BROOKSVILLE – The Bagaduce Lunch has been host to generations of hungry residents and folks from away who came to taste the fried clams, crab or lobster rolls, hot dogs or ice cream.
Now the rest of the Epicurean world will learn about the tiny takeout eatery nestled next to the reversing falls on the Bagaduce River.
The James Beard Foundation is honoring “The Bagaduce” this weekend with its “American Classic” Award. The foundation was created to honor the late James Beard, a gourmet chef and author who brought French cuisine to America and is considered by many as the father of American-style cooking.
The foundation notes that Beard “enjoyed a paper cone of fried belly clams as much as a fine French meal” and each year honors “small, regional restaurants, watering holes, shacks, lunch counters, and similar down-home eateries that have carved out a special place on the American culinary landscape.”
The foundation notes on its Web site some of the attraction of the Bagaduce: “Local fishermen supply owners Mike and Judy Astbury with just-caught seafood for her prized crab rolls, sweet scallops and juicy fried clams. All that, plus sensational sides make this a must for tourists and locals alike.”
The awards will be presented during a ceremony on Sunday in New York City.
But Mike and Judy Astbury won’t be there because they will be attending their youngest daughter’s high school graduation this weekend.
They’ve run the takeout spot for the past 12 years, but the family-owned enterprise dates to 1946 when Judy’s grandfather Sidney Snow built it. He and his wife, Bernice, ran it for several years, then leased it. In 1966, Snow’s daughter and son-in-law, James and Evangeline Peasley, took it over, expanded it a few years later and ran it until 1996 when their daughter and son-in-law, Judy and Mike Astbury, took the reins.
Folks are drawn by the food and the location.
“It’s a beautiful spot,” Judy said during a slow few minutes before the Friday night rush began.
The takeout restaurant is located right next to the reversing falls of the Bagaduce River where the tidal river narrows, then widens, heading south, offering patrons at the Bagaduce’s picnic tables a view of water, trees and skies often accompanied by seagulls, eagles, osprey and an occasional seal.
But the Bagaduce is also an eatery. And people come for the food.
“We try to have the freshest seafood that we can, and we try to make it as good as we can,” Judy said. “We buy locally whenever we can.”
Most of the seafood comes from spots around the Blue Hill Peninsula or nearby and the clams are always fresh.
“He won’t use frozen clams,” she said.
Daughters Sarah, 22, and Abby, 18, help throughout the season. Patrons get a friendly welcome, and the Astburys often greet them by name, recognizing friends, neighbors and longtime customers who have been coming for years.
“We’ve seen people who have been coming every year since we took over,” she said. “We’ve watched the little kids grow up to the window.”
Judy said they would never have heard of James Beard, but someone told them that the foundation’s awards were the “Emmys of the food world.”
“I guess it’s quite an honor,” she said.
But the notoriety won’t change things at the Bagaduce.
“We like to keep it the same.”