Carroll’s Bar & Grille looking at Spring opening in Medford, Mass.

As most regular readers of Diner Hotline know, I usually feature posts about diners and other roadside establishments. This particular post will be slightly different as it is about a new restaurant that will be located in an existing commercial building in downtown Medford, Massachusetts (the city where I was born and raised).  This new restaurant, Carroll’s Bar & Grille has roots that go back to circa 1930 when Maurice W. Carroll bought a used “Brill” steel diner and moved it (from I believe the town of Reading, although it is not substantiated), and placed it adjacent to a building on Main Street in Medford that housed his primary business, the Medford Battery Company.

The following photos and scans will take you on a timeline showing the Carroll family’s history of commercial achievements in the city of Medford as I know it….

Below we see an image scanned from a book I have in my collection called “Medford, Past and Present, 275th Anniversary 1905” published by the local newspaper, “The Medford Mercury”. This image apparently shows the 1905 offices and plant of the newspaper located on Main Street, where Carroll’s Diner would eventually be located.

This next image shows the same building on the left along with its next door neighbor, the Medford House Inn. Beyond the Inn you can see the old Fire Department Headquarters on the other side of South Street where it intersects with Main St. The Medford House was owned by the Carroll family until it was torn down.

Below is an ad from a trade publication, possibly circa 1930 or so showing the same building, although enlarged and modified to be Medford Battery Co. which was also an Esso Gasoline station. Maury Carroll III told me it had previously operated as a Beacon Gas Station before rebranding to Esso. (Photo courtesy of the Carroll family)

Next is a touched up image showing the original Carroll’s Diner in front of the Medford Battery Co. I believe this is right before the delivery of the 1948 stainless steel Jerry O’Mahony diner that replaced the first diner.
(Photo courtesy of the Carroll family)

This image shows the interior of the first Carroll’s Diner circa 1939
(Photo courtesy of the Carroll family)

Below is a 1948 newspaper piece from the Medford Mercury on the delivery of the new Carroll’s Diner. At the time this was delivered, the original Medford Battery Co. building was altered to make space. The front of the building was cut back almost to the chimney shown in the earlier photos. This created the space to move the first diner back enough to attach the second diner in front, thus utilizing the first diner as expanded kitchen space for the new diner.

Here you can see the second diner in place in  front of the altered building. The first diner was small enough that one cannot see it from this angle, sandwiched between the newer diner and the building behind. At the right edge of the frame is the Esso Gas Station that superseded the old Medford Battery Co. (Photo courtesy of the Carroll family)

Interior view of the 1948 Carroll’s Diner.
(Photo courtesy of the Carroll family)

By 1948, when the stainless steel diner came along, the business was being operated by Maurice Carroll’s sons, Maurice, Jr. and John F. “Jack” Carroll. They had purchased the new diner from Joseph Swingle, a World War II veteran like themselves who had just started working as a salesman for the Jerry O’Mahony Dining Car Co., (Mr. O’Mahony happened to be Joe’s wife Kay’s uncle). In fact in 1987, Joe Swingle himself told me that Carroll’s Diner was the very first diner he sold after getting into the business.

Below…. an image of a matchbook cover for the 1948 vintage Carroll’s Diner,
at this time the diner’s address was listed as being at 89 Main Street.

This next image is a slightly later version of a Carroll’s Diner matchbook cover, probably from the mid-to-late 1950’s showing a new logo they started using for the diner.

The Carroll brothers continued to operate the diner, very successfully I might add and between 1948 and 1961 had started to acquire more of the property that surrounded the diner. Fronting on Main St. from Emerson St. to South St. (not counting the Esso Gas Station site) they had a fairly good-sized piece of property, including a portion of the land behind the diner and the gas station, By 1960 they were ready for a new larger diner.

But by this point in time, the Jerry O’Mahony Company had been out of the business for at least 5 years, but Joe Swingle was still in the business. He had left O’Mahony to become the sales manager at Fodero Diners in the early 1950’s and by 1957 was ready to start his own company called Swingle Diners. So Maury and Jack Carroll got in touch with Joe Swingle and contracted with him to build a big new diner for them.

