Foster Street Diner closes, future in question.


The Foster Street Diner in Peabody, Massachusetts closed for good yesterday, May 4, 2008. A Salem News article dated today has some great quotes from customers as well as the operators. Unfortunately, the article describes it as a railway car turned diner which is completely wrong and helps perpetuate the myth that diners were originally railroad cars.

This in fact is one of the older diners in the state (a circa 1927, Worcester Lunch Car), although alterred to a certain extent, there still are some original features including a ceramic tile floor, counter apron, porcellain covered stools with wooden tops and Monel metal hood over the backbar. The land the diner was on was sold to the InnLine Auto Body that is on the adjacent parcel.

Apparently the auto body needed the land to expand parking and the diner has to go. The diner (which previously was known as the Driftwood II Diner and when I first started going to it, the Red Rambler Diner) was operated by Peggy and Dan Davis for the last 18 years. The Davis’ reportedly are sad that they had to close the diner and leave all their regular customers in the lurch.

The auto body shop has tried selling the diner on Craigslist but as far as I know has been unsuccessfull. So unfortunately, the fate of this diner is certainly in doubt. Here is the text of the Salem News article…

 Sorry, we’re closed: Longtime Peabody diner serves its last breakfast

By Amanda McGregor
Staff writer

PEABODY — Chris Schulte savored every bite of his final “house omelette” oozing with cheese, kielbasa and caramelized onion — an unrivaled meal he has enjoyed at the Foster Street Diner three or four times a week for more than a decade.

The little diner locked its front door for the last time at noon yesterday, closing the chapter on generations of fresh home fries, griddle cakes, cups of coffee and sarcastic, affectionate banter.

“Honestly, I might die of starvation,” said Schulte, who owns Atlas Landscaping around the corner from the diner. “I’ve tried everywhere else, and no one can make an omelette like this. Ever.”

Peggy and Dan Davis of Lynn have run the diner the last 18 years. Dan cooked in the back yesterday morning while Peggy chatted with customers, served coffee, and braced to say goodbye to “their home” for the last two decades.

“It’s been great,” Peggy Davis said, “just the people we’ve met and the friends we’ve made.”

The 1927 railway-car-turned-diner, adorned with a weathered red awning, has been tucked on the edge of Foster Street near downtown Peabody since 1939, Peggy said. The autobody shop next door purchased the land from the diner’s landlord to pave it for a parking lot, said shop owner Brian Lightbown of Peabody.

“This is like my adopted family,” said patron Wendy Shauan of Peabody, who has eaten Sunday breakfast at the Foster Street Diner for the last nine years. If she doesn’t walk through the door at 11:20, the staff knows something is amiss. And Wendy is far from alone.

Bob Maguire — or “burnt-bacon Bob” as the staff calls him — is an 86-year-old Peabody resident who ate at the diner every morning. Ralph Countie’s been a customer since the 1950s, when employees of the old leather tanneries would line up outside in the morning to fill their thermoses with coffee.

“We come here every Sunday, unless we’re sick or away. We love the people, and we love the food,” said Lillian Peluso, 85, who, for health reasons, had to sacrifice the greasy breakfasts she loves for a less fatty option: oatmeal. “They make it just the way I like it, gooey and sticky,” she said over a small white bowl filled with oatmeal.

Customers packed the diner yesterday, which has just enough room for three booths, three two-person tables, and a lunch counter with stools. It used to be called the Driftwood.

“They always give me my food on a hot plate, the way I like it,” said Hollis Ball of Peabody, a daily customer at the diner for the last 15 years, “and I always come in right before they close just to (tick) them off,” he said with an impish smile.


Peggy Davis’ three sisters have also worked at the restaurant, mainly Ellen Robitaille, who knows every customer by name.

“If Dan or Ellen see a customer coming,” Peggy said, “the food is there by the time they sit down. That’s how well they know people — and how predictable (customers) are,” she said with a laugh.

Basically, everyone in the family has worked at the diner over the years.

“We’ve kept it just family here. Everybody’s related,” Peggy said. “I just think it’s simpler that way. And if we fight, we fight nice.”

“I started when I was 14,” said one of their sons, Danny Davis of Peabody, “helping my dad as the dishwasher.”

He and his brother Ryan were working at the diner with their parents yesterday.

In a testament to their devotion, customers have provided pages worth of their e-mail addresses to stay posted if the Davis family opens a new restaurant. Peggy said they’re crafting plans to buy a diner in Lynn, but it’s not finalized. In the meantime, she and her husband may get a brief vacation after nearly two decades of daily work. The diner was open every morning at 6 a.m., seven days a week, except Christmas Day.

“It’s a tough pace,” Peggy said. “It’s hard to keep up sometimes. We have customers who help us pour coffee all the time.”

Lightbown, who owns InnLine Autobody on Foster Street, said his business is cramped and needs a parking area. He bought the adjacent diner property in October.

“It’s unfortunate that’s what I have to do,” Lightbown said of shuttering the diner.

He’s been trying to give away the actual diner — if someone pays to have it moved — and posted ads on a pair of Web sites. There aren’t any takers yet.

“I thought for sure someone would want it,” he said. “It’s a 1927 Worcester line dining car. I tried everything that I know of.”

The Davis family typed up a list of memorable customers and moments on a two-sided printout that was on hand yesterday morning.

“As we close our doors on 05-04-08, we would like to thank each and every person who has been part of our lives,” it reads. “We just cherish the friendship, stories and love among all of us that we shared. … Until we meet again.”