Sonic Drive-in opens in Massachusetts, 8-26-09

 Regular readers of this blog may remember I mentioned in a post this past June that the first Sonic Drive-In in the New England region was slated to be built on U.S. Rte. 1 north in Peabody, Mass. It’s location was marked for years by an old sign that said “Motel Entrance”. The sign was a relic from one of 3 motels I believe were in this area which had been leveled and redeveloped quite a number of years ago.

Back at the end of April, I finally decided that I personally needed to document this sign with photographs, (I had seen other people had done this on flickr). I figured, I drove by it twice a day on the way to and from work and there was no excuse for not stopping. Also, I figured it just wasn’t going to be around that much longer. So the photo below is one from that morning in April.

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Ironically, I included one of those photos in my Local Roadside Memories Slide Show, (first shown on May 19th at the Lynnfield Historical Society). In fact I had another presentation for the Medford Historical Society on June 16th and that very day I noticed there was some construction equipment on the site starting to clear the land. At this point I did not know what was going there. Within a couple of weeks I did find out, see the photo below….

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Boy, was I surprised! That is when I posted the news here on Diner Hotline. So after the site prep was complete in early July, I began to document the construction of the new Sonic Drive-in. I was told by someone connected with the opening of this outlet that the completion of this project broke all previous records, something like 65 days. Here is a timeline, week by week.

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Week One – July 10, 2009

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Week One – July 10, 2009

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Week Two – July 19, 2009

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Week Two – July 19, 2009

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Week Three – July 26, 2009

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Week Three – July 26, 2009

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Week Three – July 30, 2009

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Week Three – July 30, 2009

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Week Four – August 2, 2009

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Week Four – August 2, 2009

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Week Four – August 2, 2009

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Week Five – August 8, 2009

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Week Five – August 8, 2009

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Week Five – August 8, 2009

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Week Five – August 8, 2009

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Week Five – August 8, 2009

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Week Five – August 8, 2009

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Week Six – August 16, 2009

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Week Six – August 16, 2009

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Week Six – August 16, 2009

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Week Six – August 21, 2009

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Week Six – August 21, 2009

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Week Six – August 22, 2009

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Week Six – August 22, 2009

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Week Six – August 22, 2009

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Week Six – August 22, 2009

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Week Six – August 22, 2009

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Week Seven – August 25, 2009.  This is training day for the crew!

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Week Seven – August 25, 2009.  This is training day for the crew!

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Week Seven – August 25, 2009.  This is training day for the crew!

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Week Seven – August 25, 2009.  This is training day for the crew!

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Week Seven – August 26, 2009. Opening Day!

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Week Seven – August 26, 2009. Opening Day!
I had just placed my order after waiting in line for just over an hour!

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Timmy’s Diner slated to make a comeback!

Back when I first started documenting diners with my photographs I met David Hebb of Cambridge, Mass. Dave had started photographing diners almost 2 years prior to when I took my first diner shot. We crossed paths at least twice before we finally hooked up to create the Boston contingent of the Diner Patrol. In one of our early meetings he told me about a diner that was sitting behind Jim’s 10 Country Lounge on Route 126 in Ashland, Mass.

He also told me where the diner had come from as he had photos of it from its original location in East Bridgewater, Mass. where (Worcester Lunch Car No. 711 as we later learned) had operated as Brady’s Diner and closer to its final days at that location, Bob’s Diner, see Below…..

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A painting by John Baeder of Bob’s Diner in East Bridgewater, Mass.
from a circa 1970’s photograph

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Bob’s Diner at storage location in Ashland, Mass. circa 1981

After Dave told me about it, I took a ride over to Ashland to photograph this abandoned diner, (at least that is how it looked) on November 21, 1981. It stayed there until 1987 or so when Tim Hanna of Ken’s Steak House in Framingham bought it to restore and reuse.

He had it moved to a temporary location where it was virtually stripped on the exterior down to its wooden frame. It was pretty much rebuilt with new structural supports, where needed and got a new metal skin and standing-seam copper roof.

