GOFFSTOWN, NH – It’s a typical Tuesday at Chiggy’s Place, which means by mid-morning the breakfast crowd is thinning and the lunch crowd will soon be filling in. Cindy Kenney is in her happy place – behind the grill, cooking the specials of the day for the regulars.
What’s on the specials board all depends on what Kenney dreams up. This day, it’s banana bread French toast topped with sliced bananas and brown sugar glaze, cheddar Benedict on top of a potato pancake, a grilled BLT burger, pistachio muffins, tomato bisque with grilled cheese, and the flavored coffee du jour, which happens to be butter pecan.
“We go through about 60 pounds of coffee a week,” she says. “That’s not including decaf and the flavored coffees, which are popular. So that’s another 20 pounds.”
Kenney takes great pride in her restaurant, which she considers a “hidden jewel,” including her dedication to supersized mugs. Chiggy’s slogan, “Get mugged at Chiggy’s,” goes back to when she first opened the restaurant a dozen years ago, on Kelley Street in Manchester, before the fire that forced the move to Goffstown four years ago.
“When we first opened we had these 16-ounce bistro style mugs – they were the talk of the town. We decided to come up with a slogan, so we put it out there to our customers, and had 100 entries. Then, we posted the Top 5 slogans and let the customers vote. ‘Get mugged at Chiggy’s’ won. I said, ‘Put a mask on my mugs,’ and that’s how it happened,” Kenney says. “We can’t acquire those same mugs anymore, but I’ve always stuck with the 16-ounce size. Now, we have people advertise on them.”
Kenney says having to start over in a new location wasn’t easy, but she soon realized a building is just a building.
“Our regular customers found us, and we’ve gotten a whole group of new customers,” she says, and not just locals. Her customers come from Goffstown, Weare, New Boston and beyond. If you ask, Kenney is happy to explain how she arrived at the memorable name of the restaurant.
“Chiggy is my daughter – Maria. She was always our little Chiggy – my only child. My grandkids are on the wall up there, she said, pointing with her eyes to several framed photos. “This is my home, if you can’t tell.”
Now her daughter is Dr. Maria Boylan, a physician with Elliot Family Medicine at Bedford Commons. Kenney is always proud to hear from customers who’ve made the connection, between their physician and the young college student who helped out around the family’s diner during school breaks.
“Family is everything to me, and we make sure when kids come in, they have a good time,” says Kenney, who treats all the pint-sized customers to free candy and other perks.
After spending her whole life hustling in the restaurant business, Kenney decided it was time to become the chief cook and bottle washer. Only in this case, she’s not only the chief cook.
She’s the only cook.
“I’ve been a line cook in a lot of places. I’ve always worn many hats. Sometimes on the weekends it gets really busy, but being the only cook here, it brings consistency to the food, and the customers like that,” she says.
“My heart, soul , sweat and tears go into this place,” she adds, while masterfully rolling a blueberry crepe on the grill – a technique she learned from a French-Canadian customer years ago.
“She came in asking for crepes and I told her I didn’t know how to make them, so another time she slips me an envelope and says, ‘Now, you make crepes,'” says Kenney. “Only I call them Italian cream stuffed crepes, because I’m Italian.”
Kelley says her wait staff is also consistent – her five waitresses have been with her for years, and she’s seen them through several phases of their lives, including graduations, weddings, and starting families. Kate Brockway was just 7 the first time she ate at Chiggy’s. After years of waiting, she was finally old enough to work for Kenney.
Now, at 19, she’s been working for Kenney for four years, and loves every minute of it.
“When I was little we lived in a building on Kelley Street, and there was this coffee shop where my dad went every day. One day he didn’t come home for a long time, and when he finally did, he told us that the coffee shop had turned into a diner, and that it was great,” says Brockway. “So we all started going, and I’ve been going ever since – I’ve eaten here at least every weekend since I was a little kid.”
Now she’s a student at NH Technical Institute, studying early childhood education with a goal of working with young children with disabilities, but picks up weekend work at Chiggy’s Place.
The new location in Goffstown offered more space and made the layout more flexible. The spacious front area has only a few tables which can be configured for larger groups, like the ROCs – for Retired Old Coots, according to one of them.
“We get together for breakfast, not always here, but it’s on the rotation,” says Jack Warren of Merrimack. They are actually a group of ham radio operators, who belong to Granite State Amateur Radio Association.
“Of all the places we go, this place has great service, and the food is good. We like it because we’re all spread around between Merrimack and Bedford, New Boston – this is sort of in between,” says Warren.
Ann and Bruce Frans are also regulars.
“We eat here almost every day,” says Ann Frans, “either breakfast or lunch. I check to see what the specials are.”
They have been regulars since the move – they felt parking was an issue on Kelley Street, but now that there’s a lot, they find it to be a better option than cooking at home.
“Cindy’s amazing. The place could be full, and she’s handles everything back there in the kitchen. Yesterday, we had corn chowder and toasted cheese sandwiches,” Frans says. “It’s like having a personal chef. My favorite is the meatloaf. It’s so good. But by the time we got here, it was all gone, so we had the cheese sandwiches – also delicious. I make them at home, but they just don’t taste the same.
Chiggy’s Place is cash only, and located at 571 Mast Road in Goffstown. They’re open 7 days a week, Mon. – Fri. 6 a.m. to 2 p.m.; Sat. 6 a.m. to 1 p.m.; Sun. 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. Follow Chiggy Kenney on Facebook for the daily specials.