New England Diners
New England diners offer no-frills food, from corned beef hash to Boston cream pie
Authentic diners and traditional diner food are alive and sizzling in every corner of New England. From the outside, diners mark their territory with their characteristic barrel roofs, neon lighting, and fringe of cars and trucks with local license tags. Inside, counter stools and booths are packed with families craving hash browns, meat loaf, home made pie and other diner staples.
New England is the birthplace of the diner. In 1872, a pressman at the Providence Journal newspaper began to sell prepared food from a horse-drawn wagon outside the Journal building. Next, companies were founded to manufacture and sell "lunch wagons" with interior seating. Then others began buying old horse-drawn streetcars and converting them to diners. By the 1930s, diners began to adopt a more streamlined, railroad-car appearance. In the 1950s, diners began to lose customers to new fast-food establishments, but a diner revival began in the late 1970s. Hot spots for diner history also include Worcester, Massachusetts, home of the prolific Worcester Lunch Car Company.
The Web site www.dinercity.com has extensive listings of diners by state. Here are some highlights in New England:
Route 44, RR Square
Notable: National Historic Landmark built in 1941. Open 7 days a week.
62 West Park Place
Notable: Open 24 hours, near university, low prices, breakfast served day and night. Specialties are cheeseburgers and chocolate shakes.
Eggs Up Diner
1462 Portland Cobalt Road
Notable: Southern Eggs Benedict includes sausage gravy, a biscuit, and country ham. Really good food and service.
171 Bridge Street
Notable: Popular with the locals, open 24/7. Great diner authenticity.
3414 Berlin Turnpike
Notable: 1950's atmosphere with great neon lights. Great meatloaf and Olympian breakfast. Open daily until midnight.
728 Main Street
Notable: Special dishes are the steamed cheeseburger — a Connecticut passion — 3-way chili "Seeley style" (named for the diner's most devoted patron), and the tuna smelt.
1066 High Ridge Road
Notable: Platter specials with big portions.
319 Park Road
West Hartford, Connecticut
Notable: Best breakfast in the world. Friendly people and great 1930s atmosphere. Super busy on Sundays after church.
3 Bridge Street
Notable: This Worcester Diner arrived by truck in Gardiner in 1946. Flaky biscuits, grilled sandwiches and burgers are still favorites.
101 1/2 Pleasant Street
Notable: This diner was a vintage Worcester Lunch Car that has gone under many renovations but has kept its charm and originality. Hot turkey sandwiches, breakfast at any time and thick frappes (milkshakes) are all good. Step up into the booths and play the Old Elvis songs on the juke box.
390 Commercial Street
Notable: Located right on Hobson's Wharf in the Old Port in Portland. Great breakfasts every time. Open 4 a.m. to 9 p.m. seven days a week.
2265 Post Road
Notable: Served its four millionth customer in fall 2005.
U.S. Route 1
Notable: The blueberry muffins won a gold medal from the Culinary Hall of Fame and Gourmet magazine has requested the recipe for the world-famous walnut pie.
Miss Portland Diner
49 Marginal Way
Notable: The diner appeared in the Mel Gibson film "Man Without a Face." It is an original 1949 Worcester diner filled with Art Deco influence and lots of families.
18 Franklin Street
Phone: 207 282-6468
Notable: A landmark 15-stool diner 1926 Pollard diner where mayors and mill workers have eaten side by side for almost 80 years.
Al Mac's Diner
135 President Avenue
Fall River, Massachusetts
Notable: Slogan is "Justly Famous Since 1910." Built in 1954 by the DeRaffle Manufacturing Company of New Rochelle, New York.
Arthur's Paradise Diner
112 Bridge Street
Notable: Authentic Worcester Diner car, circa 1937. A favorite item is the Double Meat Boot Mill Sandwich, with egg, home fries, cheese and bacon on a grilled roll, is a real stick-to-your-ribs breakfast.
Route 1 and 133
Notable: Tiny chrome diner with red vinyl seats. Hamburger plates, grilled cheese sandwiches, beef stew and terrific pies. Great prices too.
Blue Bonnet Dinner
324 King Street
Notable: "Has to be one of the best diners in New England." Daily specials.
155 Shrewbury Street
Notable: A classic Worcester Lunch Car with the wooden interior and wooden booths. Fluffy omelets, cheese steaks, and Brazilian-style hamburgers.
Deluxe Town Diner
627 Mount Auburn Street
Notable: Great breakfast. Many healthy choice meals. Classic dishes and unique desserts every day. Sweet potato pancakes with real Massachusetts maple syrup.
Morgan Square Diner
6 Myrtle Avenue
Notable: Manufactured in 1941 by the Worcester Lunch Car Company, with porcelain exterior, hardwood interior, beautiful Gothic lettering.
Miss Florence Diner
99 Main Street
Notable: Classic techno-fifties diner with large portions of good food. Table juke-boxes to entertain. Pancakes are terrific.
326 Canal Street
Notable: This Sterling Streamliner was built by the J.B. Judkins Company in 1941 and has occupied a small lot at 326 Canal Street for nearly 60 years.
