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The History Behind Phil’s Restaurant

We were all shocked to learn of the news that The Three Socios, LLC purchased the real estate where Phil’s Restaurant sits vacant today, for the purpose of developing the land into a fast-food restaurant, according to sources. They’re the same company that is building the Burger King / 7-Eleven / Mobil Gas Station next to George Calef’s Fine Foods near the intersection of RTE-125 and RTE-9. They reportedly paid a good price for the lot.

Barrington regulars are concerned that the town is being over-developed. People fly through the intersection at RTE-9 / RTE-125 at 50 mph. The trouble started when the intersection went from one lane going straight, to two. People are driving like idiots, and residents are concerned the new properties being developed will only make matters worse. Barrington Elementary School is right near that intersection, and people don’t slow down. It’s not a large enough intersection to pack it full of the hazards that come through with every change of the light.

On Facebook, after we broke the news about the sale @BarringtonTownNews, residents contemplated what type of fast food restaurant may go in there. They suggested KFC/Taco Bell, Arby’s, Sonic, a Quaint Coffeeshop, a Small Diner, Pizza Hut, Friendly’s, Dairy Queen, Popeyes, Hardees / Carl’s Jr., and LongHorn to name a few. One thing was clear – no one expects The Three Socios to deliver a local gem like Phil’s Restaurant was for 40 years.

Many residents were opposed to the concept of a fast-food restaurant going in there. Many residents said Barrington doesn’t need it. One resident said Barrington is going to end up looking like Epping or Plaistow on RTE-125. We attempted to reach out to The Three Socios, LLC, but they wouldn’t respond to comment even after multiple tries. The website for the Burger King property is www.tropicstardevelopment.com, however, it doesn’t list any information about the sale or future development of the location where Phil’s Restaurant was.

2016 Car Accident

What led Barrington, New Hampshire to this point in time happened in 2016, when Phil and his wife Chris were seriously injured in a car accident. Chris had a broken leg, and Phil had broken bones, according to Jim Ratta, a longtime Phil’s patron and friend. They had to close the restaurant for a year, and then to much fanfare, they reopened with reduced hours, closing on Wednesdays. Phil and Chris did that for six months – they made a great team. Phil had a hard time standing after the accident and collapsed at the restaurant one day from a blood clot in the leg, which led to the closing for good in late 2017. Faithful “Philistines” kept hoping they would re-open, but it never happened, and the property was sold in 2019.

The Community

Scot Villeneuve, owner of Big Hit Media in Barrington, New Hampshire started going to Phil’s Restaurant 10 years ago when he was in his 30s. He said there was a loyal following there, and that if you needed a contractor, such as an electrician or a plumber, you went to Phil’s. The previous Barrington Fire Chief, Russell Hayes, was there every morning sitting at the bar eating his breakfast and starting his day, according to Villeneuve. The quality of people there were some of the most well-known and loved people of Barrington.

Phil’s opened around 3:00 AM to 4:00 AM. The early morning crew, which came in around 6:00 AM, included Russell Hayes, Lenny Caverly, and Steve Lenzi. The 9:00 AM crew included Paul Steer, Jim Ratta, George Lafleur, Scot Villeneuve, Dave, Betty & Jake, Lenny & Dottie, and Bill who is a snowbird, spending his winters in St. Petersburg, Florida.

Jim Ratta, who owned Barrington Septic, is referred to as a “Philistine”, which means someone that was dedicated to the meaning of being one of Phil’s many followers. He said he first started going into Phil’s regularly in 2000. He said he used to travel there 2-3 times a week. Jim explained that all the old-timers sat in there around the horseshoe-shaped bar. A real treat for Jim was meeting Harlan Calef, George Calef’s father. Harlan would talk about how he taught his granddaughter about stocks and investing, and that’s probably one of the reasons why the Calef’s are such a big part of Barrington’s history. Ratta said of the community at Phil’s, “The good ones make life worthwhile”, and they were at Phil’s Restaurant every morning.

Villeneuve said of Phil’s, “There won’t be another gathering place with the type of people and quality of character that was in the restaurant.” He said the atmosphere was very welcoming to outsiders, adding that patrons would go out of their way to say, “Good morning!”, even though there was a reputation that Phil’s didn’t welcome newcomers. It was a well-used building, the food was good, and the people were great. Phil’s was loved by many of the business owners in town.

