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.

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

    • Len, quite a few photos have surfaced of the Tumble Inn Diners from Lynn, Revere and Danvers. Most of them thanks to Gary Thomas who wrote the book, Diners of the North Shore. None exist (to my knowledge) of the original Tumble Inn Diner of Saugus.

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