Several years ago at the Maine State Society's annual lobster dinner, I won a door prize -- a letter redeemable for a free dinner for two at Dysart's truck stop just off Interstate 95 on Cold Brook Road (Exit 42) in Hermon, Maine.

I figured I'd rather keep the letter (you can imagine the laughs it gets) than eat the dinner and didn't bother going to Dysart's (which would have been a 700-mile trip from here). Then, last year I was in a group looking for a bite on Sunday night in Bangor and the only place we could find open in the greater metropolitan area was Dysart's.

I didn't have the letter along (I keep it at home in a safe place), but Dysart's was still worth the wait -- and full fare. The fried-clam plate ("It's one of our specials," says Dave Dysart) was as good as any I've ever had (fried clams are almost always good, unless they're cooked in batter and then they're always bad). Perhaps, they were even a match for those that Rita served at her clam shack in Bar Harbor (and anyone who was there knows how great they were) in the early '60s.

But Rita couldn't serve on rainy days. Her shack was only big enough for a refrigerator, the fryer and Rita (who was rather hefty), so the patrons stood outside or sat on stools at the window counter.

Dysart's, on the other hand, is almost always open (the pumps are never off, but the restaurant does close for 12 hours on Christmas), has seating under roof for 112, a parking lot with room for as many as 250 rigs, a bank of 12 pay phones and delicious chocolate cream pie (although the clam plate is so large that dessert is work). Rita never had pie.