In the late 50’s and early 60’s, the old railroad car style of diner was being phased out by the manufacturers and in its place, a new look was being offered that borrowed from early Americana…. the colonial style. These diners generally had large picture windows and a minimum amount of stainless steel, primarily for trim on the exterior. Ironically the first diner that the Swingle Diner Co. had built was a traditional stainless steel diner…. Twaddell’s of Paoli, PA in 1957. This was a large “L”-shaped 2 section diner with a corner entryway/vestibule.

Here is a photo of Twaddell’s Diner upon completion at the Swingle Diner factory in Middlesex, NJ. This was taken prior to it being moved to its operating location in Paoli, PA (Photo courtesy of the Carroll family)

The above photo was provided to the Carroll brothers along with quite a few other 8″ x 10″ publicity photos from Swingle to help them make a decision as to what style and size diner they might want to purchase. Well they ended up purchasing a large “L” shaped, 3 section diner similar to Twaddell’s, but of colonial design. Next we can see a blurb from an August, 1961 news clipping about the arrival of the new diner……

Here we see the 3 sections of diner heading east on State Route 60, High Street in West Medford in front of the Brooks School, out of the shot to the left. (Photo courtesy of the Carroll family)

Next we see the diner approaching its operating location on Main St. The old stainless steel diner can be seen on the left and the Medford Fire Dept. Headquarters can be seen behind the diner. At this point, the Mystic Valley Parkway (Route 16) was at a grade crossing intersection just beyond the Fire Station with Medford Square in the background. I was told that the man in a black suit with his back to the camera was indeed Jack Carroll. The Medford Police Patrolman is Jack Kirwan, a close friend of the Carroll’s. (Thanks Mike!)  (Photo courtesy of the Carroll family)

Below is another great shot showing the 3 sections of the diner on 3 different trucks coming down Main St. (Photo courtesy of the Carroll family)

I personally remember driving by the site with my family and seeing the pieces of the new diner waiting to be placed on the foundation. I was around 8 years of age and this was totally interesting to me.

Here we can see the new diner open for business, it looks to be the winter of 1961-62 with the snow on the ground. This diner was undoubtedly the newest, most modern diner in Massachusetts at this time. The old diner is still on site at this point over to the right just out of the frame. (Photo courtesy of the Carroll family)

Here is a slightly closer view of the brand-new Carroll’s Colonial Dining Car
(Photo courtesy of the Carroll family)

A great close-up of the sign featuring the diner’s logo. Note the interesting timeline here, when the diner was delivered, there was no overpass for the Mystic Valley Parkway to cross over Main St. By the time the diner was operating a few months later, the new overpass was in place! You can also see the old 1948 diner in this shot. (Photo courtesy of the Carroll family)

Here is a new matchbook cover advertizing Carroll’s Colonial Dining Car,
and mentioning the function rooms they now offered.

Next we see one of the Swingle Diners manufacturer’s tag from Carroll’s.
I obtained  both of them in 1987, after the diner had been closed …….

Here is a postcard from my collection for the exterior view of Carroll’s Colonial Dining Car, not too long after opening.

carroll-pc1

Postcard from my collection showing the interior view of Carroll’s
Colonial Dining Car.

carroll-pc2

I recall going to Carroll’s Diner with my family for breakfast on Easter Morning after church. I believe we did this for at least 2 years in a row when this Swingle diner was brand  new. It might actually have been some of the few times my whole family ever ate breakfast out together in a diner!