The interior was all refinished and cleaned up as well. Hanna then moved it to a new location close to the storage area.  It sat in front of Ken’s Kasual Restaurant on Route 9 and operated there for at least 2 years or so but by 1990 it was moved off the site. The last time I saw it was around 1995 when it was at yet another storage site on Route 9 westbound for a short time before it went missing (at least I did not know where it went).

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Timmy’s Diner, circa 1988 located in front of Ken’s Kasual Restaurant

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Interior of Timmy’s Diner, circa 1988

Well the saga of Brady’s/Bob’s/Timmy’s Diner looks to have a new chapter being written as we speak. I first had a clue about this yesterday morning (Aug. 21, 2009) when Glenn Wells reported on his RoadsideFans Yahoo Group about a MetroWest Daily News article that mentioned Ken Hanna is planning on grafting the diner onto Ken’s Steak House. In fact I saw that Randy Garbin of Roadside Online had the news on his website and later in the day, Dick Gutman emailed me about it as well.

I want to say that in the newspaper article, Mr. Hanna refers to this diner as a Worcester Dining Car, in fact he had that painted on it when he restored it in the 1980’s. In my opinion he would be more correct if  he actually referred to it as a Worcester Lunch Car and/or Worcester Diner. Also, Mr. Hanna is quoted as saying he restored the diner in the 1990’s when it actually happened in the late 1980’s. Be that as it may, I hope he can pull it off and get that diner back into operation again.

Here is the text of that article….

Ken’s Steak House owner looks to add diner

By Dan McDonald/Daily News staff
MetroWest Daily News
Posted Aug 21, 2009 @ 12:29 AM
FRAMINGHAM —

Already a Framingham institution 68 years in the making, Ken’s Steak House may be getting a 1930s-era addition. Ken’s owner Tim Hanna has spent the last two years rehabbing a 1933 diner car, and he hopes to attach the vintage eatery to the Rte. 9 restaurant soon.

In the early 1990s, Hanna bought the diner from Natick attorney Jimmy Caselli for $500. Since then, he’s estimated he’s sunk $95,000 into the diner, including more than $2,000 for gold paint for the diner’s lettering. “It was caved in, pretty much totaled when he bought it,” said Terry Blair, facilities manager for Hanna, standing inside the diner yesterday .

Now sitting in the yard of Hanna’s Prospect Street home with plastic covering protecting it from the elements, the diner used to operate near where the Mass. Pike’s Park and Ride site is now, until the Pike took the land by eminent domain in 1994. After that, Hanna moved it to 541 Worcester Road, “right next to the executive apartments,” but never got the permits to open it. His latest proposal is before the Planning Board and the Zoning Board of Appeals.

Maintaining the historic feel of the diner is a priority for Hanna. Inside, orange upholstered bar stools will line a counter when it’s completed. The barrel-style wooden paneled roof, a signature of the Worcester Dining Cars, will be fully restored. No two Worcester Dining Cars are exactly alike, said Blair. On the outside, green aircraft paint covers new sheet metal siding that is held in place with copper screws.”It’s pretty bulletproof,” said Blair.

The waitresses will be dressed in 1930s garb, and will serve classic diner fare like meatloaf with gravy, potatoes and string beans as well as hot dogs and hamburgers “of the highest quality,” said Hanna. If all goes well with the permitting process, the diner will be connected to the existing restaurant. Hanna expects to have patio and takeout windows as well.

If the diner was freestanding, Hanna would have to get a new alcohol and common victualer’s license. “We’d have to open up another restaurant,” said Hanna, who hopes his son, also named Tim, will run the place eventually. Its name – Timmy’s – is already painted on the side, as well as its production number: 711. “It’s good luck twice,” said Hanna.

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Owner Tim Hanna in front of the 1933 dinercar he wants to place
next to Ken’s Steak House in Framingham.
Photo by Marshall Wolff/Daily News staff

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An artist’s conception of how a 1933 diner car could be attached to
the current Ken’s Steak House in Framingham.

