The former Al’s Diner of Lawrence, Mass. reopens as Charlie’s Diner

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I heard from Bob Higgins on Friday who mentioned that Worcester Lunch Car # 720, the only diner known to have been built by the company in the Depression year of 1934 (as quoted from Gary Thomas’ Diners of the North Shore) reopened two months ago as Charlie’s Diner after being closed for quite a few months. Originally built for Charles B. O’Neil and called “O’Neil’s, it was a top of the line model.

It was renamed “Al’s Diner” when a longtime employee, Al Demuth bought it from O’Neil in 1953, and he ran it for over 30 years. It was more recently run by Ken Field who did a wonderful job of reversing a 1976 remodelling of the diner (at least on the interior) mostly due to a fire that did quite a bit of damage.

Doing most of the work himself he was able to bring a semblance of originality back by replacing or refinishing the wooden ceiling and other trim which had been covered up by green laminate paneling in the old remodelling.

The new owners have plenty of experience as they had run the Arlington Diner-Restaurant, an on-site diner in an existing storefront on Massachusetts Avenue in Arlington, Mass. for many years. Denise and I visited the diner this morning and had a great breakfast as well as pleasant conversation with Charlie and his wife who seem to be happy running a smaller diner, although he did say he was thinking about taking out the grill and other cooking equipment from behind the counter and doing all the cooking from the spacious kitchen in back. He also mentioned cutting a large pass-thru window in the back-bar wall so the kitchen could be viewed from the diner.

I can understand why he might want to do this as there is very little room behind the counter, especially when he would like to have a large griddle which would in fact stick out even further into the small area behind the counter. I asked him to think twice about this as I have seen diners that used to have the cooking done behind the counter removed to a separate kitchen and with it the general character and ambiance of the diner itself.

Anyway, the food was good and it definitely is worth a stop if you are in the area. It is located at 297 South Broadway (Rte. 28) in Lawrence and opened 7 days a week for breakfast and lunch.

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