The photo below was taken on the night of the Great Northeast Blackout
of  November 9, 1965. According to Maury Carroll III, the diner had some power, possibly enough to use the cooking equipment and the staff utilized candles so patrons could eat their meals. (Photo courtesy of the Carroll family)

The image we see next is an architectural rendering circa 1970 of the proposed Sheraton Hotel the Carroll family hoped to build. They had acquired even more property which would have given them plenty of room to build what was going to be a 6-story, 150 room full service hotel, something Medford did not have at that time. The diner is visible here sandwiched between the hotel and the dining room addition. Unfortunately, these plans were never realized. (Image scanned from the 1997 Medford Police Relief Association Sponsor Booklet, courtesy of the Carroll family)

During the early to mid 1970’s, Carroll’s Diner was the place I hung out with all my friends. It was open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and was always busy. I can recall the lines out the door waiting to get in at 3:00 am after going to night clubs, etc. It was the place to be and be seen for sure. Also by the 1970’s, the next generation of Carroll’s had started working at the diner. There were brothers, Maury (III), Tom, David and Paul as well as their cousin John F. (Jr.) who all held various positions over the years.

This next photo is a time exposure I shot in February of 1982 showing the diner at night. You can see in this shot the large dining room/function room addition that was grafted to the right side of the diner by the early 1970’s. This addition also housed upstairs offices for the complex. It was known as Carroll’s Restaurant by this time.
(note:  I digitally removed street lights from this photo)

Below is another photo from August of 1983 showing the restaurant around 9:00 am one weekday morning. Carroll’s was by now operating with shorter hours and no longer open for breakfast. (photo by Larry Cultrera)

One of the last matchbook covers they offered at Carroll’s, note the address has changed to 101 Main Street (from 89 Main St.)
(Image courtesy of Diane Carroll DeBenedictis)

By March of 1986, the restaurant was still operating when freelance writer Donald Dale Jackson contacted me,  Diner Historian Richard Gutman, as well as others in advance of penning a feature article on “American Diners” for a prestigious magazine.  I am honored to say that I was one of 2 guys from Medford that were featured in the article, the other guy was none other than John F. Carroll, Jr. In fact, I actually met Don Jackson at Carroll’s Restaurant where we started the interview! The article was called “The American diner is in decline, yet more chic than ever” and appeared in the November, 1986 edition of Smithsonian Magazine. Ironically, unbeknownst to me and a lot of other people, Carroll’s Restaurant was about to close for good. This happened in late December of 1986, the month after the Smithsonian article came out!

It was mentioned in the Medford Mercury early in the month of December that a local developer had bought the property for a great amount of money in order to build a large office building on the site and that the restaurant would close by the end of the month. I managed to take a long lunch on December 17th from my job about 15 miles away in Bedford by inviting my friend Duane Marshall (the engineering supervisor at my place of employment) who had never been to Carroll’s. We managed to get there around 12:30 pm as I recall and got to sit in the last booth in the right front of the diner next to the dining room. As we left, I approached Maury Carroll Jr. and told him I was going to miss the place and wished him good luck! I also asked for one of the menus as a souvenir and he graciously handed me one .

I got home later in the afternoon from work and found out that the restaurant had closed right after lunch. I did not realize it but that particular day was planned to be the last day of regular operation for the place and I had made it to the last official sitting.

March, 1987 – that is me sitting on the brick wall at the base of the sign.
In the background you can see signs in the windows announcing the public auction for equipment  and a large sign that said “Restaurant Closed” and thanking customers for their patronage! (Photo by Steve Repucci)

The whole structure was torn down in June of 1987 as shown in the next photo…….

One day during the demolition (which spanned a few days), I walked into the rear parking lot to see what was out there and was surprised to see the old neon sign that had been mounted to the roof of the 1948 O’Mahony diner! The guys from the demo crew told me it had been lying on the roof! I am not sure but it looks like it was tossed off the roof to the parking lot……

Shortly thereafter, construction began for the 101 Main Street professional building with an underground garage as well as some above ground parking on the South St. side of the building.

