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Cheap eats

Having a meal at Hamlin House feels a bit like dining with a rich relative.

The American Legion Post Troop I building, which houses the Hamlin House restaurant, is a stunner. Behind the stately front doors are lofty ceilings, ornate crown moldings, fancy carved mantels and flamboyant (but tasteful -- no flocking here!) wallpaper. The room where the food is served, to the left of the entry door, seats fewer than 50, and a tall bay window with gauzy hangings lets in plenty of light.

On a Sunday just before noon, the coffee arrived speedily, but we waited awhile for our food and it was obvious that both the kitchen and the lone, bustling server were overwhelmed by several large family groups. But when breakfast arrived, all was forgiven.

Ruth had the Pasta Frittata ($5.95), an omelet filled with buttery strands of cooked pasta. The presentation was great -- the circular frittata was cut in fourths and moved to the edges of the large plate, and a softball-sized scoop of hash browns occupied the center. "This is cheesy and oniony and really good," she said of the frittata.

Dan was extremely happy with the Eggs Benedict with Shrimp, the most costly item on the menu at $7.95, and worth every penny. Two large eggs were poached to perfection, with liquid golden centers, and the Hollandaise was creamy and rich. He counted three high-quality, tail-on fresh shrimp.

John's Cinnamon Swirl French Toast with Sausage Patties ($5.50) was plentiful and nicely fried, if a bit light on the cinnamon. The patties were large and crisp on the edges, just the way he likes them.

I ordered the French Toast Club ($5.95) not really knowing what to expect. It turned out to be a sort of Monte Cristo, with three slices of French toast layered with bacon, cheese and sausage, sectioned into four parts and arranged around that scoop of hash browns. It was incredibly good, unusual and filling. I ate three of the four parts and boxed up the final one and most of the home fries.

We've heard good things about the weekday lunches, and the Friday night fish fry is among the best in town.

-- Anne Neville

Hamlin House is open for lunch weekdays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. (except Mondays, when it might close a bit early as they prepare for bingo); for lunch and dinner from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Fridays; and for breakfast from 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Sundays. It has a few steps leading to the door.

***

Hamlin House

432 Franklin St.885-8084

3 1/2 stars (Out of 4)

"Great specials."

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