Mike Engle digs up the truth about Burlington, VT’s Henry’s Diner

I got an email from Mike Engle the other day with a link to a pdf document showing an old newspaper clipping. The clipping was from a paper called  The North Countryman, dated April 18, 1935. The page featured a column entitled “Perhaps you didn’t know…..” which included little tidbits of information from the Burlington, VT area. One of those little tidbits included some very interesting info about Henry’s Diner of Bank Street in downtown Burlington.

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Henry’s Diner, Burlington, VT

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Henry’s Diner the way it looked (1925-1935)

I had often wondered how, when and why the 1925 vintage, barrel-roofed Jerry O’Mahony diner got completely encased within a Spanish style building. One of the stories was that the place had a fire years ago which precipitated the remodelling. Well this little piece from The North Countryman tells the complete and utter truth as to the “How, When and Why” this all happened.
Check this out…..

Perhaps you didn’t know;  that Henry Couture, son of Mr. and Mrs. Arthur Couture, Rouses Point is closing “Henry’s Diner” in Burlington for a few weeks and while he and his family take a short vacation, the place will be rebuilt into a Spanish grill. The Burlington Free Press says: “The only representation of Spanish architecture in Burlington if not in the State will be the new Henry’s Diner on Bank Street, it is said by the designer, H.D. Fielder.” The plans have been drawn and it is expected that work will begin on the building week after next. Not only is the structure to be radically altered, but also it will be enlarged to come flush with the sidewalk. Besides the counter, there will, be seven booths and the present seating capacity will be more than doubled. The exterior will be completely transformed into Spanish lines with a finish of stucco and a red tile roof.

Thanks Mike, great find!

Red Robin Diner of Johnson City, NY Celebrates 50 years at its location!

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The owners of the Red Robin Diner of Johnson City, NY are celebrating the diner’s 50 years at its Main Street location. I have visited the “Dirty Bird” as it was locally known (back in the 1980’s at least) a couple of times over the years. It is a 1950 vintage Mountain View diner with a unique layout. 

When you sit at the counter you are actually facing the front windows! Looking at my photo above, the area that has a couple of stainless steel panels where the windows should be is actually where the cooking area is located. So you not only can look out the windows but also see your meal being cooked at the same time. Only Paramount Diner’s “Road King” model had a similar layout.

Anyway here is an article from Pressconnects.com from August 12th that sums up the reason for the celebration…..

Diner to celebrate 50 years at JC location

By Eric Reinagel

JOHNSON CITY — In the 1960s, chef Louis Diamantakos remembers Endicott Johnson shoe workers, doctors, mailmen and construction workers eating at the Red Robin Diner in Johnson City.

 “Everyone used to stop there,” said Diamantakos.

Things might not be quite as bustling these days, but current owner Jon Bowie said, “We’re doing OK. We’re surviving.” From 5 to 7 p.m., today, Red Robin will celebrate 50 years at its Main Street location. Bowie said the event will include free cake for all customers. The nostalgic art deco diner actually got its start at 8 Conklin Ave., Binghamton, in 1950.

On July 1, 1959, the 35-ton diner was transported from Binghamton down the Vestal Parkway and across the bridge to Johnson City, a trip that took more than two hours. The diner was rolled onto the empty lot where the Farrell Kitchen Specialty Co. was located until it burned to the ground during a spectacular fire on the night of Jan. 24, 1957.

Over the years, the restaurant has had two owners and there was fear about what would happen to the Johnson City landmark when Chris and Pat Anagnostakos decided to retire after 37 years of running the business. Rumors had a medical office going into the space; then a bank.

Instead, Jon and Bonnie Bowie bought the building and renovated the facility. Jon said he always had a love for nostalgia. He even had a 1950 GMC truck refurbished and a paint job done on the truck’s door that says Red Robin Diner. Although Bowie’s restaurant lives in the past, he’s embracing a new Wal- Mart coming in 2010 off Lester Avenue. “Hopefully we can get some traffic on Main Street,” he said.

Just like the good old days.

Final installment on Diner Hotline’s “Top Diners of Massachusetts”

In the last 2 posts, I listed 20 of what I consider the Top Diners in Massachusetts. All of those mentioned were factory built models. To be fair (I.E. not being a diner snob), this post will feature some On-Site diners as well as factory built models.