This large professional building is what replaced Carroll’s Diner at 101 Main Street. (Feb. 19, 2012 photo by Larry Cultrera)

A few years before Carroll’s Restaurant had closed, John Carroll, Jr. had started a consulting business with his dad and cousin Maury Carroll III called Cornell Concepts and managed places like the Memory Lane Restaurants that were in Somerville and Malden, Mass. as well as Newington, and Manchester, NH. There was also a place in Charlestown called “The Front Page”. These were all casual dining and cocktail places, that had eventually closed by the early 1990’s.

Around 1992 or 93, I got a phone call from John Carroll, Jr. Although we were both featured in the above mentioned Smithsonian article from 1986, we had never met or even been in touch. He asked to get together to talk, so we met up at the Main Street Diner in North Woburn one weekday for lunch. We had a great conversation and became instant friends. We remained friends and would talk or get together periodically right up until he passed away due to complications from cancer in 1996.

Also in the  years since Carroll’s closed in 1986, Maury Carroll, Jr’s sons Maury Carroll III and  Tom Carroll have stayed in the hospitality business working at or operating quite a few establishments in the Boston area. In fact Tom was the function manager at Montvale Plaza, a function facility in nearby Stoneham, Mass. and helped arrange the wedding reception for my wife Denise and I in 1991.

More recently, Maury and Tom have continued with a side business called Carroll’s Distinctive Catering and attempting to open another restaurant in Medford. In fact in 2008 they had  started a project to convert a former bank into a new restaurant called 55 High which I wrote about here, see…..

https://dinerhotline.wordpress.com/2008/10/16/diner-hotline-and-yours-truly-mentioned-in-newspaper-article-about-a-new-restaurant-to-be-opened-in-medford-massachusetts-by-maury-tom-carroll/

They had moved forward on that project to a certain point but due to circumstances and the economy, it never came to fruition. More recently they had an option to lease space in another building on High Street that is undergoing an extended renovation. That building renovation seemed to have been stalled temporarily when the former Il Faro Italian Restaurant around the corner at 21 Main Street closed its doors last year. They immediately saw their chance and secured a lease to take over not only the former Il Faro space, but also the Nail Salon that had closed next door. With the expanded space they now were set up to bring the Carroll’s name back to a restaurant in Medford, within 2 blocks of the site where the diner was located!

On February 15th (last week) I noticed Sean M. Walsh posted a photo on the “You Know You’re From Medford When……” Facebook page of the new Carroll’s Bar & Grill. They had just installed the signage and awnings that morning. I was excited to see this and made plans to get there later in the day to take my own shots! The photo immediately below is my first one showing the new signage. I was especially pleased to see the old logo from the diner being used for the new restaurant! This is the first time in 26 years that the Carroll’s logo has appeared on a restaurant in Medford.

The next shot is a close up of the entrance to Carroll’s Bar & Grill…..

Next we see Maury Carroll (on the left) with 2 friends standing in front of the restaurant. This is the very first photo showing the lights shining on the sign and awning!

Carroll’s Bar & Grill is slated to open either in late March or early April, so when it does, I will do a follow up post here reporting on the restaurant and the menu they will be offering. I wish Maury & Tom as well as the rest of the Carroll family good luck with this new venture!

I want to thank Maury Carroll for his continued friendship and help in proofreading this post for factual purposes as well as providing me with photos over the years. I also want to thank both the late Jack Carroll and John F. Carroll, Jr. for their friendship over the last years of their lives as well as providing me with other photos and memorabilia for my collection.

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Notes from the Hotline, 2-11-2012

Goodbye to Miss Albany


The Miss Albany Diner, April 2011 photo by Larry Cultrera

On November 14th, 2009 I posted about the Miss Albany Diner of Albany, NY was for sale and it was  just a little over 15 months ago when I wrote about the passing of old friend Cliff Brown, the owner of the Miss Albany Diner, (see this post…… https://dinerhotline.wordpress.com/2010/11/02/in-memoriam-cliff-brown-owner-of-miss-albany-diner/) .

Last week (Feb. 3rd) on the Miss Albany’s Facebook page it was announced that Cliff’s wife Jane and son Bill had finalized the sale of the diner to the owners Wolff ‘s Biergarten (the business next door to the diner).

