The former Fish Tale Diner of Salisbury, Mass. suffers fire damage

The restaurant currently known as The Deck, located at the Bridge Marina on Rings Island, hard by the bank of the Merrimack River in Salisbury, Massachusetts suffered a fire on August 22, 2015. Within sight of U.S. Rte. 1 where it crosses the river between Newburyport and Salisbury, the restaurant, formerly known as the Fish Tale Diner (until 2012) experienced heat, water and smoke damage from the fire that appears to have started outside the attached kitchen annex. At the time of this writing the fire was still of an undetermined origin.

Here is the text from an article written by Alexandra Koktsidis for the Boston Globe on August 22, 2016…

Salisbury restaurant damaged in fire
No injuries in early two-alarm blaze
By Alexandra Koktsidis


Conrad Audette, who co-owns The Deck with his father, woke up abruptly at 7 a.m. Saturday when his fiancée ex­claimed that the restaurant was on fire. “I leapt out of bed and ran outside to see smoke down the street,” Audette, who lives near the family’s restaurant in Salisbury, said in an e-mail Saturday. An employee who had spot­ted the fire from the Newburyport Turnpike bridge went im­mediately to Audette’s home to tell him.

A two-alarm fire severely damaged the kitchen of The Deck, a popular and recently renovated seasonal waterfront restaurant in Salisbury, offi­cials said. Located at 179 Bridge Road, The Deck features out­door seating and picturesque views overlooking the Merri­mack River. Reports of the fire were called in at 7:11 a.m., said Deputy Fire Chief Robert Cook, who said no injuries were reported. The fire had been extin­guished by 9 a.m., but fire- • fighters and investigators re­mained on scene into the af­ternoon, he said. “The restaurant opens at 11 a.m., so this was before em­ployees arrive,” Audette said.

“The inspectors still don’t know the cause, but it appar­ently began outside.”Audette said the kitchen and inside seating area of the restaurant were badly dam­aged, but the two decks were intact. The restaurant had made renovations over the past winter, adding a prep room and second deck to dou­ble its capacity. It reopened May 15. “We are a scratch kitchen with a simple menu, but take great care in supporting local ingredients,” Audette said. The Deck offers fresh seafood, pub food, and salads. “We grind our own burgers, bake our own buns, make our dressings and sauces,” Audette said.

Audette said that he doesn’t know how long The Deck, which would have shut for the season in October, will stay closed. “We plan on starting our rebuild as soon as we can,” he said. Susan Turner of Topsfield has dined at The Deck several times with her husband and friends, and she said she en­joys the restaurant’s burgers, swordfish — and Rum Bucket drinks, served in a sand pail with Swedish Fish. “I leapt out of bed and ran outside to see smoke down the street”. Turner heard about the fire on Facebook. “I just thought, ‘Oh, that’s sad!’ It’s a place we love to go, and we feel so badly for the owners,” she said over the phone Saturday.

The Deck opened in July 2013. A restaurant called The Fish Tail had been there. “We saved everything we could for historical respect,” Audette said, including stained-glass windows and hand-crafted cabinets. “Much of the damage was to the origi­nal structure unfortunately,” Audette said. On Saturday, the restau­rant’s Facebook page posted a message about the fire and re­ceived overwhelming support. “Thankfully nobody was in­jured during the fire this morning,” the message said. “We’re grateful and apprecia­tive of all the support.” Christi Maglio, 39, of New­buryport said she had just started going to The Deck this summer with her husband. “It’s just a very down-to-earth place to go,” she said. The nights with live music brought a sense of community, she said, and the view: “It’s beautiful.” “It’s devastating, but I know they’ll reopen as soon as possible;’ she said. Alexandra Koktsidis can be reached at alexandra.koktsidis
Follow her on
Twitter @akoktsidis.

Worcester Lunch Car No. 762 as the Fish Tale Diner.
March 2012 photo by Larry Cultrera

The former diner, Worcester Lunch Car No. 762 was built in 1940 and delivered to its first operating location in Ipswich, Massachusetts where it traded as the Agawam Diner from 1940 to 1947 when it was replaced by a larger streamlined diner also built by Worcester. After the diner left Ipswich it was briefly located in Brunswick, Maine (1947-1950, although I am not sure it actually operated there) before moving back to Rowley, Mass. to become one of two locations of the Agawam Diner operated by the Galanis family. It stayed in Rowley until it was again replaced by a newer diner in 1970. It was then sold and moved to Salisbury, eventually becoming the Fish Tale Diner.

When I first started going to the Fish Tale in the early 1980s, it was open very long hours and I seem to recall going there once in the middle of the night! I always enjoyed the location, possibly one of the most scenic spots I know for a diner. When the last proprietors were running it, I recall going there one summer morning and they had the doors open. They were in the habit of feeding a small group of local ducks who lived by the marina. Apparently this particular morning they were in a hurry to open the diner and neglected to feed the ducks in a timely manner. One actually came walking into the diner looking for his oyster crackers!!! I am happy to say that I actually managed to eat at the Fish Tale on the last day they were open and wrote about the diner closing in Diner Hotline –

After the Fish Tale closed, Mark and Conrad Audette – the owners of the marina where the diner was located demolished the old attached kitchen and replaced it with a new building that included a new kitchen as well as rest room facilities. They also did some renovations on the interior keeping the counter, stools and hood intact. They removed the original booths and tables and changed the backbar area. Keeping the attached deck for outdoor seating. the restaurant was renamed “The Deck and opened in July of 2013 and was by all accounts a huge success.

