Yankee Magazine 2008 Travel Guide feature five best Diners in New England

DUBLIN, N.H. (AP) — Yankee magazine’s 2008 Special Travel Guide hits newsstands May 6 with all kinds of recommendations for enjoying summer travel in New England, from places in Connecticut for art-lovers, to moose-watching in Maine, to 244 “Editor’s Choice” selections, broken down by state and region.

The issue also includes a feature on New England’s five best diners. The list was compiled by Richard Gutman, curator of the Culinary Arts Museum at Johnson & Wales University in Providence, and author of three books on the history of diners.

The list includes the Modern Diner (364 East Ave., Pawtucket, R.I., 401-726-8390), housed in a 1941 stainless steel railcar-style building. It was the first diner named to the National Register of Historic Places. Weekend brunch specials include lobster Benedict.

The other four diners on Yankee’s list are Kelly’s Diner, 674 Broadway, Somerville, Mass., 617-623-8102; Capitol Diner, 431 Union St., Lynn, Mass., 781-595-9314; Libby’s Blue Line Diner, Route 7, Colchester, Vt., 802-655-0343; A1 Diner, 3 Bridge St., Gardiner, Maine, www.a1diner.com, 207-582-4804.

For more classic New England diners from Gutman, visit http://www.yankeemagazine.com/issues/2008-05/interact/10things/diners.

Notes from the Hotline – 4-26-08

Liberty Elm Diner, Providence, RI

Exterior of Liberty Elm Diner (above) Interior (below)

While taking some much needed vacation time from work this week, I got to take a couple of small day-trips. On Thursday, Denise and I drove down to Providence and checked out the recently reopened diner, (Worcester Lunch Car Number 806) now operating as the Liberty Elm Diner. Located at 777 Elmwood Avenue (U.S. Rte.1) the diner has operated under many names including the Elmwood Diner when I first photographed it Nov. 14, 1981.

The new owners Carol DeFeciani and Diane Horstmyer performed some much needed cleaning-up and revamping of the diner. They even uncovered the original red porcellain enamelled panels that had been hidden by wooden panelling for years. Unfortunately, they were damaged from the way the previous covering was attached. They are operating the diner as a coffee shop/cafe with a lot of locally made products including coffee and baked goods as well as locally bottled soft drinks. But don’t let this description mislead you, you can get full meals including breakfast and lunch.

One thing I noticed was the stools at the counter, though old, were not the original stools. If you look at the floor, the pattern on the tile shows that a stool with a much larger base was originally installed. The current stools are similar to what was there except for one big difference, they are the wrong height for the counter. The stools are probably a half a foot lower than they should be.

DeFeciani and Horstmyer are hoping that reopening the diner will help bring back the neighborhood which had been sort of depressed in the last few years. I was told that business is good and that through word of mouth, the diner’s business will hopefully continue to grow. You can get to the diner easily from I-95 by using the Elmwood Avenue exit (watch for signs for Roger Williams Zoo which is also on Elmwood Ave.) The diner is north of the exit heading back toward downtown, the zoo is south of the exit.

Town Square Diner, Norwood, MA

On the way back from Providence we stopped in Norwood to check out the Town Square Diner. Located on Nahatan Street, this is an on-site diner with a classic neon sign. This sign is such a classic, John Baeder did a painting of it years ago. (Not the diner, just the sign). This diner has become a favorite of mine whenever I’m in the area, mostly through the efforts of the people who were most recently running it. The food and service were good and the place had a good vibe to it, although there was always the fact that the great diner sign was not operating and needed a complete refurbishing.

Anyway a few months ago I saw a photo of the diner on Flickr.  The sign was working again and they had placed new signage over the windows. When I pulled up on Thursday, I was surprised to see they had “dinered-up” the outside with some well-placed stainless-steel trim and other little decorations. There was even a new slightly flared-out stainless-steel fascia at the top of the wall giving the building a nice finished off look. All in all, the place looked fantastic, this diner never looked as good as it does now!

I stepped inside and found out that new owners took over the business just 3 weeks ago and I told them I liked the way it looked and wished them well. I am looking forward to the next time I’m there for a meal.

Rock N’ Roll Diner, Scarborough, ME

Friday morning we headed up to Scarborough, Maine to get a look at Maine’s newest diner. It opened last July and is called the Rock N’ Roll Diner. It looks very much like the Blast from the Past Diner, (of Waterboro, ME) a Star Lite model built by Valient Diners out of Florida, circa 2004. In fact the owners of the Rock N’ Roll Diner are friend’s with the Blast from the Past’s owners and got the idea to open a diner from them.