Here is what was written on their Facebook page…..
On Wednesday, February 1st, 2012, the Miss Albany Diner was sold to the owners of Wolff ‘s Biergarten. The final day of business as the Miss Albany Diner will be Friday, February 10. The Brown family would like to thank all the employees over the years who have helped make the Miss Albany Diner a success, especially Kim, Gina, Mark and Stephen. They are an integral part of …the Miss Albany whose dedication and hard work made the effort of running the diner so much easier. We are very grateful that they have chosen to stay with us for so long. May they all find great success in whatever they choose to do.
Over the past 23 years we have greatly enjoyed the opportunity of meeting so many people from all walks of life and all around the world. Making so many new friends and acquaintances has been the best part of owning the Miss Albany Diner.

On Thursday, the New York Times did a front page article on this iconic diner’s closing…….

Throwback in Albany Will Serve Last Meal

By John Eligon
ALBANY — The Mad Irish Toast sold out in three hours. Akum Norder was fortunate enough to get the last plate of it on Wednesday: French toast made with Texas-style bread, pecan cream filling and Irish whiskey sauce. After she had finished, she scraped the residue off the dish with her finger and licked it, mourning her farewell to the Miss Albany Diner.

The Miss Albany, a streamlined metal diner fabricated to look like a railroad car, has been a fixture of north Albany since Herbert H. Lehman was governor, but it is closing on Friday.

“It’s an incredible loss,” Ms. Norder, 39, said while staring at the remains of her meal. “There’s nothing like this.”

For the last several days, since the owner unexpectedly announced last week that it was closing, the line for a seat spilled onto the sidewalk, in front of its custard-and-raspberry-colored exterior. The patrons wore suits, jeans, hoodies and work boots. They crammed into the cherry wood booths, careful not to burn their legs on the radiator below, or onto chrome counter stools, admiring the arched ceiling, the porcelain-coated steel walls, the hand-laid floor and wall tiles, and the punchy signs (“The benches are to sit on. The floor is for feet.”).

“Where else can you go back in time like this?” Frank Woods asked, as he waited for a table.

In general, restaurants in downtown Albany cater to lobbyists with big checkbooks or state workers on their lunch breaks, but the Miss Albany Diner is a throwback, a place known as much for its quirks — the waiters used to serve Sunday brunch in tuxedos — as for its creative menu and homey feel. And the restaurant is on the National Register of Historic Places, cited as “a distinctive example of mid-20th-century American roadside architecture.”

“It’s been an anchor in that area for many, many, many years,” said Mayor Gerald D. Jennings of Albany, who has frequented the diner since he was a child.

Miss Albany’s owner, Jane Brown, 77, relishes stories about the early days of the diner, when the first owner, Lil McCauliff, was said to have dragged misbehaving customers out by the collars. But Ms. Brown herself is a character. She has done voice-overs for commercials, acted in independent movies and said she once stopped a fight between patrons with a stern stare and two words: “Sit down.”

Ms. Brown said she and her husband, Clifford, had been trying to sell the diner for several years because they were getting old and wanted to retire. Then, two years ago, Mr. Brown died.

Ms. Brown finally found a buyer in Matthew Baumgartner, a prominent local restaurateur who owns a neighboring beer garden. Mr. Baumgartner said he and his business partners would retain the structure but would probably open a restaurant inside. The diner’s days, it appears, are over.

The lot Miss Albany occupies, about a mile and a half from the Capitol, was the site of a lunch cart that opened in 1929, serving workers in what was a commercial and industrial area. The railroad-car-style diner was erected in 1941 and named Lil’s Diner, after Ms. McCauliff. In the mid-1980s, it was restored for use in “Ironweed,” a film starring Jack Nicholson and Meryl Streep that was based on the novel by William Kennedy; the filmmakers called it the Miss Albany Diner, taking the name from a onetime chain of local diners.