Ernie’s Lunch, 458 Franklin Street, Melrose, Mass.

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Denise and I have been patronizing Ernie’s Lunch since we moved to Saugus almost 9 years ago. It is basically a small “hole-in-the-wall” type 0f storefront diner. The counter is one of those short luncheonette-type counters along the lines of what Woolworth’s and Grant’s Department stores had. The cooking is done right behind the counter which gives it the basic “Diner” ambiance. There are also a handful of tables and chairs for seating.

Owner Pam Gandolfo has been operating this for close to 20 years I believe but had actually worked here for the previous owners for quite a few years prior to buying the business. The prices are very reasonable (almost cheap really). Ernie’s Lunch is open Wednesday – Friday 5:30 am to 2:30 pm and Saturdays 5:30 am to 2:00 pm.

Tumble Inn Diner, 488 Lincoln Avenue,
Saugus, Mass.

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The Tumble Inn Diner of Saugus is also a storefront type diner but has a factory-built diner pedigree. From what I have been told, the business started out in a small Worcester Diner that was located in the next block. Sometime in the late 1950’s or early 1960’s the property the diner was on was redeveloped by a local bank and the business relocated to an existing store block. 

I always noticed this place and it’s unique name when I first drove by it in the early 1970’s. It wasn’t until I got into researching, frequenting, and documenting diners with my photos that I found out that it was a common name (at least in New England) for diners. In fact there were Tumble Inn Diners in Lynn, Revere, and Danvers, Mass. (all gone) as well as the one still existing in Claremont, NH.

For a number of years the place in Saugus was called the Tumble Inn Restaurant, that is  until the last year when current owner Bob Penta took it over and renamed it with a nod to it’s history. Bob and his staff serve up good food at typical prices and the Tumble Inn is open for breakfast and lunch, 7 days a week (5 am to 2 pm). Friday evenings for dinner (4 pm to 9 pm)

Groveland Diner, 1 Elm Park, Groveland, Mass.

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The Groveland Diner is a new place in a very old commercial block in downtown Groveland, hard by the banks of the Merrimac River at the intersection of Rte’s. 97 and 113. Mike and Ellen Conley operate the diner and even though it is in an existing storefront, Mike comes from a family with a real diner background having connections with the former Tumble Inn Diner in Danvers as well as the former Danvers Diner, both long gone.

The space the diner occupies had been used for a restaurant for many years when Mike and Ellen took over the spot back in the fall of 2008. They cleaned it up and reconfigured it with a small counter w/6 stools and at least 10 to 12 tables. There is also a vintage jukebox with their personal collection of 45 rpm records. Mike even found out that the owner of the building had an old menu-board type sign (with 1970’s prices) stored in the attic of the building. Mike cleaned it up and hung it on a wall opposite the entrance.

The food is wonderful and the atmosphere pleasant. They are open for breakfast and lunch Tuesday through Sunday  and also for dinner on Friday nights.

Breakfast Club Diner, 270 Western Avenue,
Allston, Mass.
1953 Vintage Worcester Diner

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One of the last 10 Worcester Diners built, I believe this is one of only 2 still in existence with the rounded corners more prevalent in it’s New Jersey inspired counterparts. The other Worcester with these corners, Wesson’s Diner of Burlington, VT has long been in storage.

Originally built as Fahey’s Diner, I first started patronizing this diner when it was Ted’s Diner. It has since had names such as Henry’s Diner and Mike’s Diner. It became the Breakfast Club within the last 10 years which was a good thing as previous owners had removed the left side counter and placed tables and chairs under the original cooking hood, a real no-no as far as I’m concerned.

The new owners brought back the counter and stools as well as a new grill and backbar behind that section of counter making it feel like Ted’s Diner again. In fact their pancakes are a pretty reasonable facsimile to Ted’s (which I always thought were my favorites).