145 Main Street
Littleton, New Hampshire
Notable: Traditional New England home-cooked food. Great cheeseburgers, French fries, meat loaf, and corned beef hash.
Plain Jane's Diner
Rumney, New Hampshire
Notable: This beautiful 1954 O'Mahoney sits in the middle of nowhere, on a long stretch of mostly deserted but highly traveled mountain highway. A tasteful and tasty experience.
10 Depot Street
Peterborough, New Hampshire
Notable: The Boston cream pie is out-of-this-world great.
Sunny Day Diner
Notable: Beautifully restored diner made by the Master Company of Pequannock, NJ in 1958. The owner-chef is a Culinary Institute of America graduate. Everything is delicious and prepared from scratch. Don't leave without having a piece of pie.
The Red Arrow Diner
61 Lowell Street
Manchester, New Hampshire
Notable: Slogan: "We really serve it on a blue plate," the diner says of its Blue Plate Specials.
The Tilt'n Diner
Exit 20 off Route 93
Tilton, New Hampshire
Notable: Slogan: "Think 'Happy Days' in New Hampshire"
Parking space next to City Hall
Providence, Rhode Island
Notable: This historic figure is towed every night to the edge of Kennedy Plaza next to City Hall, this classic stainless-steel diner serves up food all night long to club goers, bikers, and other wanderers. Two barstool-style seats at a short counter are the only indoor seating. Outdoor annex seating is the front steps of City Hall.
The Liberty Elm Diner
777 Elmwood Avenue
Providence Rhode Island
Hours: Tuesday-Friday, 7 a.m.-3 p.m.; Saturday-Sunday, 8 a.m.-3 p.m. Closed Mondays
Situated in a 1947 Worcester Lunch Car diner listed on the National Historic Register the Liberty Elm Diner is just blocks from the 430-acre Roger Williams Park and Zoo. The Liberty Elm Diner was featured on the Food Network's "Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives" Yankee Magazine called it one of the top 20 diners in New England. All ingredients are fresh and home-cooked. All meats are preservative- and nitrate-free.
307 Allen Ave. at Mural Street
Providence, Rhode Island
Notable: A true mobile diner in every sense of the word. Many hidden surprises and nuances in their menu offerings. The service is terrific.
Bishop's 4th Street Diner
184 Admiral Kalbfus Road
Newport, Rhode Island
Notable: Thin and crispy Johnnycakes and biscuits and gravy that are not to be missed. Try the Portuguese sweet bread. Service is great and prices are what you want from a diner.
364 East Ave
Pawtucket, RI 02860
Phone: 401- 726-8390
Notable: 1941 Streamliner Diner. First diner to be listed on the National Registry of Historic Places. Cash only. Hearty breakfasts and great meatloaf.
Blue Benn Diner
314 North Street
Notable: Authentic diner. Specialties include turkey hash, breakfast burritos, all sorts of pancakes and lots of vegetarian options. Local people rate it as the best diner in the country.
Chelsea Royal Diner
Route 9 West
Notable: 1938 Worcester Diner with breakfast and dinner specials and three or four blue plate dinners every day.
5573 Woodstock Road (Route 4)
Notable: Everything on the menu is from local farmers.
Miss Bellows Falls Diner
Bellows Falls, Vermont
Notable: Built in the 1920s by the Worcester Lunch Car Company, Vermont's only surviving barrel-roofed diner was moved here from Massachusetts in 1942. Look for part of an earlier name painted on the back.
Notable: Serving classic Vermont cooking with a few surprises, like the Cajun Skillet Breakfast, a short, tasty trip from sugar maple forests to the Gulf Coast bayous. Also displays the work of local artists.
T.J. Buckley's Uptown Dining
132 Elliot Street
Notable: T.J. Buckley's Uptown Dining Some say this is a Worcester from the 1920s; others claim it is a converted. Unusually tiny in size, with two seatings per night.
Quechee Village, Route 4
Notable: a beautifully restored 1946 Worcester Streamliner.
Cup of Joe or Java -- cup of coffee
Adam and Eve on a Raft -- two eggs on toast
Soup jockey – waitress
Sun kiss -- orange juice
Baby juice -- glass of milk
Life preservers – donuts
Blowout patches with Vermont – pancakes with maple syrup
Wreck 'em -- scrambled eggs
Shingle with a shimmy and a shake -- toast with jelly
Burn the British -- toasted English muffin
Sweep the kitchen or Clean up the kitchen -- a plate of hash
Noah's boy on bread – a ham sandwich
Cow paste – butter
Dog soup – glass of water
M.D. – Dr. Pepper
Mike and Ike – salt and pepper shakers
Sea dust – salt
And, to order a hamburger with lettuce, tomato, and onion, your waitress may tell the cook to "burn one, drag it through the garden, and pin a rose on it."
Lost Diners and Roadside Restaurants of New England and New York, Will Anderson, 2001.
American Diner, Richard Gutman, 1979.
Diners: People and Places, Gerd Kittel, 1990.
Blue Plate Specials and Blue Ribbon Chefs: The Heart and Soul of America's Great Roadside Restaurants, Jane Stern, 2001.
Greasy Spoon. A quarterly periodical.