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As one travels to or from Massachusetts on I-84, there is a sign that could easily be missed. It is a simple yellow one beckoning travelers to slow down and stop in. It reads “Traveler Food and Books”.

The place (Traveler Restaurant) is pretty nondescript from the outside. But inside it is a very unique indeed – a 1950-ish roadside eatery that touts “Great Food and a Free Book”.

When you walk in you notice that there are shelves of books everywhere. And, as part of the dining experience you are invited to take home a few (three per person).

“Quirky” is how one travel review described the place.

Yes, these days other places pair books with food, but it’s not like here at the Traveler. This place is full of authenticity – a reminder of a time when businesses were family owned and retained a personal touch (an era before Starbucks Cafes could be found in Barnes and Nobles book stores at the regional mall).

When we recently pulled up, the parking lot was pretty empty. We had arrived in an off hour just between the end of breakfast and the start of lunch.

Upon entering we were immediately greeted by a hostess stationed at an old-fashioned cashier register counter full of vintage candies in the display case in an area otherwise surrounded by books (and Traveler Restaurant souvenirs).

Our trek to our table led us past the shelves towards a back room, disappointing me for a moment But then I we came to realize that we were being seated at a window with a panoramic view.

Off in the distance was the interstate with those hurrying past. But immediately in front of us was nature on stage, courtesy of three bird-feeders donated by a local birding store in nearby Sturbridge. There were only a few birds on the scene at that time but they had company – four squirrels and two playful chipmunks. We were kept quite entertained. It was so engrossing, in fact, that it took a while before I turned my attention to what brought us here – the books. My eating partner, in turn, never got to the books, a passion of hers, until just before we left departure.

In between, the food – like the surroundings – was solid. The menu offered a lot of comfort food in a comfortable and comforting setting. But it was contemporary too – with its menu listing omlettes, salads and wraps as well as pancakes, steaks, burgers and its highly regarded haddock.

The Traveler Restaurant served up satisfying food, atmosphere and, of course, books to go. (By the way, there are books for sale in the basement in addition to the freebies upstairs).

Refreshed, replenished and re-energized, we were back on the road with three books and fond memories.

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