Monday, July 20, 2009

Travellers Restaurant on I-84



"FOOD and BOOKS" says the giant sign outside The Traveler Restaurant in Union, Connecticut. Union, which has a population of about 700 residents, is the state's smallest town, and you might not even know you're passing through as you leave Connecticut driving eastbound on I-84. You can't, however, miss the bold sign that touts this unique restaurant, where 100,000 books are given away every year!We saw it on our trip from NJ to Boston.

I'll take you inside the restaurant and tell you more about its unique book giveaway program, but first, here are all of the details you'll need if you want to visit this roadside restaurant.

The Traveler Restaurant
1257 Buckley Highway, Union, CT
860-684-4920
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.

If you love books, you'll feel right at home the moment you step inside The Traveler Restaurant. Shelves of books surround the main floor dining room, and all of the volumes you see are available for free with the purchase of a meal.

Keep in mind, now, that you won't exactly find the latest bestseller among the 5,000 or so selections available at any given time. The Traveler Restaurant obtains its books from library discard sales, auctions, flea markets, book fairs and other used book sources. The menu says: "Our hope is that each and every one of our guests finds a book on our shelves," and if you're patient and spend some time browsing, it's almost guaranteed that a volume or two will catch your eye.

When the price is "free," the quest for the perfect choice becomes a bit of a game. You'll find that the time spent waiting for your meal to arrive flies by as you wander the restaurant in search of a book to call your own.

Marty Doyle, the original owner of The Traveler Restaurant, was a book collector who came up with the restaurant's unique marketing concept because he wanted to thin out his own collection. The current owners have continued the free book tradition, and they give away an estimated 50 tons of books each year.

Lovers of literature will enjoy perusing not only the restaurant's shelves but its walls, which are decorated with literary memorabilia including photos autographed by well known authors such as New England's own Dr. Seuss.

If you're a book collector or even just an avid reader, you'll also want to venture downstairs to the Book Cellar. The 20,000 old books on the cellar's shelves aren't free, but they're priced reasonably, and you just might find a volume you'll treasure among the stacks.

It's easy forget that this cozy roadside spot is first and foremost a full-service restaurant. Don't get so lost among the bookshelves that you allow your meal to get cold!

The Traveler Restaurant offers a diverse menu with something for everyone, from steaks and seafood to salads and sandwiches. We had crab cake dinner and an omelette. They were good. Turkey is cooked fresh every day and served several different ways. Vegetarian items are available, and there's a kids' menu, too. Solo diners will find this a friendly and comfortable place to dine and browse.

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