Follow-up on the Salem Diner

Well, we visited the Salem Diner on Saturday for our usual breakfast between 5:30 and 6:15 AM. It was doing a great business even at that early hour. I went back to the kitchen to speak with owner George Elefteriadis about the sale of the diner to Salem State University. He said that he thought the diner would be in good hands as far as remaining intact and preserved. He and his lovely wife Zoe are retiring after many years of serving great food to many loyal customers in quite a few different restaurants, the last five and a half years here at the Salem Diner. I have stated this before… it is my firm belief that the Elefteriadis’ brought this diner back to life when they bought it. They turned it around from the slide it had been on, business-wise for a good 6 years or more prior to their purchase of this historic Sterling Streamliner. George thanked me again for being an enthusiastic supporter of their efforts and I said that it was my pleasure as Denise and I really and truly enjoyed eating there under their ownership.

Salem Diner, Saturday around 6:00 AM, June 29, 2013 photo by Larry Cultrera

Salem Diner, Saturday around 6:00 AM, June 29, 2013 photo by Larry Cultrera

Salem Diner, Saturday around 6:00 AM, June 29, 2013 photo by Larry Cultrera

George also told me the diner was physically closing on July 3rd (today). I was a little surprised it was happening so fast and made plans to come back within a few hours to say goodbye to Zoe. So around 9:00 AM we were back for coffee and a last goodbye to Zoe, Janie and Jose. I had hoped to get a photo of the whole crew but they were swamped and there just was not an opportunity to get the shot. I did get their last copy of my book “Classic Diners of Massachusetts” (they had sold a number of them). I also got the cardboard display they had gotten from The History Press. This will come in handy when I attend the New England Authors Expo later this month in Danvers, Mass. I will be one of two authors  attending this event occupying the table for our publisher, The History Press.

Salem Diner around 9:00 AM, June 29, 2013 photo by Larry Cultrera

Salem Diner around 9:00 AM, June 29, 2013 photo by Larry Cultrera

I am a little sad that we will not be able to have a meal here, at least for the near future. I was a little concerned about the University’s possible plans for the diner and wrote an email addressed to both Patricia Meservey, the President of the University and Karen Cady, the Senior Director for University Relations. I introduced myself and told them of my interest and almost 33 years of documenting diners as well as about my book and this blog. I also wanted to express my concerns for the future of the diner. I mentioned how this was only one of two Sterling Streamliners left operating that are still in existence and how I would hate to see anything bad happen to it. I told them that I knew the article in the Salem News stated that the University is committed to preserving the diner and that it hopefully will reopen sometime in the future and that I would like to hear from them on this subject and possibly be kept informed on any developments in the diner’s future and continued existence. I got this following response from Ms Cady…….

Mr. Cultrera,

Many thanks for reaching out to us with this very interesting information. It is good to know of your interest in Classic Diners – and yes, the Salem Diner is certainly a favorite of so many of us on the North Shore. We have learned quite a bit of history of the Salem Diner via the Massachusetts Historical Commission and hope to learn even more through resources such as the one you have referenced.

I want to reaffirm that Salem State is committed to the protection of this unique property. The Diner is such an important piece of the historical fabric of Salem, and the university has made it a priority to preserve it for future generations to enjoy. I will keep you apprised of any future updates on the property – as indicated in the Salem News article, no concrete decisions have been made…except for the commitment of preservation.

Thank you again for contacting me.

Karen Cady

So, with that I want to wish both George and Zoe Elefteriadis well in their upcoming retirement and hope to keep in touch with them. I will post any further developments on the Salem Diner and its future here whenever I know anything!

4 thoughts on “Follow-up on the Salem Diner

  1. Seems like the college has a good understanding of the significance of their recent acquisition which will hopefully result in a fully functioning diner and not some kind of museum exhibit.