All the newspaper articles I had read mentioned that they were building the new diner at Dunstan’s Corner on U.S. Route 1, and it was not clear if they were getting a factory-built diner like the Blast from the Past or if they were building from scratch. When we went in for breakfast I asked the waitress if the diner was a factory-built unit and she confirmed that it in fact was scratch-built! I will tell you that even to my experienced eye, if I did not know better, I would say that Valient built this one too. What a fantastic copy!

Miss Portland Diner, Portland, ME

While we were in the Pine Tree State, we decided to drive north into Portland to see the Miss Portland Diner being worked on at it’s new site. It is now located farther up Marginal Way from it’s old location. The site where it used to be until 4 years ago is now occupied by an office building.

2 or 3 blocks up on the opposite side of the street, the diner is now installed on piers (no cellar, just crawl space) and a large addition for diningroom and kitchen are being built onto the back of the diner. The roof has just been redone with new shingles and looks brand-new. From the reports I read they hope to have it open this fall.

I spoke with old friend Gary Thomas who says that he has been contacted to build between 7 or 10 replica booths and tables for the new diningroom. These will match the ones inside the diner. At this point though, nothing is finallized on the booth/table replicas.

Cheyenne Diner to move to Red Hook section of Brooklyn soon

I just got a press release from Michael Perlman, a follow-up with it seems a happy ending to the recent plight of the Cheyenne Diner of Manhattan, which was closed earlier this month. Check this out!

 

HISTORIC CHEYENNE DINER VICTORY:

Diner To Go….Red Hook, Brooklyn!

                                                                            

     NEW YORK, NY (April 21, 2008) – The architecturally & culturally significant Cheyenne Diner (411 9th Ave at 33rd St) has been purchased, and will gain a new lease on life when transported to Red Hook, Brooklyn. A contract has been signed between property owner George Papas and its new owner, Mike O’Connell of O’C Construction, son of influential Red Hook developer, Greg O’Connell.

 Preservationist Michael Perlman of Queens, who founded the Committee To Save The Moondance Diner in spring 2007, along with fellow Preservationist Kyle Supley of Brooklyn, have spared the Cheyenne Diner from oblivion, after sparing the Moondance last summer. Michael Perlman of the Committee To Save The Cheyenne Diner presented a proposal to property owner George Papas (owner of nearby Skylight Diner, 402 W 34th St, & developer for Cheyenne property) on closing day, Sun, Apr 6th, and effectively convinced him to work together. A 9-story condo is slated to rise on premise, which marked the end of the diner’s 68-year run for its Manhattan site.

Perlman states “It is rewarding that the Cheyenne will gain a new lease on life in Red Hook, Brooklyn, and will contribute to the appeal of an up & coming neighborhood. Keeping it within the 5 boroughs, especially in a time when NYC is losing its history, emphasizes how progress can be in the ideal sense. We take pride that Papas was sensitive to our proposal & extend our thanks, and also thank Mike O’Connell for taking on a noble cause. We proudly serve as a liaison from ‘moving day’ to its reopening and future.”

When put up for sale on the 10th of April for $7900, with the necessity of rigging and lot acquisition costs in mind, Committee To Save The Cheyenne received notification from 23 potential buyers, some as far as IN, OH, & WY. While the Cheyenne potentially could have landed a good home out of state, many patrons prayed that a NY-based buyer would reach out, so it can ideally remain closer to its roots than the Moondance Diner in WY. George Papas states “I’m really, really happy the Cheyenne’s not being demolished, and will stay in NY.” In the short-term, a rigger will be enlisted and permits will be secured. In the long-term, O’Connell plans on restoring the diner to its ’40 splendor, and Perlman feels it will be great once he polishes up that gem, so patrons can experience the Cheyenne as it was initially conceived.

The Cheyenne Diner is a highlight in terms of its diverse patronage including celebs i.e. Jerry Lewis & David Letterman, & since it’s the last streamlined railway car-inspired diner in Mid-Manhattan, & a scarcity borough-wide. It was pre-assembled by Paramount in 1940, and known as the Market Diner through ’86 after the popular chain. It retains a majority of its original &/or distinctive elements. The streamlined façade features vertical and horizontal stainless steel securing bowed colorful enamel panels, wrap-around windows, a curved entryway with glass block, & a reverse channel illuminated neon sign. The interior features a streamlined barrel roof, counter & stools, & Indian tribal coins. The Cheyenne was recently granted 1st prize on NYC-Architecture.com’s “Top 10 NY Diners/Restaurants. Spiros Kasimis was the 18-year Cheyenne tenant.

Perlman explains: “Diners are amongst the ‘ultimate public institutions’ which harbor countless memories and bridge the generations. During the 30’s – 60’s eras, freestanding diners numerously dotted NYC’s 5 boroughs, and brought together individuals of various occupations in a cozy & striking ambiance. Today, they are becoming an endangered species at an alarming rate, and their loss is often most heartfelt. It is essential to preserve & reuse all remaining classic freestanding diners.”

