Diner Hotline Blog Celebrates 1 Year Anniversary!

It is almost hard to believe that I posted my first entry 1 year ago today! Since then I have made 118 posts and this blog has garnered over 23,000 hits. It has been more successful and more widely received than I could have imagined. As I mentioned in the very first post, this blog is the reincarnation of my former Diner Hotline column that appeared in the SCA NewsJournal and then Journal magazine for almost 19 years.

I retired the column around the beginning of September, 2007 and SCA member Brian Butko who had just started the Lincoln Highway News Blog…. (http://www.lincolnhighwaynews.com/) knowing I wanted to continue with a different version of Diner Hotline, emailed me in October and suggested I start a blog.

Well soon after I started this, I realized it was what Diner Hotline should have always been! Of course when I started writing the Hotline at the end of 1988, there was no internet per se. In fact I wrote the first few Hotlines by printing with pen & paper (my handwriting is not so hot). I then sent the handwritten document to the SCA NewsJournal editor who transcribed it into a wordperfect document or some such thing.

The next iteration was to borrow a small dos computer from my brother and use another word processing program (wordstar?) for the next few years. I printed that out on an old dot matrix printer and sent it off where again it got transcribed to be printed in the magazine.

At the end of 1995, I got my first Windows 95 computer and started writing the Hotlines in QuarkXpress which eventually the copy from these Quark documents were copy and pasted into emails and sent off! By then I had scanning capability and was also able to send jpeg images along with the copy as well as developing the Diner Hotline logo which now appears at the top of my blog.

Thanks go out to everyone who regularly reads this! The fact that you are checking this out on a regular basis makes it all worthwhile!

Notes from the Hotline, 10/23/2008

Rhode Island’s Liberty Elm Diner receives
nice review from Providence Journal

Liberty Elm Diner, photo copyright April, 2008 by Larry Cultrera

Check out this great review from Journal Food Editor Gail Ciampa of Providence’s own Liberty Elm Diner.

Liberty Elm diner mixes classic look, local flavor

PROVIDENCE — The Liberty Elm is a diner with a difference. Now that may sound strange because, of course, what attracts most people to diners is their sameness. Comfort food and a nostalgic atmosphere are what make a diner a diner.
But it is 2008 and there is nothing wrong with putting the accent on local foods, or supporting the environment and the neighborhood, or offering a little music. And that’s a big part of what Liberty Elm is about under owners Carol DeFeciani and Diane Horstmyer (also known as Tink). The 1947 lunch car, looking every one of its years, is nestled in at 777 Elmwood Ave., not far from the Roger Williams Park Zoo. (It still needs a new sign, said DeFeciani.)
There one can sip a cup of Joe from New Harvest Coffee Roasters in Pawtucket or a soda from Yacht Club in Bristol, or enjoy a hamburger on a ciabatta roll from Superior Bakery in Cranston. The eggs and milk are from Little Rhody Foods, a farm in Foster. During the summer the diner bought produce from a youth garden in the Elmwood neighborhood. Confreda Greenhouses in Cranston are another source for harvest produce. They use Cabot butter and King Arthur flour from Vermont.

But what really matters to most diners is that they serve breakfast all day. Pancakes can be had one at time, the size of a dinner plate. They have blueberry which I can highly recommend with tiny, sweet wild blueberries and cost $2 for one. They also offer buttermilk ($1.75 for one). All pancakes are served with real maple syrup. (DeFeciani is working to line up a source for local Rhode Island syrup.) A stack of three ($5.25) would be a huge portion and going home as leftovers for most of us.

In the kitchen is Wendi Woodland, pride of Austin, Texas, who brings her own Tex-Mex accent to the diner’s menu. For breakfast, her specialty is the migas ($5.95). Sautéed tomatoes, onions and bell peppers (both green and red) are mixed into scrambled eggs with American cheese. Then it’s served with salsa and beans and crispy tortilla strips to add some crunch. Woodland also makes her own muffins, cookies (giant chocolate chips and vegan varieties) and desserts including the season’s favorite, pumpkin pie. The restaurant is vegetarian friendly with many options including a daily homemade soup, though a butternut squash cup ($2) was on the thick side for me.

