Shady Glen Carolers – A Holiday Tradition
Posted on December 11, 2016
Since my childhood, not a Christmas season has passed without anticipation of seeing and hearing the carolers perched atop the roof of Shady Glen, a sandwich and ice cream shop in Manchester, Connecticut. In an ever changing world this holiday tradition has been a joyful constant.
Shady Glen Dairy Stores include two shops both in Manchester. The original store is located along the Routes 6 & 44 corridor, which connects Hartford County with the state’s “Quiet Corner”. Shady Glen is well-known as a Nutmeg State treasure and “local institution”. Famously, former CBS news anchor Dan Rather stopped in here.
Among my earliest memories as a little girl are those of my father carrying me into Shady Glen with him to get ice cream cones for him, myself, and my mother and sister who were waiting in the car. While in line at the always two to three lines deep counter, I would delight in the ice cream fairy mural on one of the walls – it’s still there. I ordered chocolate, Dad preferred coffee flavor, my sister Candy liked black raspberry and Mom loved frozen pudding – unless it was Christmastime – then her choice was their Christmas special which looks a lot like a fruitcake in a sugar cone.
Ice cream is homemade at Shady Glen. The shop may be best known for its mocha chip (that has become my flavor of choice) and its seasonal pumpkin ice cream generally available from early to late autumn. The arrival of autumn with Thanksgiving close at hand means a pilgrimage back to the “City of Village Charm” for many, as well as, travelers coming to town to run in the Thanksgiving Day Manchester Road Race. It seems they all flock to Shady Glen.
Known too for menu items with extraordinary tastiness such as hearty minestrone soup, clam and corn chowder *the latter served on Wednesdays and Saturdays* , unique burgers and oh so yummy coleslaw, Shady Glen recipes are apparently top secret. I am reminded of a fellow who had been a waiter at Shady Glen then became a co-worker of mine at an ice cream and sandwich restaurant in Storrs while we were both attending the University of Connecticut. He was teased unrelentlessly by some to reveal the key ingredients in Shady Glen coleslaw. He did not cave. He claimed he had signed an ‘agreement’ never to reveal the formula. Whether or not that was true or simply ‘tongue in cheek’ remains to be seen. I suspect it was a matter of loyalty.
Somewhere along the way an ever so cute guy began working behind the grill – dark eyes, great smile. That created a teenage/ ’20-something’ added attraction for me to stop at Shady Glen.
Throughout the years dining inside Shady Glen had been a periodic treat for my family, and it was a certainty during the holidays to savor one of their marvelous crispy, winged cheesefurters or cheeseburgers. These burgers have been featured on the Food Network. Just last weekend my sisters and I stopped in for lunch at Shady Glen – what is known as the Bolton store because it’s near the Bolton townline. There was a knowing moment when we glanced at each other, smiled, and said – “it feels like Christmas”.
Opened back in 1948, and, currently family owned and operated by the Hoch Family, Shady Glen has retained a “vintage” ambiance. Servers don paper hats and the waitress’ uniforms still include white aprons. Those familiar with the shop post someone at each side of the restaurant to stand in line for a booth. It is common to see folks frantically try to catch the attention of the rest of their party on the opposite side of the store when a booth opens up.
Interior Christmas decorations like a large Santa Claus checking his list and a miniature train are part of the customary holiday scene here. Of course, when the meal is done and the check is paid how nice it is to head outdoors and take a moment to look up and listen once again to sounds of decking the halls and jingling bells, and to appreciate a heartwarming holiday tradition.
Shady Glen Dairy Stores: 840 East Middle Turnpike near Bolton & 360 West Middle Turnpike at the Manchester Parkade.