By Susan Dewey

November 2003 - The tri-town Grafton area, which includes Grafton Center, South Grafton and North Grafton on the southern edge of Worcester has lots of good places to eat that are hidden away beyond main streets — the kind of places where you can get an enormous plate of tasty comfort food with all the trimmings for $8 to $15.00.

Most of the restaurants that can be found nestled in this “rural route” Central New England community are laid-back, family-style enclaves with unpretentious menus and friendly staff. The Olde Post Office Pub, located in North Grafton just off Route 140, is no different. The menu is big and full of hefty burgers, big omelettes, salads large enough for a small family — this is not a place for the faint of heart when it comes to portion size. But the food is carefully prepared and usually very good and the staff are very prompt and helpful.

On a recent Friday night when we needed a night out after Game 7 of the Red Sox playoff series, we pulled into the Pub’s sprawling parking lots and had to cruise around for a while to find a parking space. Having already tried to go to the Grafton Inn, which is just down the street from our house in Grafton Center — and where we found a long waiting line — we were sure we wouldn’t get a seat at the Pub. But a cheerful hostess guided us right away to a big comfy booth and before we knew it we were digging deep into bowls of lobster bisque — the ultimate comfort food for Red Sox playoff casualties.

The bisque (around $3.50) was thick, creamy and full of lobster bits — it could have been a lot warmer, though, which was a bummer on a cold October night. The Pub offers all kinds of homemade soups like minnestrone and of course clam chowder, as well as a full range of pub-style appetizers which looked tasty and are reasonably priced.

My companion, who has lived through far too many Red Sox nightmares, soothed his soul with an enormous fried seafood platter (around $14.00) which included just about everything out of the sea – served with a mountain of french fries, the crunchy, lightly fried delight was just what he needed.

I ordered a delicious chicken, artichoke, dried tomatoes, capers and angel-hair pasta confection that melted in my mouth – the only problem was that the serving was so huge I could only finish less than half. Luckily, the Pub wrapped up my leftovers, which were happily demolished for two family lunches the next day.

But a cheerful hostess guided us right away to a big comfy booth, and before we knew it we were digging deep into bowls of lobster bisque – the ultimate comfort food for Red Sox Nation casualties.

As well as offering several more upscale entrees like prime rib, lobster and all kinds of snazzy chicken dishes, the Pub’s multi-page menu is chock full of sandwiches, (the Reubens are very good here and the lobster salad rolls are a big hit with the local business lunch crowd), salads, two-fisted burgers and a good selection of kids’ entrees.

Desserts are seductively displayed in a revolving glass case right by the hostess station – it’s hard not to drool at shelf after shelf of marvelous cakes, pies, cheesecakes and more. After stuffing ourselves with lobster bisque and huge plates of seafood and chicken, we had no room for dessert -- but one of these days (maybe when the Patriots are in the playoffs) we’re going to cruise into the Pub and eat nothing but dessert – washed down of course with one of the Pub’s famed specialty cocktails.

In addition to two large dining areas, including an atrium-style space with family-style tables and the more intimate booth area, the Pub has a big bar area that is very popular with 20-somethings and sports fans of all ages.

It wouldn’t be right to write about the Olde Post Office Pub without mentioning the wonderful U.S. Mail memorabilia that hangs from the ceiling, sits on the backs of booths and lines the walls in this big, airy depot of a place. We especially like the antique toy mail trucks – kids love this place – and the old photos of Grafton Center.

At the end of the night we left the Olde Post Office Pub feeling full, warm and well cared for – just what we needed to face a long night without the Red Sox.

The Olde Post Office Pub, 508 839-6106, is located just off Route 140 on Ray Street in the center of North Grafton. Hours are 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday, 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday and 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday. A breakfast buffet is available on Sundays from 8 a.m. to noon.