Fred Knight, who owns Knight’s Garage next door to Phil’s Restaurant always took care of anyone that needed an oil change or car service, allowing them to drop off their vehicle while they ate and mingled at Phil’s. They’d be able to get something to eat, and two hours later, they’d bring the keys back and say “You’re all done!” The Svenson family that owns the Christmas Dove has a son named Garth that is also a big fan of Phil’s.

There were a lot of veteran patrons at Phil’s Restaurant, including Marines, Army, Navy, and Air Force. There was a Chief Petty Officer with the U.S. Navy that ate there regularly. Bill Turner, a career Air Force man, would be in there doing crossword puzzles from the Foster’s – he’d cheat by asking people for the answers. He’d say “look this up on your computer” because he was amazed by the technology. Jake with the 82nd Airborne had done around 80 paratrooper training jumps. He and his wife Betty, who was the Prom Queen of Newmarket, were at Phil’s daily. She used to help Bill Turner with his crossword puzzles as well.

There were a lot of patrons that were into their 90’s that grew up in the 1930s. They were all nice people, according to Villeneuve. Lester and Barbara Waterhouse were patrons – both into their 90s, and sadly Barbara passed away a few years back. Scot said he’s been to so many funerals of people that ate at Phil’s – that’s how connected the community was.

They would have liked to do a reality TV show there, because it would have been a side-splitting comedy, according to Villeneuve. “The things that came out of the mouths of people that have lived in Barrington all their lives – it’s so real, it’s funny.” He said that Chris Amazeen would answer the phone “all nice”, while Phil would answer “PHIL’S!!!”. Jim Ratta said, “They had more fun down there you could shake two sticks at.” They even fed Jim’s dog, Willy.

The Food

Phil’s served breakfast, and early-on, lunch, including hot dogs, pies, chowders, chili, and other varieties of meals. They didn’t serve alcohol there, but there was a vintage frappe making machine, and there was an old cigarette dispensing machine that didn’t work, according to Villeneuve, but had advertised for brands like Pall Mall’s.

One time, Villeneuve asked, “Hey Phil – how many eggs do you think you’ve cracked in your life?” and Phil responded by showing Scot a stainless steel bowl that was polished by a fork that was curved to the bottom of the bowl. Phil said he’d been using the fork and bowl for 30 years. Jim Ratta said, “There’s no one in the world that could make scrambled eggs as good as Phil.”

Phil and Chris were genuine, good, honest, hardworking people that went in at 4 AM to make donuts. Phil had two trays of donuts, and elderly patrons would get coffee and donuts, or bring the homemade donuts home to family members.

The plow truck drivers would stop there at 5 AM, and there was strong coffee and good meals at Phil’s.

Trust in Phil’s

Phil’s Restaurant was the type of place where you could leave money for a contractor the next time you went there if you didn’t have the money that day. Regulars at Phil’s, if they happened to be short on money, they’d use a service known as the “Wall of Shame”. It was a corkboard on the wall behind the cash register, where debts would be displayed, extended only to regulars. If you owed a debt to Phil’s, the regulars would harass you, in good fun, because you were on the “Wall of Shame”.

Phil also sponsored little league teams, that had their pictures on the walls. “We’re all faithful Philistines,” said Jim Ratta.

History Behind Phil’s

Phil Amazeen and his wife, Chris, ran the restaurant since it was incorporated after being established in 1976, but before Phil had Phil’s Restaurant, he was the chef at Young’s Restaurant in Durham. Before that he worked at a restaurant in Dover.

Phil’s was a single location, privately held business, located next to Knight’s Garage in Barrington, New Hampshire.

Phil’s was open 6 days a week before the car accident. Villeneuve said, “They were just good, down to Earth people – no drama, no false pretenses.”, and he said they once contemplated a slogan, “Phil’s Diner – Not for Sissies”.

Rosie was one of the waitresses that worked at Phil’s for a while. Another waitress was Alice, who was a tattooed lady who did a great job, according to Jim Ratta. Chris Amazeen, Phil’s wife, came in and ran the restaurant with him around the year 2000.

Phil is approaching 80 years old – he had two daughters and a son with Chris, to which many grandchildren were also born. They live in Nottingham, New Hampshire.