Abundance of choices for a song
The Olde Hitching Post Restaurant and Tavern
48 Spring St., Hanson
Hours: Tues.- Thursday 11 a.m.-9 p.m., Fri.-Sat. 11 a.m.- 10 p.m. ; Sun. 1- 9 p.m. Closed Monday
Breakfast hours: Fri.-Sat. 8-11:30 a.m., Sun. 8 a.m.-12:30 p.m.
Major credit cards
Accessible to the handicapped
While this restaurant can easily seat hundreds, the dining area in the 19th-century farmhouse is broken into five small rooms, creating a feeling of intimacy. On a recent Saturday night, we were immediately ushered to a comfortable booth, having called ahead for a reservation.
The waitress quickly dropped off some piping-hot, crusty rolls, along with a dollop of maple-tinged butter. She left us munching while we reviewed a menu that contained a wide range of offerings. While there were no children in our party, a sizeable selection of children’s meals is available at $7, with drinks and dessert included.
We started off with a spring salad ($8) from the evening’s list of specials.
The arrangement of fresh greens, walnuts, blue cheese and cranberries - topped with a fan of razor-thin pear and apple slices and drizzled with vinaigrette - was as much a treat for the eyes as for the palate.
The serving was easily enough for two. I commandeered the pears while my daughter took care of the apples. The fruit was crisp and sweet, a pleasing contrast to the tart dressing, and the mixed greens were fresh and free of bitterness.
A member of our party gave thumbs up to a plate of calamari and cherry peppers, ($7) served breaded and deep-fried.
When it came to the main meal, a house specialty called Chicken Riley ($14) didn’t disappoint. Medallions of chicken were sautéed and layered with eggplant, baby spinach and mozzarella, bathed in a marsala mushroom sauce. The steaming mixture was served over pasta.
The chicken proved to be tender, juicy and flavorful, and so was the eggplant. Neither was overly seasoned. Only a few strands of pasta remained by meal’s end.
The menu featured plenty of beef choices, and our selection, the New York sirloin, ($21), was cooked medium-rare and butter-knife tender.
A baked potato the size of a small submarine and capped with sour cream accompanied the 14-ounce cut of beef, along with a mix of fresh green and yellow squash and broccoli, served in a light tomato sauce.
Before digging into a pair of pork chops topped with colorful vinegar peppers ($17), I had to take a moment to admire the way the food was arranged on the plate. It is clear executive chef Dan Stowell takes great pride in presentation, which was as good as any I’ve seen in far pricier places. The pork was tender and accompanied by red bliss mash potatoes that were very lightly seasoned, the way I like them.
Our fourth diner reviewed an extensive list of fish dishes, but didn’t see shrimp scampi. The waitress, who very unobtrusively made sure we didn’t have to wait for anything, said the chef could easily whip up his request ($18). Again, the dish was arranged for maximum visual appeal, pasta ringed by fresh and springy shrimp, and it proved just as appealing to the taste buds. Beware: This one’s heavy on the garlic.
By now, we were all far beyond our limit, but we selected a very creamy slice of New York cheesecake served with strawberries ($6), and a chocolate brownie, topped with ice cream and generously doused with warm fudge sauce ($6), to wrap up. Both were top-notch.
Diners may also choose from a long list of dessert coffees.
The Olde Hitching Post menu can satisfy almost any diner. Those who like fish can choose from clams, swordfish, salmon, haddock or scallops, cooked plain or dressed up. The prices are modest, from $13 to $20.
House specialties include several kinds of chicken, fish and pasta, also ranging from $13 to $20. Many dishes can be served vegetarian-style.
The list of “Yankee Favorites’’ includes pot roast, roast turkey with all the fixings, maple meatloaf and turkey pot pie (priced from $10 to $14).
The restaurant also provides a selection of nightly specials and early-bird prices on weeknights.
An attached tavern, decked out in mahogany and brass and graced with a fireplace, offers a choice of distractions, from sports television to cribbage and chess - a cozy spot to spend a chilly night.