I had the chance recently to enjoy lunch somewhere you might not think of — at a local vocational technical high school. The Ram’s Head Dining Room, a full-service restaurant, is located in the Shawsheen Valley Regional Technical High School in Billerica and is the “shop” component of the curriculum for students who study the culinary arts.

Though the school year is over, this is a wonderful lunch place to add to your plans for the next school year. The dining room is open Wednesday through Friday with two seatings, one at 11:30 a.m. and one at 12 p.m. Reservations are recommended. There are many “regulars” who are devoted followers of the restaurant and keep this gem a secret. They only accept cash, as an aside.

On the day we visited, the dining room was full. Tables were set with linen napkins and fresh flowers. A student server presented us with a menu and took our beverage order. A full menu was presented including soup, salad variety, and numerous en­trees, as well as a vegetarian option, and more. A signature popover roll is brought to each diner by a special server carrying a basket and tongs.

There is a bakery on site which is also open to the public Wednesday through Fri­day from 9 a.m. - 12 p.m. But­ter and rolls are at every table, and meals are ex­tremely reasonably priced given the generous quantity of food served.

Our meals were delivered in a timely manner, hot and attractively plated, and coffee and water was offered frequently. Our server was ready to whisk away our empty plates just as soon as we had finished.

We chose the baked haddock meal garnished with calamari in a fresh tomato sauce which came with gratin potatoes, brown sugared carrots, cornbread portion, and an elegant garnish of fresh citrus slice with julienned beet strings. If it weren’t so delicious, I would have taken home half for another day!

The dessert choices were presented attractively on a tray and included individual cheesecakes with strawberries and whipped cream, a brownie with fudge sauce, blueberry buckle, lemon mousse cake, tapioca pudding and a gelatin parfait. For $0.75 we couldn’t pass it up, and of course, had to try it to give a credible review.

The dining room is staffed on a rotating basis by seniors and sophomores, then juniors and freshmen. Whether it is cooking and plating the food, busing the tables or hustling as the waitstaff, students are exposed to the full range of food service jobs. The public provides the real-world clientele and there was even an unfortunate crashing of dishes on the floor, an all-too-real scenario, which in­structors handled quickly and reassuringly with the students.

The Ram’s Head dining room also has an extensive list of take-out meals ready for purchase. This is a tre­mendous option for your freezer. Just call ahead or stop by and you can choose from a list of frozen meals, sold at very affordable prices and in single or family sizes. Entrée examples include chicken Wellington, macaroni and cheese with ham, and soups such as clam chowder and chicken lemon soup with rice. And keep your eyes open for the Shawsheen Tech food truck, which will be the Tewksbury Farmers Market this summer.

Several other technical high schools offer lunch during the school year such as Greater Lawrence Tech in Andover and Nashoba Val­ley Tech in Westford. Con­sider supporting these students as they learn the food service trade and enjoy a wonderful and affordable meal next fall at one of the area’s best kept secrets!

Visit www.shawsheentech.org and search for “guest dining.”

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