Festival Food: Cherrington’s Chicken Makes a Comeback

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Well, file this under “A Blast from the Past”: Dixie Cherrington—proprietor of the gone-but-not-forgotten eponymous Mt. Adams restaurant—is doing the Lord’s work this weekend. Specifically, she’s cooking her lemon chicken dinner Saturday night (August 4) for the Holy Cross–Immaculata Church Festival, just steps from the spot where her postage stamp-sized café used to be.

I don’t know about you, but Cherrington’s was a wonder to me when it opened some three decades ago. It was the first place I had ever eaten where the menu was written on a blackboard. And it changed—you know, like, every day. Who else did that back then? And eating there was sort of like hanging out in a relative’s shabby-chic parlor while an aunt scurried around the kitchen, whipping up something tasty. This was an appealing feature to me back in my singleton years, since I was always looking for a place where I’d be comfortable going solo. I recall one lonely Easter Sunday when I couldn’t manage the trip home to be with family. I was a touch depressed (OK, close to suicidal), so I took myself to Cherrington’s, ordered lamb and a slab of her banana coconut cream pecan pie, and left feeling positively resurrected. 

I was under the impression Dixie Cherrington had left town when she closed the restaurant a decade-plus ago. But no: she’s still here. In fact, I caught up with her by phone in the Holy Cross–Immaculata kitchen (she’s a member of the parish). She told me that she and her husband, Rob, make the baked lemon chicken dinner for the festival every year. “The same meal,” she says. “You think they’d get tired of it.” And in case you’re wondering—no, there’s no chance she’s going back into the restaurant business. “I’m 75 now,” she explains. So if you want to re-experience her chow, this is it. Saturday night’s meal (the cost is $12) includes (among other things) cheesy au gratin potatoes and homemade honey potato rolls. The restaurant’s infamous banana coconut cream pecan pie? Not on offer, she says. “It’s too hot.”

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