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I dream of the Fried Chicken at the Agawam Diner in Rowley

Chris VR Oct 25, 2006 07:45 PM

I finally had a chance to stop at the Agawam Diner and now I know why everyone raves about this place.

I had the fried chicken plate- nothing fancy, right? But oh, that chicken. A light, airy, crisp crust (needed a bit of salt) seals in the moistest chicken. Oh yummmmmm drooling on keyboard...

A hearty portion of 2 legs and a thigh (you can request white or dark meat) came along with a good homemade coleslaw, a big scoop of what tasted like homemade jelled cranberry sauce, and a mound of fries. All this for $6.95. Wow. And did I mention yum?

Even for a late lunch, it was hopping at 1:30 on a weekday. I imagine this place is insane on weekend mornings. I didn't have any room for the much vaunted pie- next time!

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  1. Infomaniac RE: Chris VR Oct 25, 2006 08:02 PM

    The Agawam is my go to place for fried chicken (dark meat). I usually get a slice of cream pie to go. The meatloaf and crabcakes are winners too, but I usually lean toward the fried chicken.

    1. p
      pastrytroll RE: Chris VR Oct 26, 2006 01:05 AM

      But you really didn't miss anything by not having the pie. Sadly commercial. I wonder why diner pies never live up to the hype,, and why no one hires an actual person to make them! Maybe it's a question of space: those diner kitchens are really small. But a good pie is next to impossible to buy!

      11 Replies
      1. re: pastrytroll
        Infomaniac RE: pastrytroll Oct 26, 2006 02:30 AM

        I'm glad I'm not a pie expert, because the apricot cream pie at the Agawam is pretty dam good in my opinion. I'm sure there is better, but if what they are serving is commercial, thats about the best I've had for a commercial pie.

        1. re: pastrytroll
          ScubaSteve RE: pastrytroll Oct 26, 2006 12:46 PM

          where are U getting that the pies @ Agawam are commercial? everytime i have brought someone and they inquired if the pies were made in-house (the basement is their bakery) the staff always reply in the affirmative.

          1. re: ScubaSteve
            pastrytroll RE: ScubaSteve Oct 27, 2006 11:58 AM

            Huumm - I think I see that I'll have to make a field trip this coming Monday to check out the pies again! My take on the commercial was the look, texture, and taste - just because the pies are put together and/or baked off on site (and I don't know exactly what Agawam does, or if I'll be able to find out), doesn't mean that they are constructed from scratch with fresh ingredients. Nothing to do with the Agawam, but one of my first jobs while I was still in pastry school was baking "our own homemade muffins" at a local farmstand. The biggest challenge was remembering to unthaw the tubs of frozen muffin batter that came off the big truck.... And the muffins weren't bad at all - but they should have been called "home baked muffins" for accuracy. It made me cynical, ya see. I think that very many, maybe most?, people have never had an actual excellent home-made pie to compare with. Off the soap box now, sorry!

            1. re: pastrytroll
              opinionatedchef RE: pastrytroll Oct 27, 2006 11:30 PM

              I am SO in your camp. show me a great pie crust and I'll show you a...... unicorn.well, not quite, maybe a snow leopard. the shame is, if you're a good pastry chef who cares, it's hard to find the clients who recognize how extraordinary a great crust is. it's like chocolate. but then we could gripe all night. so glad you told everybody your muffin experience. it really is horrifying to think that baked goods 'truly homemade,from scratch' are so rare. i don't think you were on a soapbox, just helping educate people- and that's part of what CH is all about. thanks.

              1. re: opinionatedchef
                tatamagouche RE: opinionatedchef Oct 28, 2006 01:03 PM

                Agreed. So who gets you bakers' votes for pies locally, besides Petsi's? Anyone?

                1. re: tatamagouche
                  SA70077991 RE: tatamagouche Jun 3, 2007 07:36 PM

                  After hearing this talk about their pies being commercial I have to ask if anyone saw the April 2007 issue of saveur magazine, which had a picture of agawam's coconut cream pie on the cover and said something like 'comfort pie and more from america's finest diner'. Inside there was a substantial feature article on the agawam where it talked about how things were home made, including the pies, the bakery is downstairs, this article included recipes for their coconut cream pie among other things and there was a photo of the tattered handwritten copy of the recipe they've used all this years. Anyways, I love the agawam and I was very excited to see them featured in a widely know and respected publication such as saveur and I just wanted to bring this to everyones attention because of all the skepticism over whether their pies are home made.

          2. re: pastrytroll
            tamerlanenj RE: pastrytroll Oct 26, 2006 02:11 PM

            In New Jersey, most diners make their own cakes and pies, and they are some of the best you can get. The cheesecake at the Elmwood Park Diner in Bergen County, NJ makes the best darned PLAIN cheesecake I've ever had.

            I agree that New England diners don't seem to live up.