Although some of the interior has been updated since this diner came out of the factory, there is still a lot of original late Worcester design shining through for the enthusiast to appreciate. The Breakfast Club Diner is decorated with posters and other pieces from the wildly popular movie by John Hughes (who passed away a couple of days ago). It is open for breakfast and lunch 7 days a week.

Betsy’s Diner, 457 Main Street, Falmouth, Mass.
1950’s vintage Mountain View Diner

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Formerly operated as the Peter Pan Diner of Kuhnsville, PA this diner was moved to Falmouth in the early 1990’s by Larry Holmes of Winthrop, Mass. Holmes set the diner up here in downtown Falmouth and made a success of the business before selling out. He has since moved another diner from Delaware to Somerville, Mass. and repeated the process (Kelly’s Diner, see last post).

Although it has been quite a while since I have visited this diner, it was doing a brisk business when last I saw. I believe it has breakfast, lunch and dinner hours given its location, especially in the summer months.

Deluxe Town Diner, 627 Mount Auburn Street,
Watertown, Mass.

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One of the more unique diners in the greater Boston area, the Deluxe Town Diner is partly an on-site diner with a factory built diner doing duty as the kitchen. The original diner was a Worcester “Monitor Roofed” diner circa 1930 vintage. In the mid-1940’s the Contos family wanted to enlarge the diner so they had a local contractor come in and wrap the existing diner with a new larger building.

The new front section looks to use details from Worcester Lunch Car Company and Paramount Diners in the design. Mixing 2-tone porcelain enameled panels with rounded corner glass block windows and a streamlined corner on the roof, the interior is quite large with 2 corner banquet style booths at either end of the front elevation. The original diner/now kitchen is fairly unrecognizable.

Operated by Don Levy, formerly of Boston’s Blue Diner (now the South Street Diner), the menu is somewhat upscale but huge in its offerings. Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner 7 days a week.

Wilson’s Diner, Main Street, Waltham, Mass.
1949 vintage Worcester Diner

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This post-war model from Worcester Lunch Car was the second diner to feature this style of barrel roof. The Miss Portland Diner was the first to sport this style where the ends also curve down. It is in mostly original condition with very few changes on the interior while the exterior is pretty much the way it was built.

The current owners have been running the diner for at least 20 years and they offer the usual menu for breakfast and lunch, 7 days a week.

South Street Diner
178 Kneeland Street, Boston, Mass.

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Formerly the Blue Diner, the South Street Diner is currently Boston’s only 24/7 diner! Even though the name says South Street it is actually on Kneeland Street (at the corner of South). Run by Sol Sidell for the past decade, it caters to an eclectic crowd, especially overnight!

On their website they claim this was built by the Worcester Lunch Car Company, but this is not accurate. The current building was built on-site and is of brick construction with a blue vitrolite and stainless steel exterior covering. It replaced an existing small Worcester Lunch Car that had previously been on this site.

Being that they are open all hours they have a fairly extensive menu. Parking could be a problem here, but they are accessible by public transportation.
For more info check out their website at http://southstreetdiner.com/

Charlies Sandwich Shoppe
429 Columbus Avenue
Boston, Mass.

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This place is a local institution and is definitely a throw back to an earlier time. Started in 1927, it has been run by members of the same family since. Although it may be tough to find a parking space, I have been early in the morning before parking enforcement is in effect.

Whenever I go, I seem to always get the “Cape Cod French Toast” which features warm cranberry compote! Charlies offers breakfast and lunch, Monday thru Friday 6:30 am to 2:30 pm, Saturdays 7:00 am to 1:00 pm

Shady Glen Restaurant, 7 Avenue A,
Turners Falls, Mass.

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I first heard of this place from Roadside Magazine’s Randy Garbin. He trumpeted the praises of the Shady Glen in a cover story he did a number of years ago, and he wasn’t just whistling dixie! For a place that was built on-site and started out as a drive-in restaurant, it has the complete menu and ambiance of its factory-built brethren.

I have had both breakfast and lunch here and been satisfied in all instances. It has become a stopfor me  along Rte. 2 heading towards the Mohawk Trail and New York state since Randy first told me about it. I have not been there since the long-time owner sold it and I hope things have not changed.