Which restaurants do we miss most in Greater Taunton? A look back at some favorites (2022)

In September the kids go back to school, the leaves start to fall, and just the whisper of a chill starts to permeate the air with the promise of colder days to come. It’s the time of year that has our thoughts turning fondly to similar seasons past.

This is also the time of year where we all think a whole lot about food. Right now we’re solidly in pumpkin spice season, but there are feasts to be had in the months to come.

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We’ve all got our favorite dishes, and no doubt we’re looking forward to having them again, but what about meals past? What about the dinners we can’t get back, because the places that made them are no longer there?

If we’re all subject to the relentless passage of time, then restaurants are no exception. And there have been many that have come and gone in Taunton over the years.

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So we reached out to you, the readers, to see which restaurants in Taunton, and around our area, that you miss the most.

These are some old favorites that Gazette readers came up with:

Henry’s Root Beer Stand

By far, the place most readers mentioned was Henry’s Root Beer Stand.

Henry’s was a Silver City fixture for more than 60 years.

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It began in 1951, when Henry Wojtkunski bought an A&W franchise on Broadway. He ran it as an A&W for a number of years, but then, according to a 2008 Taunton Daily Gazette article, his daughter-in-law said he dropped the A&W affiliation because of the franchising costs, and began running it as his own place.

So the root beer stand officially became Henry’s, and Wojtkunski began selling root beer made from his own recipe.

In the offseason, the lot was a place for Tauntonians to go and get their Christmas trees.

Wojtkunski’s son Brian later ran the stand, and, before Brian died, he sold the stand to William and Kim Palmer in 1999.

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The end came in late 2007, when for sale signs appeared at the stand, and it did not reopen in 2008, for what would have been its 62nd season.

Henry’s got a new life in 2009, when it became The Stand. Owner Charlie Silvestri planned to keep the Henry’s concept the same, and just run the business under a new name, making the root beer using Henry Wojtkunski’s recipe.

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By December 2010 though, the Broadway property was officially listed for sale.

In 2012, the lot was bought by Aaron and Richard Mello, and they moved their Dunkin Donuts from 224 Broadway to the former Henry’s property.

These days, it’s still a Dunkin Donuts, and a Boost Mobile.

But if you’ve lived in Taunton long enough, you remember when Henry’s: swinging by on a hot summer day, snagging a picnic table with friends or family, and grabbing a frosty root beer float to chase some of the heat away.

Benjamin’s

Not too far behind Henry’s was, of course, Benjamin’s.

The restaurant was a Taunton landmark for almost 50 years.

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Benjamin’s opened its doors in 1968, founded by George Benjamin and his brothers. George died in 2013 and left the business in the hands of his wife Diane Benjamin. Legal trouble soon followed, with George’s children filing a civil lawsuit against Diane in March 2015, “accusing her of “undue influence” that resulted in a revised will giving her the inheritance, according to a May 2015 Taunton Gazette article.

In May 2015, the restaurant closed abruptly, two months after the property was listed on the real estate market.

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According to a June 2016 Taunton Gazette article, in July 2015, owner Diane Benjamin signed the deed over to Mechanics Cooperative Bank after Benjamin’s defaulted on a $250,000 second mortgage taken out in 2014.

The bank was unable to auction off the property, and Benjamin’s was demolished in 2016.

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But the memories remain.

Over the years, Benjamin’s became a go-to place in the city for fine dining and celebrations of all kinds.

Former patrons and workers alike have fond memories.

Peter Menard, who was a cook there for 31 years, said in May 2015, “Everyone would come up to me say, ‘I really liked working there. It was like a big family. Sometimes you’re going to fight, but we all got over it and got the job done. We were a family.”

Charlene Fiore, who dined at Benjamin’s for decades, said in 2015 after the restaurant closed: “There are just so many memories. It was a wonderful place to go. It was always relaxing to go there. It was never hurried. The food was good, and the wait staff was absolutely wonderful.”

Photos:Memories of Benjamin's

Simon Says

Leslie Knope, of “Parks and Rec,” once asked a very important question: “Why would anybody ever eat anything besides breakfast food?”

The wonderful thing about breakfast food is that you can eat it at any time of the day: for, well, breakfast, which is great, but then also for later meals, because suddenly having breakfast for lunch or dinner makes those meals that much more exciting.

Simon Says understood the assignment, because they used to offer breakfast all day.

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Their fish and chips were also a big crowd-pleaser.

A Lawton Street staple for 42 years, Simon Says was the kind of place where everyone knew your name.