            1. re: tamerlanenj
              gourmaniac RE: tamerlanenj Oct 27, 2006 03:01 PM

              While i agree that the NJ diners are something special, the Agawam is really very good. If you haven't tried it yet, it might surprise you.

              1. re: tamerlanenj
                LindaWhit RE: tamerlanenj Oct 27, 2006 04:01 PM

                ::::Sigh::::: The Elmwood Park Diner. I remember. And the Hillside Diner in Oakland, the Suburban Diner in Paramus, the Rochelle Park Diner, the Park Ridge Diner....ah yes, I remember. :-)

                But I agree - the Agawam IS really good. And for those who want to know what a diner is, the definitive answer is found here:



                1. re: tamerlanenj
                  Bob Dobalina RE: tamerlanenj May 25, 2007 08:00 AM

                  Southern CT diners (Fairfield Co.) match up well with Jersey diners - it's all in the same greater tri-state area.

                  We could not help but snicker in high school when we'd read the diner sign, "All Baking Done on Premises."

                2. re: pastrytroll
                  curiousbaker RE: pastrytroll May 25, 2007 08:12 AM

                  A good pie is next-to-impossible to buy because:
                  1. American-style pastry crust is labor-intensive. You can't make a good pastry crust in really big batches (as compared to, say, cake batter, or even puff pastry).

                  2. Fruit pie filling is expensive - both in terms of labor and straight costs. A really full, domed apple pie takes a lot of apples - far more than the standard restaurant cobbler that's 1/3 fruit, 2/3 topping, and more than French-style tarts. A good pie is loaded with fruit - expensive, delicious fruit. In the case of apple, peach and pear pies, actual fresh fruit requires a good bit of prep as well. Frozen fruit saves time and can be of pretty high-quality, but you're not really talking homemade at that point. (Still, I would take a good homemade crust with frozen fruit over most commercial pies).

                  3 - Oh, it's also hellish to make crust if your tiny kitchen isn't air-conditioned. In a restaurant, the pastry cook might come in early, but at a diner with a big breakfast crowd? It's tough.

                  4 - Also, people have pretty low standards when it comes to pie - years of Mrs. Frisbee's. And pie is seen as a homey sort of dessert - not a fancy thing to spend a lot of money on.

                  So a high-expense, labor-intensive product that's undervalued? It's not surprising so few places do it right.

                3. GretchenS RE: Chris VR May 24, 2007 11:52 AM

                  I have had this in mind since Chris posted last fall and today a friend and I were roughly in that area so we went. Great classic diner wiith a great classic diner menu. Got the fried chicken and it was all exactly as billed. Yummmmmm, indeed. Friend's fried shrimp roll was pronounced delicious and I could see it was overflowing with shrimp. Guys next to us had really great-looking club sandwiches (old-fashioned 3-deckers, which I know from a past life are an art to assemble so they don't fall apart). Waitresses all call everyone "honey" and "dear" and most of the people there seemed to be regulars but it didn't feel exclusive. My heart wishes it were much nearer to where I live but my waist is exceedingly glad it is not!

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: GretchenS
                    Infomaniac RE: GretchenS May 24, 2007 12:16 PM

                    I live less than 10 miles from Agawam Dinner, and usually go once a week. The waitresses usually ask, "Honey, are you going to order something other than the fried chicken today."
                    The fried clams and fish here are also something to consider if you visit again.

                    1. re: Infomaniac
                      GretchenS RE: Infomaniac May 24, 2007 01:24 PM

                      Thanks, great to know! Lucky you, once a week....

                      1. re: GretchenS
                        Infomaniac RE: GretchenS May 25, 2007 07:32 AM

                        Well...not so much once a week now, but during the winter yes.

                    2. re: GretchenS
                      Chris VR RE: GretchenS Jun 1, 2007 03:20 PM

                      Ha, I love that phrase :"My heart wishes it were much nearer to where I live but my waist is exceedingly glad it is not!"

                      Hmm, I think I'm due for another trip. Thanks for reminding me!

                    3. s
                      sillyfoodies RE: Chris VR Jun 10, 2007 09:20 AM

                      I frequented the Agawam several times over the past few months based on the Saveur article. I cannot express how disappointed I am in the diner and the magazine. The hash was average at best. I ordered eggs overmedium and got one hard yolk and one with runny whites. The fried chicken was dry and chewy with a crisp but flavorless crust. The mac and cheese was flavorless goop. The chicken pie was likewise flavorless, but salted as if to preserve it for a nuclear winter. The mashed was pasty. Coffee was water dressed as brown. The fries were neither crisp, nor salted.