Also part of the experience was our warm and friendly server Judie. She enthusiastically and patiently answered all our questions. The atmosphere here is casual and not rushed. The place has oodles of personality. After my procrastinating companion went through a handful of items she wanted to order, she finally decided on the breakfast burrito only to change her mind again. “I already wrote it down,” Judie said to my relief and that of a second companion.

In between her friendly chatter, Judie also made me a wonderful liquada, a smoothie. It had banana, pineapple and orange juice and my choice of yogurt or soy milk ($3.75 for small and $4.75 for large). It paired nicely with my Liberty Burger ($6.95), a Black Angus burger elevated by the excellent ciabatta roll and topped with Vermont Cabot Cheddar cheese. A quesadilla ($6.50) was served on a whole-wheat tortilla and had all the right things — onions, peppers, beets and cheese — but fewer pinto beans would have been welcome. The eggs in the breakfast burrito ($5.95) were good and wrapped with homemade salsa in an organic tortilla. But again, too many pinto beans were a distraction.

By the way, Judie adorned our food with tiny drink umbrellas, which can’t help but make one smile. The diner is divided in two with the lunch car style in front along with a long counter with stools. In the back is a more spacious dining room. All told there are 47 seats. The Liberty Elm opened a year ago in August after the owners spent 13 months cleaning it up and adding their own touches. Though built in ’47, it didn’t arrive in Rhode Island until 1949, when it stood downtown where the Westin hotel now rests. As near as they can tell, it was moved to Elmwood in 1953, said DeFeciani.

The customers will have something to do with how the diner evolves, said DeFeciani. Guests have already shared some favorite recipes included one for real Rhode Island jonnycakes which just might begin appearing on the menu, she said. In addition to the food, music feeds the soul at Liberty Elm. Its Americana Breakfast Club has local musicians playing each Sunday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. in acoustic performances. Both owners are musicians.

There is still one more ambition from the Liberty Elm owners: make Elmwood a street of elms again, with the diner pledging profits (when they start making a profit, DeFeciani joked) to the re-treeing of the neighborhood. Yes, the Liberty Elm is a diner with difference. Bill of Fare

A lunch for two at Liberty Elm might look like this:

The Liberty burger…$6.95


Yacht Club Soda…$1.50

Large Tropical Banana smoothie…$4.75

Total food and drink…$19.70



Total bill…$25.29

The Liberty Elm, 777 Elmwood Ave., Providence, (401) 467-0777, www.libertyelmdiner.com. Diner and coffeehouse. Very casual. Parking lot and street parking. Wheelchair access ramp in the back. Highchairs. MC and V. Serving 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday to Friday and 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Closed Monday. Breakfast items from $1.75 to $7.95; lunch from $3.50-$8.95.



Milford, New Hampshire all set to welcome
the opening of the Red Arrow Diner

Former Milford Diner will reopen this coming week as the
second outlet for the Red Arrow Diner

As I mentioned within the last month, the former Milford Diner will become the 2nd outlet for Manchester’s Red Arrow Diner. It was slated to open last week but this was pushed back and now it has been announced that the diner will open next Monday. Here is a small blurb from Wednesday’s Cabinet.com ….. 

New Milford Oval diner opens Monday

The new Red Arrow Diner is scheduled to open at 7 a.m. on Monday, Oct. 27 in the old Milford Diner building on the Milford Oval, according to Dawn Foote, daughter of Carol Sheehan, owner of Manchester’s landmark Red Arrow Diner. Sheehan bought the property as the Red Arrow’s first step toward franchising. Sheehan’s father, George Lawrence, who owned Manchester’s Belmont Hall and Restaurant for 30 years, will help her run the 24-hour diner.

