Set on a restored 1700s farmhouse and surrounded by its own working farm, the Salem Cross Inn and Tavern in West Brookfield is a ‘poster child’ for farm-to-table dining.
The hostel’s main dining room is rustic colonial style, while the Hexmark Tavern on the ground floor is a cozy space to socialize or enjoy a casual meal.
Drawing inspiration from the Inn’s Yankee pedigree, the Inn’s menu combines familiar ingredients in sometimes inventive ways.
Maple Jack Chicken ($ 19) finished with local maple syrup is a house specialty, as is Cedar Plank Salmon ($ 23). A sharp pepper reduction complements a New York sirloin ($ 28), while a hearty pork chop ($ 24) is served with apple chutney. Other starter options range from a stuffed acorn squash ($ 16) to a charcoal-grilled filet mignon ($ 34).
Entrees at Salem Cross are a mostly conventional batch that includes the French onion soup ($ 7), crispy fried calamari with house marinara ($ 11), and the classic shrimp cocktail ($ 13).
A signature dish, the Inn’s Seafood Soup ($ 6) is a nod to both the frugality of the kitchen and New England tradition. A soft fish stock serves as the flavor base; flaked fish, diced potatoes, lightly sautéed onion and a hint of cream make for a nice soup soup.
Seeing butternut dumplings ($ 8) on the menu, we immediately thought “sweet and cookie-like,” but were surprised to be served instead deep-fried wonton folds that resembled Rangoon crab.
One bite, however, validated the creative instincts of the kitchen. The crispy packets were filled with sweet squash chunks; a creamy drizzle of sweetened yogurt with maple syrup served as a flavor counterpoint.
We chose the hot “Caesar” Brussels sprouts ($ 10) as the third starter. Ranked among salads, this pan-fried mix of shaved shoots, Parmigiano-Reggiano and bacon has proven to be a concentrate of savory flavors.
A plate of Al’s meatloaf ($ 17) included three slices of expertly seasoned, seasoned, oven-baked ground beef. Served with a nice brown sauce, a side of broccoli and a baked potato, meatloaf is called a comforting dish well done.
The Baked Stuffed Shrimp ($ 25) was a dish that tried to be different, but it’s a little too sweet cranberry bread stuffing that overshadows the subtle goodness of the shrimp and thyme-infused butter sauce.
One of the two plant-based offerings on the Salem Cross menu, a vegan bowl ($ 16) was based on a quinoa pilaf. Mushrooms, red peppers and broccoli contributed to the color, texture and taste of the composition, while a side dish of curry sauce provided the ability to alter the flavor profile of the bowl.
Pan-Seared Scallops ($ 24) can be ordered three ways – grilled, fried, or served as we ordered – over a pumpkin-cranberry risotto. The portion was generous – eight scallops is more than typical – but the risotto was, for us at least, a less than harmonious item, while the scallops themselves had been over seasoned with salt and coarsely ground pepper.
While salads aren’t part of dinner at the Salem Cross Inn, we enjoyed the plate of on-site breads, an assortment that included sticky pecan buns, a pumpkin muffin, and freshly baked bow ties.
The inn’s pouring program includes specialty cocktails, craft beers on tap, and a moderately priced wine list of some 40+ vintages.
Dessert at Salem Cross is worth saving space; everything is done in the inn’s bakery.
Leaving options like maple creme brulee ($ 6) and an ice cream puff ($ 7), we instead focused on other possibilities.
A revamp of a French classic, the Chocolate Almond Pithivier ($ 7) was a tart-shaped piece of buttery puff pastry filled with a wickedly rich combination of chocolate and marzipan.
The Pecan Bread Pudding ($ 5) came to the table topped with real whipped cream, while our Indian Pudding ($ 5) had a fine ginger flavor and smooth cornmeal texture.
Offering an engaging country vibe and a creative yet traditional menu, the Salem Cross Inn & Tavern is one of the Quaboag area’s most interesting dining destinations.
Name: Salem Cross Inn Restaurant & Tavern
Address: 260 Main Street West, Brookfield West
Telephone: (508) 867-2345
Hours: Tuesday to Friday, 11:30 am to 9:00 pm; Saturday, 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday, from noon to 8 p.m. The hostel is closed on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day; The special winter “weekends only” schedule begins in January.
Entrance fees: $ 16 to $ 34
Credit card: American Express, Discover, MasterCard, Visa
Disabled access : Accessible, with toilets equipped for wheelchairs