Local names on their favorite New England gems, plus historical dates and numbers.
Where do New England’s boldface names go for diner fare?
Jonathan Goldsmith, actor, a.k.a. “the Most Interesting Man in the World”
My favorite is Bob’s Diner in Manchester, Vermont. It has local, fresh produce and the best bread I’ve ever tasted. It’s not a fancy place, but I love the attitude of the people. It’s a family feeling. The waitstaff becomes friends, and you are treated as a long-lost cousin.
B.J. Novak, actor, writer, producer, author
I love Cabot’s in Newton! It can be hard to pull off a retro feel that’s both authentic and upbeat, and Cabot’s does it to perfection.
Tim Wright, Patriots tight end
I like the Classic Cafe in Providence. You have to go there starving, because the food is massive, and be ready to cool it down, because it’s piping hot. You’ll definitely leave with a smile on your face.
Jamie Wyeth, painter
One of the handful of reasons that I leave my island [Southern Island in Maine] is to row ashore to the mainland to dine at Wasses Hot Dogs in Rockland. Whether consuming Wasses’ fare leads to meaningful painting has always been a point actively debated in the Wyeth family. But I will continue to consume them regardless of the creative consequences and then row back to my island studio in complete bliss.
Lydia Shire, chef-owner, Scampo
Well, there’s the Maine Diner in Wells, where I had my first lobster roll with butter, not mayonnaise. It kind of changed my life. I grew up in Brookline but for some reason I just never really knew that lobster rolls could be made with butter. Isn’t it crazy? Just the sheer beauty of pouring liquid gold butter over your lobster and it dribbling down your chin is pure bliss.
David Wade, WBZ-TV news co-anchor
I like the Breakfast Club in Allston. It has an old-school diner look and excellent food with no frills. The people are super nice. That’s part of the charm of a diner — a homey feel from the servers. I usually get the Zorba, an omelet with feta cheese, along with home fries and toasted scali bread.
Junot Diaz, author, This Is How You Lose Her
I’m an S&S man. It’s a Cambridge institution, and their wings are classics. My boys (who are locals) introduced me to S&S, and this is where we gather when we need to hash things out.
Diners by the numbers
1858 — Year Walter Scott of Providence, now considered the father of the American diner, began selling food from a basket
1872 — Year Scott started selling from his first horse-drawn covered wagon
1887 — Year the first lunch wagon that customers could go inside debuted at the New England Fair in Worcester
1906 — Establishment of the Worcester Lunch Car Co., which shipped diners up and down the East Coast; the company made 651 diners before closing in 1961
“Nite Owls” — The elaborately decorated nighttime lunch wagons that began appearing around New England in the late 1800s, when most restaurants closed by 8 p.m.
1982 — Year the iconic coming-of-age movie Diner was released. It’s set in 1959 Baltimore and was nominated for an Oscar for best original screenplay.
15 cents — Cost of a “hamburger steak,” potatoes, bread, and butter on an early 1900s diner menu
200 — Pounds of potatoes used per day at South Street Diner on Kneeland Street, opened in 1943 and billed as Boston’s only 24-hour restaurant
25 — Number of movies Boston’s South Street Diner has appeared in, according to the owner
90 — Dozens of eggs used per day at South Street
Famous art depicting diners includes Edward Hopper’s 1942 Nighthawks and Norman Rockwell’s 1958 Saturday Evening Post cover The Runaway
$99,500 — Current asking price for restored Worcester Lunch Car No. 645, built in 1929 for a couple in Milford; you can find it, along with other cars for sale, at americandinermuseum.org
- 16 must-visit New England diners: Have you tried them all?