Diner Hotline (and yours truly) mentioned in Newspaper article about a new restaurant to be opened in Medford, Massachusetts by Maury & Tom Carroll

Carroll’s Restaurant, circa 1982 photo by Larry Cultrera

Todays Medford Transcript (Massachusetts) has an article on Maury & Tom Carroll’s latest endeavor, their new restaurant which is to be called 55 High, (the address is 55 High Street). The interior of the new establishment will be a very contemporary, wonderfully appointed space featuring upholstered furniture, wood & granite surfaces as well as a fireplace and high ceilings. 55 High will boast a slightly upscale menu, serving steaks and seafood hopefully becoming a destination type restuarant helping to draw more customers as well as other businesses to Medford Square.

The Carroll family had been known for their longtime prior business, Carroll’s Diner. I have mentioned and ran photos of this on the blog in the past year. The diner started out circa 1930 in a used “Brill Diner” located on the outskirts of Medford Square on Main Street just south of its intersection with South Street.
The Brill was later used from 1948 to 1962 as the kitchen of the brand-new “Jerry O’Mahony Diner” the family brought in when they needed to expand the business. This diner with an up-to-date stainless steel and red striped exterior was advertised as “A Modern Diner in Historic Medford”. This was all replaced in 1962 with the opening of their much larger “L” shaped Carroll’s Colonial Dining Car which had been delivered in August of 1961 to the lot next door. This last diner was built by “Swingle Diners” of Middlesex, NJ and operated until December of 1986.

55 High will be located in the former Century Bank. This building had a more infamous story attached to it back in the 1980’s when it was operated as the Depositors Trust Company. During the long Memorial Day Weekend back in 1980, over the course of three nights, brazen thieves rifled the bank’s safe-deposit boxes, taking an estimated $25 million in cash, gold and jewelry. As it turned out, the thieves were actually police officers. The crime went unsolved for quite a few years when the full story was finally revealed just prior to end of the statute of limitations. After all the criminal trials were over and the perpetrators were sent to jail, one of the people involved, Gerald Clemente wrote a book entitled “The Cops are Robbers” detailing how it all went down.

Rob Barry, the reporter for the Medford Transcript called me for some historic reference to Carroll’s Diner (as well as photos). He also wanted a point of view from someone who grew up in Medford and could relate to how the diner played an important part in peoples lives, not only people from Medford but from the surrounding area. He also mentioned this blog, (thanks Rob!).

Here is the copy of the piece that appeared in the Transcript…….

Carrolls to open Medford Square restaurant

Medford –


When Century Bank moved out of its 55 High St. location this year, rumors abounded about what would come to a property considered a prime business location in downtown Medford Square.

Well, wait no longer. One well-known Medford family is finally revealing its plans for the spot.

Maury and Tom Carroll, whose family owned the famous Carroll’s Diner for six decades, have recently announced the coming of a 160-seat prime steakhouse called 55 High. Boasting a casual yet upscale concept, the Carrolls are shooting for a winter grand opening.

“For the concept the timing, we believe, is right,” Maury said over an English muffin last week. “If it goes according to plan, with the demographics we’ve studied, this could be the catalyst to jumpstart the business community again in Medford Square.”

Maury excitedly explained his plans for the restaurant. The contemporary interior will have upholstered furniture, wood and granite appointments, a fireplace and high ceilings. Maury said the open kitchen will feature a rotisserie with various meats and customers will pass a full raw bar upon entering.

Having studied steakhouse concepts thoroughly, Maury said quality boils down to three important elements: aged prime beef, a variety of sauces and a 180,000 BTU broiler.

The vault where the infamous Depositors Trust bank robbery took place in the ‘80s is being converted into a private dining area.

“You’re going to get a look you’ve never seen in Medford,” said Maury. “People want to go to a nice place and have a nice dining experience without driving into the city.”

The menu, Maury said, will have something for everyone. He estimated appetizers in the $7 to $12 range, sandwiches from $9 to $12, entrees between $16 and $25 and prime steaks around $30. A full liquor license has already been secured.