John Baeder paintings featured at O.K. Harris in NYC, April 26th thru May 24th

John’s Diner with John’s Chevelle (Center Moriches, NY 1976)
2008 oil on canvas 30 x 48 inches

I just got a post card with the above image in the mail from my friend and mentor John Baeder. It is an anouncement about his upcoming exhibit of paintings being displayed at the O.K. Harris Gallery in New York City.

For those who do not know, John has been the premier “diner painter” in the world since the early 1970’s. Using a style some term “Photo Realist”, John’s paintings in oil, watercolor and other mediums are very representational and show the subject in a specific time and place. Generally the diner is always the main subject in his paintings but usually they are shown in conjunction  with their surroundings.

The exhibit runs from April 26th thru May 24th, 2008. John will be at the gallery on Saturday the 26th from 3 – 5 pm. O.K Harris is located at 383 West Broadway, NYC for more info visit their website at www.okharris.com

Miss Portland Diner back on track to reopen

The Miss Portland on it’s last day of business, 2004, Larry Cultrera

It has been 4 years since the Miss Portland Diner, of Portland, Maine, Worcester Lunch Car No. 818 closed it’s doors. Randy Chasse, the last person to run the 1949 vintage diner decided to sell the land to the city and actually give the diner to the city as well, hoping they could move it and eventually find a way to open it back up somewhere else.

Well after a couple of false starts it is now beginning to look like it’s all finally coming together. A couple of weeks ago there was something about the sale coming to fruition between the City of Portland and a new buyer for the diner.

I checked out some late breaking news on the diner this afternoon. Here is the article from MaineToday.com about further developments….

Miss Portland on the move to new home

By Giselle Goodman, April 14, 2008
The Miss Portland Diner was moved today from her place of storage at Pearl and Somerset streets (directly across from Whole Foods), to her new home at 138 Marginal Way. The popular 1949 Worcester Diner hit the road at about 9:15 a.m. today. She was recently purchased by Tom Manning of Mahwah, N. J., from the City of Portland. It is scheduled to open in the fall in its new location as a diner, once again. Keeley Construction workers move the Miss Portland Diner to its new home along Marginal Way in Portland. Workers are lifting the diner onto its permanent foundation.

20080414_diner2.jpg

John Patriquin/Staff Photographer

Here is some video from WCSH-TV in Portland on the move…

http://www.wcsh6.com/video/news/player.aspx?aid=35139&bw

Notes from the Hotline, 4-10-2008


Steel Trolley Diner, circa 1985

Conversation with Jacki Hersman of
Lisbon, Ohio’s Steel Trolley Diner

Last night I got a call from Helen & Billy of the Rosebud Diner (Somerville, Mass.). Apparently they had some people come in to see the diner. It turned out to be Jacki Hersman (and her son) who happened to take a couple of days off and took a short “Diner Tour” in the Boston area. Hersman owns the Steel Trolley Diner of Lisbon, Ohio. It is located on U.S. Route 30 (the Lincoln Highway). Billy put Jacki on the phone and we spoke for a good half hour. I have never met Jacki but I told her I had visited the diner she owns back in 1985. This was when it was owned by Shirley Davis. Davis sold the diner, a 1954 Jerry O’Mahony to Hersman back in 1992.

Jacki told me of her frustration in finding that most of the diners she was visiting here closed after lunch. The Rosebud being one of the local exceptions does serve dinner. She told me she was going up to Salem, Mass. today to see some sights and also check out the Salem Diner. I mentioned that  while she was in the area, she should also get to the Capitol Diner in Lynn. She would not be disappointed.

 

New effort to help save the Cheyenne Diner
and keep it in the New York Metro area

I just got a press release from Michael Perlman of New York City who is spearheading the effort to save the Cheyenne Diner which closed last weekend. The owner of the property wants to develope the site for housing. Perlman was the founder of a group of preservationists who helped save the Moondance Diner which ultimately was bought and moved to Wyoming. His goal is to find someone closer to home to buy the Cheyenne and reopen it. Here is the press release ….

 

Committee To Save The Cheyenne Diner

For Immediate Release                                

Contact:

                                                                                          

Michael Perlman, Founder & Preservationist 

Committee To Save The Moondance Diner Founder

917) 446-7775

unlockthevault@hotmail.com

                                                                                  

Kyle Supley, Preservationist

(518) 436-5167

plattforms@aol.com

                                                                                        

                                                                     

HISTORIC CHEYENNE DINER FOR SALE AT $7,900:

Effort to Spare “Endangered Species” from Oblivion!