    • Salem State University
      Locals gathered for the diner reopening included (from left standing) Councilors Joseph O’Keefe, Elaine Milo, and Josh Turiel, and Salem Police Chief Paul Tucker. (Sitting, from left): Pamela Scott, Salem State University trustee; state Representative John Keenan, and state Senator Joan Lovely. Servers (at right) included school president Patricia Maguire Meservey and Mayor Kim Driscol (far right).
      By John Laidler / Globe Correspondent / January 25, 2014

  2. A growing university with nearly 10,000 students from 33 states and 69 countries has added a dining option for those who long for an all-day breakfast menu.

    Salem State University this month reopened the Salem Diner, a popular fixture since it first opened in 1941.

    “How many colleges and universities have a historic diner as part of their campuses?” said Karen Murray Cady, a university spokeswoman. “It’s fun, it’s useful, it’s protecting a community treasure. I think for many reasons, it was viewed as an opportunity not to be missed.”

    The university purchased the diner on Loring Avenue across the street from its central campus for $600,000 last summer. The 47-seat restaurant is being operated by Chartwells, the university’s dining service vendor, and students can eat there using their meal plans. Spruced up with a just-completed upgrade, the diner otherwise has the same look and feel it has always had.

    Salem State pledged to protect the diner, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1999. “The intent is to keep it very much the way it has been for years,” said Cady.

    An exception was a decision to add evening hours; previously it was open only for breakfast and lunch. It is now open 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. every night, in addition 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays and 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sundays.

    “The evening hours certainly will be attractive to students,” Cady said.

    John Hayes, resident district manager for Chartwells at Salem State, thinks the diner is a good addition to the nine other eating venues on campus.

    “It’s something that is completely different,” he said, noting that students particularly seem to appreciate the opportunity to have breakfast at any time.

    Hayes said the initial response has been positive. Over the three-day Martin Luther King Jr. Day weekend, “It was packed all day long,” he said, with a mixture of students and neighborhood residents.

    The brisk business comes despite the fact that the facility is not yet up to full operation.

    The renovations included reupholstering the seats, repainting, some new lighting, and a thorough cleaning of the premises. The oven, fryolator, and charbroiler in the back kitchen await delivery of parts needed to upgrade ventilation and fire suppression systems. Those upgrades will be made while retaining the building’s historic integrity. But there is a grill out front, and with salads and sandwiches there is still plenty left on the menu until the kitchen is in full use. That is expected in the next few weeks.

    University officials have called the purchase a logical step in expanding its campus into that area. Next to the diner site is the former Weir Valves & Controls property, which Salem State bought in 2010. One of the Weir buildings houses the information technology, facilities, and mail offices. Two others are set to be razed, providing space for interim parking while a new residence hall is built.

    Sterling Diner of Merrimac built the Salem Diner in 1941, and it is one of only 10 Sterling diners remaining in the state. Opened by George F. Sullivan and Frederick J. Doherty, the diner was sold in the mid-1940s to brothers James and William Kallas of Salem, according to Peter Tsoutsouras, whose late father, Theo Tsoutsouras, a first cousin of the Kallases, was the main cook in the early 1960s.

    James Kallas eventually bought out his brother’s share. When he retired in 1983, he gave half the business to his son, John, and sold the other half to Theo Tsoutsouras. In 1989, John Kallas sold his share of the business to Theo and Peter Tsoutsouras, who ran the diner until 2001, when they sold it.

    The Salem Diner went through three subsequent owners. The most recent, George and Zoe Elefteriadis, bought it in 2008.

    Ward 7 Councilor Joseph A. O’Keefe Sr. said residents welcome the return of the diner, which was a favorite haunt of Red Sox player, manager, and coach Johnny Pesky prior to his death in 2012.

    “Everyone’s very pleased they have a place to go,” he said. “I think students are pleased because they can hang out there. It’s just some place to go rather than the traditional [campus dining venues]. It’s just a nice atmosphere.”

    “It’s unique,” O’Keefe added. “What other college has a diner on campus?”

    John Laidler can be reached at

  3. I just ate breakfast there… they have reopened with Salem State University having their subcontractor Chartwell running the operations. The breakfast was ok,but hopefully they will get better as the staff gets accustomed to working together and in a diner. It is good to see the diner back in operation. I think it has only been open for a week or two. Best of luck to SSU and Chartwell.

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