Queena’s father-in-law, Dick Choate, makes the ice cream on site. Through the years he has created approximately 125 different flavors, and he will make one third to one half that selection this summer. “The benefit of making your own ice cream is that you can make whatever flavors you wish,” Queena said.

The fruit-flavored ice creams, such as black raspberry or orange-pineapple, are big hits. Queena thinks it is because of the quality of the fruit Choate uses. Another popular flavor is the dirt ice cream — a chocolate pudding base with crushed Oreos and chocolate-covered almonds. Customers can order the soft-serve in vanilla, chocolate or a twist.

The restaurant averages about 600 orders a day. On a very busy night, they might serve 1,200 to 1,300 people. On the busiest days, they will process 1,000 orders just between 6 and 10 p.m.

Rain on this season’s opening day (March 8) had Queena worried the employees would be standing around looking at each other. However, business was good, and he hopes it stays that way until they close in October.

Queena said that a lot of their business comes from area baseball and softball leagues. They get a lot of people who came there as little kids, then as teenagers, and now as adults, perhaps with their own children. Some people just stop in to take a break from work and get a hamburger and some ice cream.

“Coming into the season, with the economy the way it is and the weather, we’ve still had a good turnout,” Queena said. “We’re grateful for that.”

Brick House Drive In
1391 Hooksett Road, Hooksett, 622-8091

Cremeland Drive-In
250 Valley St., Manchester, 669-4430
Hours: Open daily, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m..

4/3/2008 Noshing for a cause

3/20/2008 The Easter Bunny brings dinner
3/13/2008 The Irish Spirit
3/6/2008 The sweet season
2/28/2008 Cambodian (or Italian) made easy
2/21/2008 Fresh fish comes to Nashua
2/14/2008 Hearts and fibers
2/7/2008 A romantic dinner for two
1/31/2008 Celebrate Mardi Gras
1/24/2008 Morroccan in Milford
1/17/2008 The chef is inn
1/10/2008 Italian street food in NH
1/10/2008 The contorni approach
1/3/2008 Like Disneyland for foodies
12/27/2007 More food and wine events, a menu for the bar
12/20/2007 Lots of dough
12/13/2007 Gifts for gourmands
12/6/2007 Making spirits really bright
11/22/2007 Just don't ask them to cook
11/15/2007 Easy as pie
11/8/2007 Italian eats, bistro style
11/1/2007 Bringing Italia to New Hampshire
10/25/2007 Trick or treat, the grown-up version
10/18/2007 Shop where the pros go
10/11/2007 Enjoy apple season from orchard to plate
10/04/2007 Tradition on the menu
9/27/2007 Meet your pig
9/20/2007 In search of the right meat
9/20/2007 Vegan blogger branches out
9/13/2007 Get ready to eat
9/6/2007 Fifty years of fair
8/30/2007 The buzz about peach fuzz
8/23/2007 Enjoy the Caribbean, sans hurricanes
8/16/2007 Festival weekend
8/9/2007 Still time to scream
8/2/2007 Perfecting a pound of pasta
7/26/2007 Gourmet Concord?
7/19/2007 Tart treats of a New Hampshire summer
7/12/2007 Reintroducing ratatouille
7/5/2007 Time to hit the grill
6/28/2007 Peanutty dinner delight
6/21/2007 Spicy meat, grilled meat and saucy meat
6/14/2007 Holy Barbecue
6/07/2007 A wine for Red Sox
5/31/2007 Pinot noir romance
5/24/2007 Josh Logan eats (not before shows)
5/17/2007 Baklava, spanakopita and souvlaki — a.k.a. dinner
5/10/2007 Cremeland celebrates 60 years of burgers and shakes
5/3/2007 New eats in bloom
4/26/2007 Pho sure
4/19/2007 Cakes, cow-free
4/12/2007 Serving up the first square
4/5/2007 More than just a chocolate bunny
3/29/2007 New 'nuches
3/22/2007 A taste of genuine sweetness
3/15/2007 From homemade to home business
3/8/2007 Shop the farmers' market year round
3/1/2007 Feeding Mama Kicks
2/22/2007 Keepers of the vino
2/15/2007 Noodly comfort food
2/8/2007 The luxury of osso bucco
2/1/2007 Super platters for the Super Bowl
1/25/2007 It's a wrap
1/18/2007 The writing foodie
1/11/2007 Where the beef is, piled high and hot
1/04/2007 The healthy foodie
12/28/2006 The return of pasta and fall of the diet: the year in eats
12/21/2006 Organic on the ice
12/14/2006 French but not fussy
12/07/2006 Southeast U.S. culture, in sandwich form
11/30/2006 Bites of comfort with chips of happiness
11/23/2006 Cityside adds class to conveniece
11/16/2006 Easier-to-enjoy Thanksgiving feasts
11/9/2006 The new classic
10/26/2006 Whip up a quiche
10/19/2006 A new way to crepe
10/12/2006 Comfort food for blokes and birds
10/05/2006 Smaller crop but still red and delicious
09/28/2006 The crunchier, lighter, healthier wrap
09/21/2006 City bagels in suburbia
09/14/2006 Cracking the custard code
09/07/2006 Eat your way down the block
08/31/2006 New flavors for an old summer dish
08/24/2006 Way down south in Hollis
08/17/2006 Frappe vs. milkshake
08/10/2006 Enjoy the bluest month
08/03/2006 Death of Toro
07/27/2006 Vacation on a plate
07/20/2006 Hitting barbecue big time
07/13/2006 Relishing the raspberry
07/06/2006 Are your edible souveneirs kosher?
06/29/2006 Fish, upscale
06/22/2006 Sweet rosey taste of summer
06/15/2006 When to pull out the EVOO
06/08/2006 What can you grill?
06/01/2006 Taste of downtown Nashua
05/25/2006 Deulge at farms
05/18/2006 Adorable and delicious
05/11/2006 Rub down
05/04/2006 Pinot to go
04/27/2006 A bit Italian, a bit egg foo young
04/20/2006 Meatier than breakfast...
04/13/2006 Let yourself eat cake
04/06/2006 Fear not the Risotto
03/30/2006 Making Friday a fishy delight
03/23/2006 The Thin Mints are here
03/16/2006 Divining your personality from pizza
03/09/2006 Cooking up a big bowl of comfort
03/02/2006 Dumplings demystified
02/23/2006 Carbs and comfort all the way
02/16/2006 She sells sushi by the sea shore
2/09/2006 Biting into the burger with bling
02/02/2006 Forget formal dining, head to the bar
01/26/2006 Goodbye rooster, hello year of the dog
01/19/2006 The secret lives of chefs
01/12/2006 Cooking up a pot of delayed gratification
01/05/2006 A sunny Italian side dish
A year of eats

