January 9, 2013

Remote roadside lunch stand tastes success

By Doug Harlow dharlow@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

BRIGHTON PLANTATION -- There is no post office, no stop lights and no general store.

click image to enlarge

Joanne Goodridge and her daughter, Christy Morgan, have found enough success in their roadside lunch stand in tiny Brighton Plantation that they are now open year round. Poppa Jo's Homecook'n, on state Route 151, opened five years ago for summers only.

Staff photo by Doug Harlow

But there's Poppa Jo's Homecook'n.

Joanne Goodridge, 65, opened the little roadside lunch stand in an 8-by-27-foot trailer five years ago in this community of 70 residents. During the summer, she cooked in the narrow trailer and served meals on picnic tables outside.

Now with the summer success of the eatery and a groomed snowmobile link to the nearby Interconnected Trail System, Goodridge and her daughter Christy Morgan, are open year round and have expanded to a new dining room.

"It's picked up every year," Goodridge said. "We get them from all over. People come up from Skowhegan, Solon, Portland. Out-of-staters. I think they like my attitude a lot and everything's homemade."

Despite the remote location -- eight miles north of Athens village on Route 151 -- Goodridge said the business is popular. Truckers, loggers, ATV riders and others traveling to the Moosehead Lake region spread the word, she said.

The eatery's motto is written on the menu: People say it's worth the drive.

"We just happened to come by one time and it was open, so we pulled in, and we've been coming ever since," customer Irene Gibson, of Skowhegan, said during a recent lunch hour. "We just love it. I think it's her special touches; her home cooking."

Gibson's lunch partner, Alan Bollier, also of Skowhegan, agreed.

"We come here all the time -- I like the food," he said. "We've been coming here since she opened."

Customer Melissa Landry, of Athens, said Goodridge's special touches include her homemade doughnuts that are so big they are called skidder tires. The bread is homemade and pies are from scratch. The menu is not just hamburgers and hot dogs. There's haddock chowder, lobster and crab meat rolls, chicken breasts tossed with buffalo sauce, scallops, dynamites, chili, hand-cut fries, sandwiches and breakfast all day.

"We have lots of family come up from Massachusetts and my mother lives in Las Vegas and the first place we come, when anybody comes to visit us, is here," Landry said. "We want to eat here because it's comfortable and they want the Maine experience. It's family oriented. It's like an old fashioned diner."

Goodridge said she opened the place with Sherwood Small -- he was the Poppa, she was the Jo. When Small, 72, pulled out a few months later, Goodridge decided to keep the name.

"Everybody asks me how come I don't change it, but it's out of respect for him, for all he's done for me," Goodridge said. "He's my handyman if I have problems. He's always been there."

The new 18-by-28-foot dining room, built by Morgan's husband, Scott, seats 18 people. Goodridge still cooks in the old trailer by the road, while Morgan, 41, and her four children ferry the food to the tables.

Goodridge has been a selectwoman in Brighton Plantation for the past 24 years. Morgan is the town clerk and tax collector.

She said building the new dining room will lead to a new kitchen, eventually, providing business keeps up. They will celebrate a grand opening Saturday, with dinner specials and live music noon to 7 p.m.

Goodridge got her reputation as a cook and dessert maker from working at the former Dee & Larry's and the restaurant at Thompson's country store, both in Athens. She later cooked at The Shed in Cornville.

Doug Harlow -- 612-2367

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