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
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.”
“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.
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.”
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…..