The Browns bought the diner in 1988; Mr. Brown was responsible for much of the food and décor.

A pegboard on one wall lists how far away various cities are, from Troy (8 minutes) to Tokyo (15 hours), because Mr. Brown saw Albany as a central meeting point. And then there are the three rectangular pieces of Styrofoam, each with a slightly different hue, hanging from the ceiling; Mr. Brown wanted patrons to point to one of the three to indicate the degree of doneness they wanted for their French fries.

The Mad Eggs are a version of eggs Benedict, topped with a curry sauce instead of hollandaise, because Mr. Brown had high cholesterol. And Cliff’s Ugly Eggs were born on the day Mr. Brown asked the cook to whip him up eggs with anchovies and mushrooms; when the dish arrived, the man next to him said it looked ugly.

The diner’s relatively remote location inspired the Browns’ son, Bill, a chef, when he created the menu.

“I kind of figured since nobody really knew about the diner at the time, they weren’t coming down here for bacon and eggs,” he said. “So I thought this gave us license to do anything we could think up.”

Bill Brown recalled seeing Stan Lundine, lieutenant governor during the administration of Gov. Mario M. Cuomo, sitting on a stool surrounded by an art student, a janitor, the president of a local company and a truck driver.

“They all sat there trading jokes,” he said. “It didn’t matter who anybody was, as long as you had a good joke to tell. That’s really the spirit of the diner, to sit and share, take a break from life.”
To all of our customers over the years we would like to say that it was a pleasure meeting you and Thank You for your support.
Finally, we wish the new owners every success. May the diner bring them as much joy and laughter as it did our family.

From what I have read, the Brown family will retain the “Miss Albany” name and their trademark recipes. It is rumored that they might have a Miss Albany cookbook planned for the future that will include all their signature dishes. It has also been mentioned that the building will not reopen as a diner but as a possible late night eatery that will serve the many nightspot type businesses in the area. Hopefully the building itself will not be altered as it is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

The Brown’s were always congenial and gracious hosts making regular customers (and occasional customers like me, for instance) always feel welcome. I want to wish a happy retirement to Jane Brown and best wishes to Bill Brown on whatever endeavors he embarks on in the future.

More news on Somerville’s Rosebud Diner


postcard view of Rosebud Diner, photo by Larry Cultrera

The other day Randy Garbin of Roadsideonline posted a link to Livejournal.com blurb on who is negotiating to buy the Rosebud Diner.
http://davis-square.livejournal.com/2834458.html

In the blurb by Ron Newman it stated…..

Tasty Burger to replace Rosebud?

Brandon Wilson from the Somerville Historic Preservation Commission told me that Tasty Burger is negotiating to buy both the Rosebud Diner and the Bar and Grille behind it. They plan to combine the two into a single restaurant.The Historic Preservation folks are involved because Somerville has designated the diner as a single-building historic district. This means the city has to approve alterations to the façade — such as painting out the name Rosebud on the diner, or removing the neon Rosebud sign on top.

If the deal goes through, the city will have to somehow balance its interest in historic preservation against the new business’s right to put its own name on the building.

 
 According to an article written by Leah Mennies posted on 12/7/2011 at bostonmagazine.com…… David DuBois, owner of Tasty Burger, Citizen Public House and The Franklin restaurants, was planning on expanding his Tasty Burger concept to at least two new locations and Davis Square was one of the locations.
 
The Rosebud Diner is not only a single building historic district in the City of Somerville, it is also listed in the National Register of Historic Places as part of the Multiple Property Submission (MPS) by the Massachusetts Historical Commission. Maybe there will be enough opposition from the historical interests to change Mr. DuBois’s mind in pursuing this.
 
I spoke with Bill Nichols whose family owns the diner and he informed me that he feels that the sale of the diner might not go through. I hope this is the case!