Perhaps much of the early buzz around 55 High has focused on what an upscale restaurant could do for other businesses in Medford Square. The business community has for some time been seeking more downtown venues with extended hours of operation.

“I think it’s going to be great for the Square,” said Mayor Michael McGlynn. “I could see people from other communities coming to Medford Square to dine.”

This is just what the Carrolls are hoping for.

“I think you’re going to see it bringing people in,” said Tom. “I see it creating nighttime activities where there weren’t any.”

Bringing evening foot traffic into the Square, Tom said, would likely create an overflow that other businesses like cafes could benefit from.

A restaurant family

The Carroll’s have been involved in hospitality since the colonial days when Maury and Tom’s grandfather ran the Medford Inn. This became Medford Battery Co. in the early 1900s and around 1920 the first Carroll’s diner car was placed outside.

 “We have a rich, deep and proud tradition in our family,” said Maury. “Carroll’s was, for years, the face of the city of Medford.”

Around 1948 the diner car was attached to the adjacent Main Street building and became the kitchen for a much larger diner.

“It was centrally located and it was just the place to be,” said Larry Cultrera, a childhood Medford resident and expert on American diners. “People you talk to over the years, you mention Medford and you mention Carroll’s and they’re saying, ‘Oh, Carroll’s, I remember going there at 2 in the morning.”

Writing the Society for Commercial Archeology’s Journal column, “Diner Hotline,” for 20 years, Cultrera has photographed and documented more than 800 American diners. He recently added all of these to his Weblog, https://dinerhotline.wordpress.com.

In the 1970s, Cultrera said he and his friends spent a lot of time at Carroll’s diner. Grilled cheese and French fries were his poison. Many couples were married there. It was a popular social meeting spot and the place to go for a hot dog after doing the Twist until early morning.

“The early Carroll’s is an example of what’s called a Brill diner,” said Cultrera. “They were built by a company that used to make streetcars. They had a diner division.”

The final and largest stage of Carroll’s lasted from 1962 to 1986, Cultrera said. At that point the building and the diner car were sold off and the Carroll’s went into different areas of the food service industry.

As it would turn out, Cultrera located the old Carroll’s diner car in Pennsylvania a few years ago with the help of a friend. It had become the Domino Diner.

“I just found out that diner burnt in July,” said Cultrera. “I ate there once. I may be the only guy from Medford that ate at the old Carroll’s restaurant in that location.”

Back to Medford

For the past decade or so, Maury and Tom have been directors at various restaurant businesses and owners of others. The Carrolls have owned and operated restaurants all through Greater Boston and up to New Hampshire.

“Maury and I have stayed in the food service industry,” said Tom, “working for different companies.”

“It was a year ago October I started looking at this space,” said Maury. “Then we entered negotiations after the first of the year.”

Tom said he and Maury felt there was a strong need in Medford for a quality restaurant — “a sort of destination meeting place.”

So the old gang is back together to give Medford a new major restaurant, leaving some wondering if 55 High will become to the city a more “grown up” version of what Carroll’s once was.

Then there are the die-hards like Cultrera, who prefer the classic style of diner.

“Every now and then I’ll have a dream that all of a sudden [Carroll’s] is back there,” said Cultrera. “It’s wishful thinking on my part I guess.”

Here is the link to the on-line article which has some nice photos attached…..


A little glimpse into my Diner postcard collection

I have been collecting old (and new) postcards for around 30 years or so. It started with some old postcards of my hometown of Medford, Massachusetts. After that I expanded into some postcard views of things like the former Pleasure Island Amusement Park, an early “Disneyesque” theme park that operated from around 1960-69 and was located in Wakefield, Mass.

I started photographing diners in November of 1980, and it was only logical to start collecting diner postcards. One of the first cards I found was a chrome view of the Olympia Diner from Newington, Conn. I only had this card for a short time and actually gave it away, but not just to anyone. You see, I made arrangements to meet Dick Gutman & his wife Kellie at the old Apple Tree Diner when it was still operating in Dedham, Mass., (Dick co-wrote American Diner, the first “history book” on diners).

