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, 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 ….. 

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.

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