What Passes for BBQ Chicken in the Merrimack Valley--very strange indeed!
On Monday afternoon I went into Charlie's Diner on South Broadway in Lawrence, MA to have lunch. I had an appointment in the area and this old style 15 stool, 7 booth diner has always made acceptable breakfast and lunch.
I looked at the specials board and for $6.95 they listed BBQ chicken Sandwich w/fries and a cup of soup. The next item was chicken salad w/fries and soup.
I ordered the BBQ chicken sandwich and soup, and started in on my coffee and reading. My soup came and it was a very good homemade avolemeno (Greek creamy chicken/rice). About ten minutes later, the waitress put down my entree plate.
The plate held an oversized sesame seeded toasted roll mounded with what looked like chicken salad, topped with lettuce, and a mountain of fries.
I pushed the plate to the side and finished my soup. The waitress stopped to top off my coffee, and asked if there was a problem. I replied that "I think you brought me the chicken sald, I order the BBQ chicken sandwich."
The amazing reply: "NO, that's what we call BBQ chicken in the Merrimack Valley, we boil chicken, shred it mix it with mayo and serve it warm on a bun."
She offered to get me something else instead, but I said, I'd try it anyway............
To my surprise, warm chicken salad was actually good, just not what I wanted or expected.
It seems small places like Charlie's Diner (since 1934) don't think anyone from outside the valley would ever stop in for a meal.
297 S Broadway, Lawrence, MA 01843
I served this sandwich at my cafe in Seabrook Beach, NH in 2000. The recipe was shared with me by a retired Lawrence policeman whe we were first opening up. We since closed the restaurant, but met many, many wonderful people from the Merrimack Valley area because of this sandwich. We even had 45's tournaments at our place!
Just today, I shared this recipe with the owner of Merrill's Place on Route 1, located behind a motel named The Wren's Nest, just north of North Hampton, NH. Merrill's Place is a delightful hideaway with great food, liquor license and ambiance. She assured me she would give the chicken bbq a try. If you get a chance, stop by and check it out.