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Owners Lyn and Russell Simonds knew all their regulars, if not by name then certainly by sight. Their restaurant was a family operation, with daughters Alison and Roselind, as well as three grandchildren, working there. Many of the staff had also been there for decades.

In 2019, the Simonds said farewell, ready to take their well-earned retirement.

They made the announcement on Facebook, saying “We have decided it is time to retire and enjoy all of our hard work we have put in over the past 40-plus years. To all our loyal customers, we have enjoyed the last 42 years serving you and seeing you all each and every week. Thank you for your past patronage.”

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These days, there is still a restaurant on the property: the Mediterranean Kitchen and Pizzeria, which is open seven days a week, from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Honorable mentions

While these places didn’t get quite as many reader shoutouts, we’re sure the memories are no less fond. So let’s continue down Memory Lane with some old Greater Taunton favorites:

BB Binks

For years, BB Binks restaurant and Nana Binks were a Broadway duo over in Raynham.

What’s there now: These days it's Slap Shotz Gastropub. It was also Center Field for a time. Nana Binks might no longer be there, but Slappy's Frozen Treats has ensured that there is still ice cream nearby.

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China Garden

The building is currently for sale, according to a big sign out front, but who could forget about China Garden? The Pu Pu Platter used to be served up in decadent piles of food, flaming bowl in the middle. They were a Raynham staple for years.

Good Eats:A visit to China Garden

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The Orient

One Gazette reader said, "Chow mein sandwiches have never been the same again," since The Orient, a downtown Taunton fixture since 1935, closed in 2009. Nearly every reader who mentioned The Orient talked about their chow mein sandwiches.

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Owners Yung Fat Ling and his wife Li Xia had been running the restaurant since 1988, when they bought it from the original owners, according to a 2009 Taunton Daily Gazette story. Ling said he went to work in the restaurant shortly after arriving in the United States from China in 1972.

What’s there now: Happy Feet Reflexology

Assonet Inn

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The Assonet Inn, in Freetown, opened in 1936, after the end of Prohibition. Edith Cockroft bought the Victorian mansion and turned it into a restaurant. She ran it until 1948, when Earl and Edith Hadley took over. Three generations from the family followed, until the inn closed in 2017. The inn was once known as “the wrong place if you’re in a hurry.”

Photos:One last look at the Assonet Inn

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Ponderosa

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The Ponderosa on Route 44 might be long gone, but the spot has remained busy all these years. It became the Raynham Mandarin Chinese buffet, and these days it’s the Sakana restaurant.

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What’s there now: Sakana is the brainchild of Si Qiang Lai and partner Xue Xiang Zheng, serving up Japanese hibachi as well as offering a sushi bar.

Friendly's

Friendly’s feels like an endangered species these days. The Taunton location closed in 2011, and the one in Raynham looks like it’s being worked on, although Friendly’s is gone from there. The Middleboro location is still open though!

What’s there now: The Taunton Friendly’s is now an Alpha Dental Center.

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Georgio's

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Opening in 1974, Georgio’s was a go-to place in Dighton for decades. It wasn’t the only restaurant at 1881 County Street either: In 1962, it was Thirty Acres, then it was Dighton Rock Manor, and then it became Georgio’s when George Kotsiopoulos bought the property in 1974.

What’s there now: After a long vacancy, the property was .

Bella Roma

From 1991 until an abrupt closure in 2019, Bella Roma was dishing up classic Italian-American fare on Broadway. Readers might recall the mural that was covering one of the walls inside, featuring famous Italians.

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Owners Elio DeFabritis and Michelle Diamond announced the closure via Facebook in 2019: “Due to circumstances beyond our control, it is with a very heavy heart that we announce that Bella Roma has closed. We had a great 28 year run, made a lot of friends, and we’ve had a lot of fun. ….We want to thank you all again for your patronage over the years, it’s been quite an experience we will never forget.”

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Second helpings

There were a lot more places suggested by readers, and we plan to take a deeper look into some of them, really sink our teeth into some research. So stay tuned for some second helpings, featuring the Gondola, Tony Parker’s, Muldoon’s, Roman’s, the Herring Run at the Old Taunton Inn, Middleboro’s Red Coach Grille, Hickey’s, Ray’s Restaurant & Donut Shop, King and Queen Pizza, Tamarack, Bobby Burns Pub, and Humpty Dumpty's.

Taunton Daily Gazette/Herald News copy editor and digital producer Kristina Fontes can be reached at kfontes@heraldnews.com. Support local journalism by purchasing a digital or print subscription to The Herald News and Taunton Daily Gazette today.

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