All-you-can-read guide to breakfast
A bagel by any other l
A picnic — it’s romance with ants
A sweet burst of summer, in stages
Beef, It's What's For Dinner, Lunch, And Dessert
Be it ever so humble, the burger rules
Blockbuster snacks for your movie
Box Of Chocolates
C Is For Cookie And Christmas And Cool Combo
Celebrating A Holiday For The Rest Of Us
Celebrate Easter In A Sugar Coma
Chat And Chew

Chinese soup is magic
Chocolate cake makes everything better
Chocolate, Part II
Competition flows like chocolate
Corn Flake Chicken, Honeycomb Salad
Dining at the "Your House Bistro"
Don't Dread The Bread
Dress Up Your Next Meal
Drinking Out Of The Box
Eating Your Way Back To Health
Enter Soup
Experiments With Very Bad Brownies
Feeding A Crowd The Morning After
Follow the cider house rules
Fresh Herbs
Go ahead — run silent, run deep
Goodbye corn syrup, hello organic oatmeal
Go Indian for Thanksgiving
Grilled Cheese Junkie

Halloween candy for grown-ups
Have a Happy Meal and a happier wallet
Holiday Cookies - The Easy Way
Holiday Potluck 101-Tips For The Kitchen Novice
Home-Based Date
How do you like them apples?
In-A-Pinch Love Feast
It's not easy to be cheesy
It’s not Christmas without tamales
Lest We Forget The Humble Squash
Keeping your cool while you eat
Living through your salad days

Looking Beyond The Hot Dog Stand
Lunching your way to a less toxic you
Meat's meat and a man's gotta eat

Moist and delicious chicken — no, really
Oatmeal Cookies, The Miracle Cure
Oscar Night, When The Stars Come Out To Eat

Offering Up A Slice Of Teriyaki Pie
Pot Pies Are Darn Tasty
Pumpkin-Flavored Treats
Small Plates Are The Next Big Thing
Speedy 'za not pie in the sky
Steak: it’s what’s for dinner, again
Summer coolers, just add sunlight
Summer Squash
Super Bowl Grub
Take A Walk On The Dark Side
Taste of Manchester Event
The Cosmopolitan
The joys of a simple oatmeal breakfast
The return of comfort food
The One-Note Cook Book
The New American Plate Cookbook
The Stickiest, Hottest & Sweetest Of Love's Labors
The taste of retro
The Unheralded Peanut Butter Cookies
The union of sweet and heat
The Weekly Dish (12-16-04)
The Weekly Dish (12-23-04)

The Weekly Dish [1-13-05]
There's a Barbecue Bonanza Next Door
Week Four: Adding Diet To The Mix
What Was Hot And Haute In 2004
When $$ trumps urge to dine out
When in doubt, go for the organic
When nothing else will cool, Slurp it
You Say Potato, She'll Say Potato,Too
You say tomato, writer says lunch