The diner has a long and proud history in New England, from its roots outside of a Providence newspaper to today’s retro lunch car offering comfort food and local banter. Some New England diners are even on the National Register of Historic Places.
Hundreds of actual diners were manufactured in Worcester, Mass., by the Worcester Lunch Car Co. Many Greek immigrants who arrived in New England found employment and, later, business opportunities in the diner business.
Today, many of these throwbacks to the 1950s survive in much the same condition as they did when they were first hauled into place. Their menus generally include such items as the ‘mystery in the alley’ (hash), ‘hockey puck with a tulip’ (well-done hamburger with onion) and ‘Noah’s boy’ (a slice of ham).
Here are 6 New England diners where you can breakfast on a cup of mud and Adam and Eve on a raft – perhaps with a side of a heart attack on a raft.
Makris Midtown Diner
The Makris Midtown Diner in Wethersfield, Conn., is a well-preserved example of the 2,000 diners made by the Jerry O’Mahony Co. in Elizabeth, N.J., from 1917 to 1941.
The original nameplate is still on the diner, with the motto, “In our line we lead the world.”
You can order homemade corned beef hash with or without onions (ironic because Wethersfield was once called ‘Oniontown’). If you want to indulge in a little diner lingo, ask the server to ‘sweep the kitchen’ or ‘clean up the kitchen.’ Coffee is specially made by a local coffee roaster and packaged for sale at the diner.
“Diners are about family,” owner Eva Nowak told Garrison Leykam, author of Classic Diners of Connecticut. “I hope that a cup of coffee or bowl of my soup will make one of my customers feel a little bit better when they come into the diner.”
Makris Midtown Diner is at 1797 Berlin Turnpike south of Hartford.
Eat at Moody’s
Moody’s Diner is a Maine institution familiar to anyone who’s traveled through Waldoboro on U.S. Route 1 in Maine. Percy and Bertha Moody started Moody’s in 1927 with three tiny cabins on what was then the old Atlantic Highway. Their children (nine of them), grandchildren and great-grandchildren expanded the business over the years to include18 cabins, a 104-seat diner and a gift shop.
Moody’s specializes in a hot turkey sandwich and half-pound hamburger along with pie. Gourmet magazine asked for its walnut pie recipe, Saveur magazine called its Whoopie pie a ‘1999 food find’ and the Culinary Hall of Fame gave a gold medal to Moody’s blueberry muffins.
Customers in the know order breakfast with cheddarwurst, a cheese-infused sausage. Moody’s gift shop sells T-shirts that state, “Pie fixes everything.” Photographs of world travelers wearing Moody’s T-shirts are posted on the wall.
Homesick Mainers (or anyone for that matter) can order Moody’s homemade donuts and Whoopie pies by mail.
To see a five-minute video about Moody’s, click here.
Miss Worcester Diner
The Miss Worcester Diner, built in 1948 by the Worcester Lunch Car Company, sits across the street from where the company’s plant used to be. It was used by the company as a showroom diner and a place to test new features.
The company was founded in 1906 and made 651 diners until it closed in 1957. Originally called ‘lunch cars,’ they were shipped all over the Eastern seaboard.
Today Miss Woo is known for large portions and stuffed French toast. BuzzFeed listed it as the first of 21 diners you must visit before you die.
The Miss Worcester Diner is on the National Register of Historic Places and located at 302 Southbridge St.
The Peterborough Diner, the first Worcester Lunch Car made with green and cream, has kept much of its historical character. It was placed in its current location on Depot Square in 1949 with the motto, “The Diner With Distinction.”
Peterborough is a picturesque town in the heart of leaf-peeping country, New Hampshire’s Monadnock Region. The diner itself is a favorite among locals, who savor its friendly atmosphere. Customers say the portions and prices are reasonable, and they praise the onion rings and cornbread.
The Peterborough Diner is located at 10 Depot St. and serves breakfast and lunch, seven days a week from 7 am to 3 pm.
Providence, R.I., is the undisputed home of the diner. In 1858, 17-year-old Walter Scott, a part-time pressman, began to earn extra money by selling sandwiches and coffee to newspaper night workers. By 1872, Scott’s part-time gig became so lucrative he quit his job as a printer and sold food from a horse-drawn wagon outside of the Providence Journal. Others followed his success.
The Elmwood Diner in East Providence is a classic example of the diner that evolved from Scott’s lunch wagon. It has retained most of its original features though its name has changed seven times. It was built in 1947 as Worcester Lunch Car Co. No. 806. In January 2010 the Elmwood Diner was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. A month later, it made an appearance on the television program, Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.
Customers praise the Elmwood Diner’s Portuguese Sweet Bread French Toast, Reuben sandwich, Huevos and Hangover Burger. The owners promise to make everything from scratch from local sources.
The Elmwood Diner is at 777 Elmwood Avenue in Providence, R.I., and open Fridays through Sundays from 8 am to 2 pm.
Coffee Corner Diner
For 57 years, Vermont politicians have been meeting with their constituents at the Coffer Corner Diner in Montpelier. There you can order ‘blowout patches’ — pancakes with Vermont maple syrup
It’s an old-school coffee shop with a menu that includes many locally sourced and made items. Fans say they make the best eggs benedict around.
There’s a takeout menu that prices all items at $7.00, including tax.
The Coffee Corner sits at the corner of State and Main streets. To find out about other Vermont diners, click here.
Photos: Miss Worcester Diner, By Improbcat – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7813073; Peterboro Diner, Av John Phelan – Eget arbete, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=27555305; Central Diner, By Kenneth C. Zirkel – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=21355747.