We met in February of 1981 and I brought the Olympia postcard with me. I was planning on giving it to Dick (if he did not already have it) because on the dust jacket of the hardcover edition of American Diner (as well as the cover on the paperback edition) there was a partial night-time image of the Olympia on it. Needless to say he did not already have it and I presented it to him as a token of our burgeoning friendship. It took me years to get that postcard back into the collection, I actually obtained a reprinted version at the Olympia Diner about 6 years ago.

Anyway, I thought I would post a few of my favorite diner postcards from the collection on Diner Hotline for my faithfull readers to view.

I will start out with some early lunch wagon views…

Nite Lunch next to Broadway Theatre, Derry, NH

This is a postcard of the Broadway Theatre of Derry, NH and just to the left is a small Nite Lunch Wagon. This probably served food to the patrons of the Theatre as well as anyone else out and about in downtown Derry.

Vienna Lunch,
AKA “Never Touched Us” Diner, Chelsea, Mass.

This diner as the postcard says was one of the only buildings in the fire zone to be spared in the April 12, 1908 conflagration in Chelsea, Mass. Originally known as the Vienna Lunch, after the fire it became known as the “Never Touched Us” Diner.

Lunch Wagons at the Taunton (Mass.) Green
Christmas time, 1954

Although this is fairly new as far as Lunch Wagons go, this card shows that some late model Worcester Lunch Car Company motorized Lunch Wagons operated into the age of Stainless Steel diners.
In the foreground you can see Sully’s Diner (which may have started out as Behan’s Diner as seen in earlier shots) and just to the right of the Christmas Tree toward the top of the shot is Hickey’s Diner. Hickey’s operated until the mid-1980’s, in fact I was one of the final 6 or 7 people in the diner when Mike Hickey shut the lights out at around 2 in the morning on the last day of service under the Hickey family.

Lackawanna Trail Diner, Stroudsburg, PA

I have been aware of this card since John Baeder published his book, “Gas, Food and Lodging” back in 1982. He featured this postcard image as well as a more contemporary photo he shot for the book. At that time the diner which was operating as Besecker’s Diner, had wooden shingles below the windows but otherwise was in decent shape. When I visited the diner shortly after, the Besecker family had moved to a newer Silk City diner not far from the Lackawanna Trail Diner. The older diner was operating as Jerry’s Diner and the shingles were removed.

Fast forward to the late 1990’s, Jerry’s Diner was for sale when my old friend Gordon Tindall bought it. Tindall had previously restored the old Clarksville Diner from Clarksville, NJ. He had bought and moved that diner to Decorah, Iowa where he operated it for 6 years. He sold the Clarksville to a Television Network in Paris, France, where that diner is located today. He was on his way back from Port Newark after delivering the Clarksville there for shipment to France when he stopped in at Jerry’s Diner. After purchasing it he transported that diner to the Lancaster, PA area hoping to get a desired parcel of land to operate it at when the restoration was complete. In fact because he thought the diner would be operating in Lancaster, he named it the Red Rose Diner after the city’s nickname. This fell through and he eventually found a great spot in Towanda, PA and has operated it successfully for a number of years, (he is in the process of selling this one and moving out to the midwest to be closer to family). His restoration of the Lackawanna Trail/Red Rose was nearly perfect (by the way this is a rare 1927 vintage Tierney Diner). Gordon is quite the craftsman.

 I recently bid on this postcard and won it on Ebay. Ironically I bought it from another old friend, post card collector and dealer David B. Grubbs. My buddy Steve Repucci was living out in Harrisburg, PA for a couple of years in the early 1980’s and he went to a flea market and saw this guy with a huge selection of old postcards. He asked the guy (who turned out to be David Grubbs) if he had any “diner” postcards. He showed him where they were and Steve proceeded to by around 20 to 25 cards. This became my Christmas present from Steve that year and the beginning of my Diner postcard collection!

