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The Scarlet

The student newspaper of Clark University

The Scarlet

The student newspaper of Clark University

The Scarlet

We Went to Jail – This Is What We Ate

A Review of Northeastern Correctional Center’s Fife and Drum Restaurant


The Fife and Drum in Concord, Massachusetts is unlike any other restaurant in the state – not because of the food served, but because of who is serving it. It is inside the walls of the Northeastern Correctional Center, a minimum and pre-release prison where inmates who have demonstrated ability and willingness to follow the rules get to live with an option to work either on site or in the community. The Northeastern Correctional Center’s culinary program provides an opportunity for inmates to engage with the outside world while honing skills that are applicable to the restaurant industry outside of the facility’s walls. The Fife and Drum has been open since the 1970s, and the money generated from guests goes back into the program so that it can continue to run.

The lunch service takes place from 11:15am to 12:30pm, Tuesday through Friday unless otherwise noted. Visitors need to follow a dress code as outlined on the website, leave their phone in the car and arrive with only $3.21 and their ID to the front desk of the main building. After signing in, they exchange their ID for a guest pass. Guests then proceed to the dining room, where they hand in their payment and sit down to read what’s on the menu for the day from a whiteboard against the wall. From there, inmates working as wait staff and chefs serve a three-course meal to patrons in an astoundingly quick amount of time. While it may not be the best meal you’ve ever had, the value and community created at The Fife and Drum are well worth the 40 minute drive from Worcester to Concord.


Cyd: I decided to opt for both appetizers. I got the house salad with balsamic vinaigrette, which was a small soup bowl of iceberg lettuce with cabbage and carrot shreds. The dressing was served on the side in a small plastic sauce container with a lid. It wasn’t fancy, but the vegetables were fresh and the vinaigrette was a very standard balsamic vinaigrette. I also got a bowl of the soup of the day, which was minestrone. It was lukewarm, and had a lot of kale in it. The noodles inside of it appeared to be cut-up pieces of penne, and they were soft. It was very adequate, but I don’t think I’d order it again.



Nic: I did not get either appetizer because I am a picky eater (embarrassing, I know), and because I wanted to save room for the entree.


Cyd: I got the second entree option, which was a chicken marsala with pasta and vegetables. The chicken was well seasoned, and definitely cooked to a safe temperature. It was seasoned well, and I could taste the herbs. The marsala sauce was a little more gelatinous than I would have preferred, and didn’t have a lot of flavor. The mushrooms in it were cooked excellently. The pasta underneath the chicken seemed to be the same pasta that was in the minestrone soup, except in whole noodles instead of cut-up pieces. They didn’t have any flavor, and were incredibly soft. The vegetables seemed to be the standard frozen corn, carrots and peas that you can get at the store. They were seasoned well, and were cooked just the right amount. I also stole some of Nic’s fries, which were genuinely life changing (and I’m not exaggerating – they were the best fries I’ve had in my twenty-one years on Earth).



PASTA: 0/10



Nic: I opted for the meatloaf sandwich with fries. It was served open-face with a slathering of gooey gravy on top – however, when I closed the sandwich, much of the bun became soggy from the wetness of the gravy, causing it to mostly crumble onto my plate. The meatloaf itself tasted ok and was a pretty standard meatloaf. The gravy, while its texture swallowed the meal whole, didn’t have a distinct taste, and was actually quite bland. The fries, though, were absolutely wonderful. They weren’t just fried straight from the frozen bag, like at most restaurants – no, they were cut into perfect sticks and fried golden-brown and crispy with the perfect amount of salt on top. The fries were absolutely the best part of the entire trip, and made the 40 minutes of driving both ways worth it.


GRAVY: 2/10

FRIES: 10/10

BUN: Disintegrated/10


Cyd: For dessert, we each got oatmeal raisin cookies and blueberry cake. The oatmeal raisin cookies were awesome – they were the appropriate size, had a good brown sugar and cinnamon taste and an appropriate amount of raisins. They also walked the line between too crisp and too soft. The blueberry cake was moist, but not overcooked. It tasted like a blueberry pancake. The glaze on top had a light lemon flavor that added to the flavor of the cake without overpowering it.



Nic: I was overjoyed when our server brought over both oatmeal raisin cookies and a slice of blueberry cake. The cookies were cinnamony, crispy on the outside, soft on the inside, and everything I’ve ever wanted from an oatmeal raisin cookie. While Cyd luckily received many blueberries in her slice of cake, I had exactly two at the very edge of my slice. The cake’s taste and texture was good, but the glaze on top was extremely sugary yet did not stick out much in the flavor palette. I still enjoyed it thoroughly, but I do wish it had more blueberries and no glaze.




While the restaurant’s premise is unique and a bit anxiety-inducing, the environment in the Fife and Drum was welcoming and warm. We were sat by an employee who was taking people’s cash and coins for entry, and while at first it seemed odd, we ended up striking up a delightful conversation with her. When we had questions about the restaurant, she gladly elaborated. When we revealed we are college students from Worcester, she inquired about our lives. We even had a conversation about our shared love of matcha tea. This employee made the experience exponentially more enjoyable, and before we left, she asked us, “So, when are you coming back?” which we both felt was validating and kind.

The waitstaff were clearly working hard and our server was one of the best servers either of us have ever had. He was so on-top of his tables that the second it seemed like we were finishing up our meal, he brought out both desserts for both of us, despite the $3.21 technically only covering one dessert per person. Due to the portrayal of male prisoners in the news and media, truthfully, we were nervous about this aspect of our dining experience, but he made us feel at ease and even offered us a to-go box of fries at the end of our meal.

The employee we sat with told us much about the strong community that has been built by the restaurant, as many regulars come in multiple days a week due to the fact that “the price for the meal simply can’t be beat.” We saw waitstaff and employees act like every customer was an old friend of theirs, shooting the breeze every chance they got and making sure everyone was satisfied with their meals. The community in the restaurant was enough to make us both want to go back, and makes that $3.21 worth every penny.

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  • Gail ~ Feb 20, 2024 at 8:01 am

    I thought they shut this down decades ago. I heard about this years ago and always wanted to go. I live 5 minutes from there. I went by it 2 days ago and of course all the cows are gone, and I did see a light on outside the building but nothing else. I will have to check it out. Prayers they continue on the right path when they are released…