[Photos: Katie Chudy]
Right near a giant blue striped tent with a skeleton perched on top, almost as a lookout, is a place where one can buy a sign that threatens to "Egg Your Nog." Walk past tables of colorful vintage dishes and coffee mugs, and you'll find a big green button sign with an arrow that points eager button enthusiasts in the right direction. It's very apparent that we are not in Boston anymore. In fact, we're about an hour west, in Brimfield, Massachusetts, at the Brimfield Antique Show, a summer ritual since the 1950s. Taking place on approximately a half-mile strip and spanning back about 500 feet on each side of the road, this is one of the largest outdoor flea markets in the country, attracting over 250,000 visitors — and included in that mix, a great deal of Boston-area chefs looking to outfit their restaurants.
Steve "Nookie" Postal found much luck at Brimfield, and most of his finds can be seen throughout his Kendall Square restaurant. "Commonwealth is brand new and in a super-modern, sleek area. I wanted to get away from that and warm it up and make it more comfortable, and I found items and antiques helped that," says Postal. "Most of all the large display tables are from Brimfield, as are the chairs, both host desks, and many of our vintage glasswares. My best find might be our chef's table. It was a bowling alley, and the base is a piece of the Ford Motor factory that was disassembled. It's awesome. Heavy as hell though. It was a bitch to get back here."
Michael Cooney of The Brewer's Fork, the upcoming restaurant and beer garden in Charlestown, has also snagged great finds for his restaurant. "Although I grew up in Massachusetts, I'd never had heard of the Brimfield Antique Show," says Cooney. "Antiquing is not really my thing, but my wife Kari suggested we go take a look and see what may be out there for fun and different stuff for The Brewer's Fork. John Paine (my partner) and I want very much for our space to look like it has been in Hayes Square for 50 years — not the typical freshly designed Boston restaurant. It is very difficult to find original chairs, lights, mirrors, etc. without spending a fortune. So far we have purchased chairs for the dining room and stools for the high-top tables, as well as cool, funky-ass mirrors for the bathrooms. We're going to return to shop some more for possible table tops, lights, and anything else we can pick up to add some life and originality to the space."
Other restaurants like The Gallows have also found furnishings by way of Brimfield. Ashmont Grill built their patio around colorful vintage pieces, everything from chairs to metal pigs and goats. Alden & Harlow got most of their decor there, especially their furniture. Tony Maws is also known to visit Brimfield, and most of the details at The Kirkland Tap & Trotter are from there as well.
In addition to rare, unique, and unusual finds (see the above photo of the larger-than-life "Alive Russian Rat" sign, for example), there's also a carnival-like setting complete with the classics like fried dough, hot dogs, French fries, ice cream, and pizza, as well as less classic carnival eats like Jamaican beef patties. And a popular destination, easily found by the billowing smoke, is a sandwich-peddling outpost of B.T.'s Smokehouse, a Sturbridge barbecue restaurant. There's also a tent where kettle corn is being popped and fresh cider donuts are being made, releasing their perfume of cinnamon and sugar into the air. "I always eat a brisket sandwich from B.T.'s Smokehouse and fresh cider donuts, and I have a favorite stand for a soft-serve twist cone," says Postal.
"I had a great "Thanksgiving-style" turkey sandwich from one of the booths. Twice, actually," adds Cooney. The show has ended for the season but will return on May 12, 2015.
· Brimfield Antique Show [Official Site]
· At the Source features on Eater [~EBOS~]