Red Arrow Diner, Nashua, NH

In the last couple of weeks I posted that the Red Arrow Diner of Manchester, NH was going to reopen the former Milford Diner in Milford, NH as a 2nd Red Arrow Diner. Back in the 1920’s and 30’s there was a chain of Red Arrow Diners in southern New Hampshire and it looks like there will be another chain now. Here is a postcard of the Red Arrow Diner that was located in Nashua, NH. It is a great example of a Brill Diner. The postcard had a post date of 1933.

Everett’s Diner, Groveton, NH

This is an interesting postcard. It is interesting because I have no idea who built this. It looks like it is more than one building put together to be one large diner. It is hard to tell as the signage hides any clues the roofline might have as to what this is. It does not exist anymore to the best of my knowledge.

Mayflower Diner, Quincy, Mass.

This is a unique example of one of only 2 fully streamlined diners built by the Worcester Lunch Car Company in the 1940’s. According to Dick Gutman, the workers at WLCC had called these models “Circular Diners” because of their round end walls. This diner was replaced by a large stainless steel Jerry O’Mahony diner in the early 1950’s. This one went on to a short lived existence as the Wonderland Diner in Revere, Mass. It is reported to have burned down at that location near the Wonderland Dog Track.

Heald’s Diner, Gardiner, Maine

Here is (as the postcard claims) Maine’s Most Beautiful Diner. A Worcester Semi-Streamliner that still exists today as the A-1 Diner. The diner is located next to a bridge and sits on steel framework so the front door is a the same level as the street. A very unique location!

Bostonian Diner, Meridan, Conn.

This postcard depicts an on-site building operating as the Bostonian Diner on the Berlin Turnpike in Connecticut. At some point, the owners gave the building a makeover utilizing sunburst panels of stainless steel as well as stainless steel moldings and created this fantasic on-site diner.

Philadelphia’s Domino Diner burns in July, formerly Carroll’s Diner of Medford, Mass.

Domino Diner, circa 2005 – Larry Cultrera

Carroll’s Diner, 1948-1962, Courtesy of the Carroll family

Intrepid Diner Hunter Mike Engel of NYDINERSDOTCOM (see my blogroll) left a comment on my flickr site, specifically on my photo of the Domino Diner. His comment reported that this 1948 vintage O’Mahony diner (with a 1963 updating from Swingle Diners) had a bad fire on the morning of July 28, 2008.

The Domino Diner was originally the 1948 version of Carroll’s Diner from my hometown of Medford, Mass. It got replaced in 1962 when the Carroll family opened their new 3-piece Swingle-built colonial diner next door to the older diner. Swingle took the O’Mahony in trade and rehabbed the diner. They also added a factory-built dining room on the right side and sold it to an operator in the Roxborough section of Philadelphia. It has been at that location since 1964 and has been known as the Domino Diner for a good number of years.

I actually only found out this diner still existed in the last 10 years. Up until then I had thought the diner did not exist anymore, in fact back in 1987, I had asked Joe Swingle (of Swingle Diners) what had become of that diner and he himself was under the impression it was not in existence. But then I had seen a galley of Brian Butko’s Diners of Pennsylvania book prior to its publishing and saw Brian’s reference to the Domino Diner as the former Carroll’s Diner of Medford, Mass.

I was amazed at this news. I contacted Ilona Mifflin of the Society for Commercial Archeology and asked her if she would take some photos for me (which I used in a Diner Hotline column I wrote shortly after that). I also alerted the Carroll family who did not know their old diner was still around. On a visit to the Philly area back in July of 2005, I finally visited the diner (which I remembered from my youth). I met Len Davidson as well as Dale & Ilona Mifflin for a late breakfast there.

According to all the reports I got on-line (including some comments from blogs and such) the future of this diner does not bode well. The fire was reported at 2:00 am and was extinguished by 2:44 am. The fire reportedly started in the kitchen, but from what I could glean, there was a lot of damage.

Here is some video from Truveo.com from a news report of the fire http://www.truveo.com/Fire-Damages-Roxborough-Diner/id/1215086557 back in July.