Diners and such, Fall River, Mass. in the 1980’s

I have probably written this before (in the book for sure), that back in the 1980’s, the old mill towns in Massachusetts still had high concentrations of diners left over from earlier decades. The cities of Lowell, Attleboro and Lynn come to mind. As the last 30 years have gone by, the amount of diners in these towns have also dwindled. In this post I am going to talk about the South Coast city of Fall River.

To start off this little tour, I am going to take you for a ride down the main thoroughfare known as Pleasant Street. Back in the 1980’s, Fall River still had 5 diners, 3 of them were located on Pleasant Street.

Paramount Diner/Catering

The first diner, heading from west to east on this street was the Paramount Diner/Paramount Catering located approximately at 171 Pleasant St. This was a  barrel-roofed Worcester Lunch Car dating from sometime in the 1930’s. I was checking through some Worcester Lunch Car Company info and could not find a Worcester Diner of this style and size that was delivered brand-new from the factory to Fall River. I suspect it was brought here from elsewhere (possibly the former Romeo’s Diner of nearby New Bedford). As I understand it, this operated at this location as the State Diner circa 1940 and was renamed the Paramount Diner later.


Paramount Diner/Catering at 171 Pleasant St. in Fall River, Mass. This is from my first visit to document diners in Fall River. I do not know the exact date as it was taken just before I started the diner log in July of 1981. It looks like the owners were covering the exterior with T-111 wooden panelling. The diner was just being used for a catering operation at this time.


In this second shot from the same visit in July of 1981, you can see the diner was attached to a larger building in the rear which itself was attached to what looks to be an old gas station-type building.


Here we see the diner in April of 1984 looking to be in similar condition.
No more T-111 has been installed (or finished for that matter). The only big difference is the windows on the side of the addition which were covered in the earlier shots are now uncovered, at least on the outside.

In doing some research for this post I came across an obituary from the Fall River Herald News dated April 26, 2008 for Peter Ciosek. Mister Ciosek passed away on April 25, 2008 at the age of 93. The obituary mentioned that he was the owner of the Paramount Diner/Catering for 35 years. The diner itself was gone by the late 1980’s, reportedly destroyed in a fire. There is currently an “L” shaped modern professional building on this site.

Sambo’s Diner

The next diner heading east on Pleasant St. was Sambo’s Diner. Located at 657 Pleasant St. it was a pretty rare configuration built by Paramount Diners of Haledon, NJ. Ironically, I received a scan of an ad from Jeff Kunkle of Vintage Roadside a few years ago. The ad was featured in a rare edition of the trade publication “Diner & Drive-In” magazine dating from May of 1956. The ad depicted this very diner and stated the owner was Sam Schwartz (hence the name Sambo’s).


Advertisement from May, 1956 issue of Diner & Drive-In magazine


This photo and the following three photos were shot in August of 1983 showing this diner in great detail. I can only conjecture that the flat roof of the diner had problems over the years and the owner added this slanted roof over the structure.


As one can see, this was a fairly small diner for the time period.


It was very stylish with large plate glass windows.


Looking inside you can see this interior is a throwback to lunchwagon days.

Unfortunately, this diner was gone by the early 1990’s and was replaced by a Mister Donut (now Dunkin Donut) shop.

Mark You Restaurant

In all those early diner hunting trips driving down Pleasant St., I passed by a completely remarkable looking storefront Chinese restaurant called the Mark You Restaurant (1236 Pleasant St.) and kept saying…. I have got to stop and photograph this place. I finally did shoot some photos of it in November of 1984, and I am so glad I did!  This place was so cool with a facade of black and biege Vitrolite, glass block windows and a tall verticle sign.


The lettering on the facade is probably 1940-1950 vintage and is accented by some stainless-steel trim. It might be hard to read, but the sign on the canopy/base of the verticle sign says “Chow Mein”.


That fantastic verticle sign really makes this place visible driving in either direction on Pleasant St.


A close-up of the sign


Another fantastic detail… a stainless-steel frame within the glass block window with a porthole that features a neon clock!

