The newly reopened Village Inn in Auburn might look somewhat different at first glance than it once did. The layout is much the same, but the décor, entryway and bathrooms have a new and welcoming look. There is no doubt that this is still the same restaurant owned by three generations of the Vallee family; the friendly service is back and all smiles.

In April of 2007, a fire destroyed the storage area, kitchen and loft, closing the family restaurant that had been open since 1963. While the restaurant’s doors are now open to the public, the Vallee family considers their status over the next couple of months to be more of a pre-opening, with hours Tuesday through Sunday 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Looking around the dining area on a recent day, a majority of the booths were filled, signaling the excitement of loyal customers returning — pre-opening status or not.

I sat in a small booth and my waitress took my drink order as I looked over the menu. It is worth mention that the seating is exceptionally comfortable and the atmosphere is cozy and relaxed. I picked up bits of people’s conversations. A group of older women, obviously long-time friends from the sound of it, were talking about their favorite items and how the food tasted much the same as it had before. Yes, this dining experience had all the things I’d come to enjoy about the restaurant over the years.

I decided on the combination lunch basket with fried clams and scallops in crumbs. My father was always partial to fried clams, but I have never been able to appreciate them in batter as he and so many do. I was really pleased that the food seems to have remained much the same, especially their family recipe for cocktail sauce. Just the right amount of horseradish. The coleslaw, a long-held family recipe made daily, was very tasty. I’ve never been a fan of coleslaw and rarely eat it, so the fact that I finished it says a lot. I was more than stuffed with the lunch portion. Service was good, my
waitress was pleasant and my order was ready in under 15 minutes.

The menu has old favorites — fried and baked seafood — and, of course, “landlubber” choices as well. Prices are reasonable for seafood, and portion sizes are just right. “Diner Days” is the newest addition to the menu, mixing senior, lunch and special pricing in one section available anytime, and is a tribute to the days of Eddie’s Drive-in, which was the original eatery that once stood on that very spot in the 1950s.

Past favorites of mine have always been the baked haddock and baked scrod; the seafood casserole is always a nice treat. The addition of the anchor icon next to specific entrees indicates which meals offer smaller portions for $3 off. A handy way to have everything in one menu. My meal, with ice tea and taxes, came to $17.10; not bad considering that it was seafood.

There’s Wi-Fi available and ample parking. While there is a decent amount of seating, the restaurant’s popularity does not appear to have waned during its renovations, so plan ahead.

Tasty tidbits

What: The Village Inn Restaurant and Captain Don’s Loft

Where: 165 High St., Auburn

When: Pre-opening hours are Tuesday-Sunday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Why: Good food at reasonable prices.

Atmosphere: Pleasant dining, comfortable seating and friendly service.

Prices: Moderate; market price for some seafood entrees.

For more information call 782-7796; and coming soon:

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