The Northwest Correctional Center in Concord, Mass., offers each day at its restaurant the Fife and Drum a generous lunch, but unlike Prison Cafeteria in Japan’s Abashiri Prison, which serves to the public the same food that the inmates eat, the Fife and Drum offers down-home American fare, prepared and served by actual inmates.
Tuesdays through Fridays from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. lunch is offered for a jaw-dropping $3.21, and is prepared and served by the inmates studying in the minimum security facility’s culinary arts program. Inmates who complete the culinary arts program receive a Serve Safe food-handler certificate that permits them to work in restaurants, so it’s not nearly as risky as it sounds.
According to the prison’s superintendent, “This is a premier program. No other facility has this kind of program that allows the community to come in and eat. We have some elderly, who have come daily for years. It’s a great setting, a great atmosphere.” The program started in 1983 and teaches all aspects of working in a kitchen. Inmates do everything from planning the meals, to serving, bussing and washing up afterwards. The inmates are also thrilled with the training and opportunity the program offers them, and regulars and reviewers give the place a good review.
A positive review from Yelp.com surveyed one day’s menu, including a meal of boneless pork chops, green beans and au gratin potatoes, soup and salad, and two sandwich choices. The reviewer endorsed the Cuban sandwich as excellent, but noted the drink choices included only Coke, Diet Coke, Sprite, water, or coffee. The reviewer found the table service “very courteous and attentive.”
Regular customer Bob Hertz admitted that the atmosphere can get colorful, noting, “some people are a little nervous about the environment. We had a group of women come from an insurance company, and as they walked in, there was a frisk going on. And we … never saw them again.”
Chowhound.com gave the Fife and Drum a thumbs up saying, “Overall, the entrée was the best part of the meal. I was completely stuffed by the time I finished lunch. And the large portions apply equally to the huge sandwiches. Two of the people at my table ordered sandwiches and they couldn’t finish them.” The reviewer concludes, “I’m definitely going back for both the lunch and the conversation.”
So get there early, because it fills up fast.