I checked online to see if this restaurant was still around as the last time I drove this stretch of Pleasant St. in May of 2011, I did not see the place. It seems the restaurant closed in 2007 and remained closed for approximately 3 years before being reopened. Unfortunately, it looks like the black and beige facade has been painted over in blue and white. Also during the 3 years it was closed, the verticle sign was removed, explaining why I did not notice the restaurant last year. I informed Dick Gutman about my plans in writing this post last weekend and mentioned the Mark You and he immediately told me that old friend Dave Waller rescued the sign. Well at least I know it did not go to a junk yard!

Nite Owl Diner

The Nite Owl Diner located at 1680 Pleasant Street is the final stop on this street before we move on. This circa 1956 diner was built by DeRaffele Diners.  I am not sure but I am thinking that this diner was also owned by Fall River “diner king” Al McDermott as this new little stainless-steel job replaced a truck-mounted Worcester Lunch Car (No. 786) that dated from 1945 that he owned.


The original Nite Owl Diner in Fall River. This was Worcester Lunch Car No. 786, the photo was taken right before it was replaced by the current diner.
Photo courtesy of John Baeder


This is possibly my favorite photo that I ever took of the Nite Owl Diner.
It dates to November of 1984 by the look of things, it seems the city was replacing the sidewalks around the diner.


This diner was “finished” on all sides with stainless-steel and red enamel stripes. Like its neighbor down the street, Sambo’s, this was set-up more like a lunch wagon on the interior instead of the more familiar layout.


As you can see the neon sign that had been installed on the roof of the older diner ended up on this one where it still sits today.


I went crazy photographing the diner that day in 1984 as the light was pretty much perfect!


Here is a 1991 “oil on canvas” painting by John Baeder of the Nite Owl.
(used with permission) image courtesy of John Baeder.

As far as I know, the Nite Owl Diner has stood closed now for a number of years but is still very much intact.

Al Mac’s Diner Restaurant

Now that we have left Pleasant St. we will travel back to the other end of town to Al Mac’s Diner located at 135 President Avenue. This is a 1953 vinatge DeRaffele Diner and one of the last bought by Al McDermott. When I first photographed this diner in July of 1981, it was actually facing President Avenue. Unless the light of day was a flat cloudy light, the diner which was facing north was very hard to photograph.


This particular day was sunny, but I managed to squeek out a couple of decent shots.

Before the end of the 1980’s, the diner was rearranged on the property. Basically the building was turned 90 degrees, counter clockwise and a new kitchen was built on the back. This way the large piece of property could be redeveloped into the strip mall that currently exists here.


Here is the diner turned and re-installed at the same location. Because of this new configuration, the diner has become more photogenic as it faces west now. By the way, that sign in this second photograph was brand-new and replaced the one in the older photograph which had rotted and ultimately fallen down.


Here is another “oil on canvas” painting by John Baeder from 1991. This image proves just how photogenic this diner became when it was turned around.

You can see more of John’s paintings here at his website….
http://www.johnbaeder.com/Gallery1.htm

Al Mac’s is a great place to have a meal when you are in the area and currently one of only 2 diners mentioned here that are still operating.

Andy’s Rockland Diner

This diner located at 1019 South Main Street in Fall River was known as just the “Rockland Diner” when I first came across it on March 13, 1982. This diner was built by J.B. Judkins of Merrimac, Mass., the manufacturers of Sterling Diners. This is in fact a Sterling Dinette, a fairly small diner model. This was one of at least two that I knew to exist in Massachusetts. The other was the Old Colony Diner in Mansfield (now The Catman Cafe). In fact both of these dinette models were enlarged by removing the left side wall and placing it on the front elevation.


The Rockland Diner in Fall River, The wall with 3 windows at the extreme
left of the front wall were originally the side wall of the diner.


The diner was enlarged even more with the brick addition on the right.

As I understand it, the diner is now completely encased in brick and fairly unrecogizable as a diner now. After Al Mac’s, the Rockland Diner is the only other diner that is still operating in Fall River.