                                                                           

     NEW YORK, NY (Apr 9, 2008) – Citywide Patrons, preservationists, & community groups are disheartened that the architecturally & culturally significant Cheyenne Diner (411 9th Ave at 33rd St) has officially closed its doors on Sun, Apr 6th. A 9-story condo is slated to rise on premise, marking the end of the diner’s 68-year run, but a movement is underway which may grant the Cheyenne a new lease on life. The asking price is $7,900 and the buyer is responsible for rigging and lot acquisition costs.   Preservationist Michael Perlman of Queens, who founded the Committee To Save The Moondance Diner in spring 2007, along with fellow Preservationist Kyle Supley of Brooklyn, are now campaigning to spare the Cheyenne Diner from oblivion, after sparing the Moondance last summer. Michael Perlman of the Committee To Save The Cheyenne Diner further discussed the proposal with property owner George Papas (owner of nearby Skylight Diner, 402 W 34th St, & developer for Cheyenne property) on Sun, Apr 6th, and effectively convinced him to work together. It will be a win-win scenario for all parties when Papas sells the Cheyenne Diner, and it is relocated. Perlman has already received notification from potential buyers from Indiana & Ohio. While the Cheyenne can potentially land a good home out of state, many patrons are praying that a NY-based buyer will contact the Committee at unlockthevault@hotmail.com, so it can ideally remain closer to its roots than the Moondance Diner in WY. All information will be relayed to George Papas.

 

The Cheyenne Diner is a highlight in terms of its diverse patronage including celebs i.e. Jerry Lewis & David Letterman, & since it’s the last streamlined railway car-inspired diner in Mid-Manhattan, & a scarcity borough-wide. It was pre-assembled by Paramount in 1940, and known as the Market Diner through ’86 after the popular chain. It retains a majority of its original &/or distinctive elements. The streamlined façade features vertical and horizontal stainless steel securing bowed colorful enamel panels, wrap-around windows, a curved entryway with glass block, & a reverse channel illuminated neon sign. The interior features a streamlined barrel roof, counter & stools, & Indian tribal coins. The Cheyenne was recently granted 1st prize on NYC-Architecture.com’s “Top 10 NY Diners/Restaurants. Spiros Kasimis was the 18-year Cheyenne tenant.

 

Perlman explains: “Diners are amongst the ‘ultimate public institutions’ which harbor countless memories and bridge the generations. During the 30’s – 60’s eras, freestanding diners numerously dotted NYC’s 5 boroughs, and brought together individuals of various occupations in a cozy & striking ambiance. Today, they are becoming an endangered species at an alarming rate, and their loss is often most heartfelt. It is essential to preserve & reuse all remaining classic freestanding diners. Despite time constraints, we are committed to doing all we can for a noble cause. ” The Committee’s consensus is that “A steady market for such nostalgic gems, coupled by the fact that they were manufactured to move; can ensure a victory for the Cheyenne Diner.”

 

 

NYC Diner Preservation Record

– Sam Chinita housed in freestanding diner (8th Ave & 19th St), demolished 2000

– River Diner (11th Ave & 37th St), demolished Mar 2004

– Lunchbox Diner (357 West St), restored in 2002, but closed & remains abandoned

– Munson Diner (11th Ave & 49th St) transported to the Catskills in 2005

– Moondance Diner (80 6th Ave) transported to LaBarge, WY in Aug 2007 & reopens in June 2008

– Staten Island’s Victory Diner transported in Aug 2007 to SI’s Midland Beach Promenade & reopens in 2009  

– Some icons holding onto their own: NYC’s Empire Diner (10th Ave & 22nd St), jet-age Market Diner (11th Ave & 43rd St) reopens this June, Air Line Diner/currently Jackson Hole (Astoria Blvd & 70th St), Square Diner (33 Leonard St
near Varick St & W Broadway).

 

Cheyenne Diner May 2007 day scenes, Courtesy of Preservationist Michael Perlman:

http://flickr.com/photos/8095451@N08/sets/72157604354225329/

 

Cheyenne Diner night scenes & memorabilia, Courtesy of Jeremiah Moss of Jeremiah’s Vanishing NY (http://vanishingnewyork.blogspot.com/)

http://www.flickr.com/photos/11205114@N03/tags/cheyenne

 

’83 Cheyenne as Market Diner, courtesy of roadside photographer Larry Cultrera of Society for Commercial Archeology & Diner Hotline (https://dinerhotline.wordpress.com/about/):

http://flickr.com/photos/8095451@N08/2383404269/

 

Dec ’79 Cheyenne as Market Diner, serigraph courtesy of photorealist John Baeder (www.johnbaeder.com):

http://flickr.com/photos/8095451@N08/2383392233/