A couple of very important questions:
Are you hungry for something more than just plain old diner fare? Do you often find yourself wishing that you could bring a full meal into a library, never mind the food slopping all over your precious book? (FYI: they don’t like that .) Do you want a side of Dr. Seuss with your order of fries?
Then get yourself over to Union, CT, and grab a bite and a book from Traveler Restaurant, whose claim to fame (aside from the fish & chips, and self-declared “yummy” fries & coleslaw) is books, served up fresh with your meal.
It began with a dream, a dream of getting rid of the way-too-many books in original owner Marty Doyle’s personal collection. The avid book lover and collector decided to start offering his overflow to hungry patrons, most of whom are commuters and local residents. The current owners continued the tradition, and now the dining room of the Traveler is surrounded by shelves of books (I can feel myself letting out a Homer Simpson “mmmmmmmm” as I picture it), and each is available, for free, with your meal, up to three at a time. And no returns necessary – they’re all yours! Traveler proclaims to have something for everyone on their menu, including noir writer George V. Higgins, Ernest Hemingway, autobiographies, books on gardening, traveling, and even something for the kids. Patrons agree that the “the burgers are great, and the books are better” at this literary smorgasbord.
From a few boxes to thousands given away per week, the idea grew so popular that the cellar of the restaurant was turned into a bookstore, not to be confused with the upstairs free-for-all. Kristina Downey, who used to waitress at Traveler as a teenager, still remembers when the Book Cellar used to be a dance floor where you could get your groove on. Years later, she returned to the restaurant, and this time, following in her librarian mother’s footsteps, Kristina was hired as a bookstore manager. She gets the fun task of categorizing its 20,000 books, using her own system, with a handy map on the wall so you’ll know where to start. “The books are all donations,” she confirms, from book fairs, library discards (some books even come with their original check-out pocket!) and flea markets. Naturally, the bookstore attracts patrons, collectors, and dealers from all over New England.
So to sum: casual family dining; three free books per meal; sounds like heaven.
If you go, you might want to make it quick – because word is spreading like hotcakes.
The Traveler Restaurant
1257 Buckley Highway, Union, CT
Located off I-84 eastbound or westbound at exit 74 in Connecticut, just west of the Massachusetts state line.
Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner daily.
Check their Facebook page for specials.
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