                      That was the bad. The good is the service - every potential waiter in northeast should shadow the ladies at the Agawam. Coleslaw is an individual thing and I found Agawam's a little sweet, but creamy and a bit tart/sour. It was very fresh too. Another individual dish is chicken fried steak - theirs is crisp well seasoned and with a decent gravy. The dinner rolls were airy but needed a pinch more salt. As for the pies, skip the vaunted and overrated Coconut and go for the blueberry. Their pie crusts were excellent, but their peers' pie crusts set the bar low. Also, the eclairs are excellent with real pastry cream.

                      I seriously doubt their claim that everything is homemade. The good blueberry filling seems like doctored canned food. The eclair pastry cream was legit though. I'll bet a large sum of money that the fries come in double-wall browm paper.

                      Lastly, there is literally nothing romantic about the setting.

                      5 Replies
                      1. re: sillyfoodies
                        Infomaniac RE: sillyfoodies Jun 10, 2007 10:32 AM

                        Where else have you frequented that approves to you liking?
                        It's not unusual here to see a first time poster trash talk a place.
                        I live close by the Agawam and have never been for breakfast. To many other great options close by.
                        I disagree with most of your other observations, and have eaten there several hundred times over the past 30 years.

                        1. re: Infomaniac
                          emilief RE: Infomaniac Jun 10, 2007 10:39 AM

                          OK, so where is this place so I can decide for myself??

                          1. re: emilief
                            Infomaniac RE: emilief Jun 10, 2007 10:41 AM

                            It's in Rowley, MA....Corner of Rte 1 and 133
                            I'd like to know who said the Agawam Diner was a romantic setting? That's about the only thing I argee with.

                            1. re: Infomaniac
                              sillyfoodies RE: Infomaniac Jun 10, 2007 06:44 PM

                              The article in Saveur romanticised the Agawam.

                          2. re: Infomaniac
                            sillyfoodies RE: Infomaniac Jun 10, 2007 07:16 PM

                            Diners? Victorias in Roxbury has better food hands down. If you want a list of other places, I'll be happy to oblige.

                            How many times I post to this board has no bearing on my experiences there. I went back again and again in an attempt to see what the Saveur article author and others saw in the Agawam.

                            By your own admission, you go other places for better breakfast. So you must agree that the hash at best average. You disagree with most of my observations, but why? How? Without substance your post is simply an ad hominem attack.

                            Further, if I was trash talking why would I bring up the excellent service, the great chicken fried steak, and amazng desserts? As for the blueberry pie, you are right. I made an unfair assumption. However, the filling tastes *exactly* like Sysco Classic Blueberry Pie Filling.

                            Call 'em like I see em: The author of the Saveur article is in love with the diner and the Agawam experience.

                        2. b
                          bear RE: Chris VR Jun 10, 2007 05:52 PM

                          How does the Agawam compare to Cathy's Country Kitchen in the same area?

                          6 Replies
                          1. re: bear
                            Infomaniac RE: bear Jun 10, 2007 06:48 PM

                            I usually only get to Cathy's for breakfast, but I have been for lunch and I would give Cathy's the nod for better breakfast and overall food. If they were open for dinner, I would eat there more.

                            I give Agawam the nod for better fried chicken, seafood and clams.

                            1. re: Infomaniac
                              sillyfoodies RE: Infomaniac Jun 10, 2007 07:33 PM

                              Sounds like I should try Cathy's!

                              1. re: sillyfoodies
                                Infomaniac RE: sillyfoodies Jun 11, 2007 05:57 AM

                                Cathy's is amazing. French toast or any of the fresh baked goods. They can handle eggs over easy or medium too.

                                1. re: Infomaniac
                                  pastrytroll RE: Infomaniac Jun 12, 2007 06:03 AM

                                  Ok, back to breakfast in the same area: The french toast and eggs at Cathy's are fine, but skip the breakfast special omelets. The last three times (and definitely the last time) I've been tempted into ordering them, the ingredients on the plate do not match the description - something is always missing or skimped, and I was disappointed.
                                  Now - Stone Soup in Ipswich for breakfast: there's a thread I should start! Wonderful, homemade from scratch hash and lots of real butter, sigh! My pastry classmates and I keep thinking we should go somewhere else once in a while (and we did re-visit Cathy's last time) and we always wind up with a craving for Stone Soup. We also visited Flour Cafe by the Children's Museum -a very comfortable place to linger, but one of us said that we should write "croissants are supposed to have layers" in the suggestion box!

                                  1. re: pastrytroll
                                    Infomaniac RE: pastrytroll Jun 12, 2007 06:10 AM

                                    Yes...I have heard Stone Soup puts out some excellent breakfast but I've yet to try it. It's sort of out of my way for breakfast, but I'll make a trip this summer to check it out. My friends say the hash is the best around.

                            2. re: Prav
                              jjbourgeois RE: Prav Dec 9, 2007 04:23 PM

                              Uggg, the Agawam. Rather reheat a Hungry Man dinner than eat there. Food is pretty bad, and the service is just as good.

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