To get back to the fire, it was reported very quickly by news media outlets and was on the internet fairly early. I know I probably shared something on Facebook about it and emailed Bob Higgins my intrepid friend who was more of a regular customer of the diner than I was (he’s retired and gets around more than I do). Bob did manage to get up there before I did and talked with the owner who is hoping to salvage the diner portion of the structure and eventually reopen. I made a quick trip on Labor Day to get some photos (of the exterior only), the following photos show the structure  with the fire damage.

The Deck Restaurant, Bridge Marina, Salisbury, Massachusetts showing
fire damage. September 7, 2015 photo by Larry Cultrera

The Deck Restaurant, Bridge Marina, Salisbury, Massachusetts showing
fire damage. September 7, 2015 photo by Larry Cultrera

The Deck Restaurant, Bridge Marina, Salisbury, Massachusetts showing
fire damage. September 7, 2015 photo by Larry Cultrera

The Deck Restaurant, Bridge Marina, Salisbury, Massachusetts showing
fire damage. September 7, 2015 photo by Larry Cultrera

The next few interior shots were courtesy of Bill Power who got up to the diner before I did and like Bob Higgins, got to go inside to inspect the damage…

interior photo showing fire damage, Sept. 2015 photo by Bill Power

interior photo showing fire damage, Sept. 2015 photo by Bill Power

interior photo showing fire damage, Sept. 2015 photo by Bill Power

interior photo showing fire damage, Sept. 2015 photo by Bill Power

I spoke briefly with Mark Audette when I was there on September 7th and he reiterated that they want to reopen the restaurant but it all depends on what the outcome is with the insurance investigation. Hopefully what is left of the diner is salvageable!

Central Diner closes, future in doubt

Central Diner, Millbury, Mass. Photo by Larry Cultrera

Line-art I created for the Central Diner coffee mug for Richard & Brigid Gore back in the 1990s based on the above photo.

The Central Diner of Millbury, Mass. closed at the end of December, leaving the future of this 1930 vintage Worcester Lunch Car in doubt. Operated by Chris and Amanda White for at least 10 years. Though capable, the White’s were not the friendliest operators I have come across. It was like night and day between them and the previous owners, Richard an Brigid Gore who were very friendly and personable. The diner itself is sitting on land leased from the Millbury National Bank. I recently saw an ad on Craigslist for the diner offering it for sale.

Central Diner, Millbury, Mass. Photo by Larry Cultrera

Denise and I drove out for one last breakfast on Saturday, December 28th where we met up with Bob Higgins. There were only 4 customers that early in the morning besides Chris and Amanda. Most of the conversation was between Bob and myself. Very somber mood, in fact the place looked almost closed from the outside. Certainly the future does not look too bright at the moment for this diner. I hope things will turn out good and the diner can survive, even if it has to move.

Notes from the Hotline, 3-21-2012

Another Diner bites the dust!!!!

The Diner house located at 93 Oxford Ave. in Dudley, Mass.
1985 photo by Larry Cultrera

This month has been horrendous with the closing of the Fish Tale Diner of Salisbury, Mass. and the demolition of the Bel-Aire Diner of Peabody, Mass. Well now we hear that yet another Bay State diner has met with a bulldozer! My friend Barry Henley, the proprietor of “My Brother’s Place” Restaurant in Webster, Mass. reports that the infamous (at least to me) “Diner house” has been demolished. Located at 93 Oxford Avenue in the town of Dudley, this diner has not operated as a food service establishment for approximately 40 years.

I have shown the above photo as part of a diner slide presentation for over 20 years. It is in the “repurposed diners” section of the show. I always introduced it as my ultimate fantasy, a diner as part of someone’s house! I personally have been aware of this place since the early 1970’s when my older brother Steve lived in Dudley.

The Diner house located at 93 Oxford Ave. in Dudley, Mass.
1985 photo by Larry Cultrera

We used to take the street commonly refered to as the “Dudley-Oxford road” as a short cut. I noticed the diner way back then but eventually forgot about it after my brother moved back to the Boston area. It was not until I started documenting diners with my photographs in the early 1980’s that I became re-acquainted with it. In fact, it was my brother Steve who reminded me of it. Since then I believe I photographed it at least 3 different times, the last being circa 1985.

When I started planning to write this post, I decided to check out Google maps and satellite view to see if I could see the structure. I found a street called Dudley Oxford Road (which was not exactly where I thought it should be). I looked up and down that road and nothing looked right! Turns out it was not the correct road. I checked back with Barry Henley and he gave me the correct address which when checked on Google maps coincided with what I remembered.

Barry was taking the perennial shortcut from Dudley to Oxford on Saturday the 17th of March when he could not help but notice the pile of rubble where the structure used to be! He snapped a photo out the side window of his vehicle and posted it to Facebook where I spotted it.

Photo by Barry Henley showing the remains of the demolished diner and house.

We do not know for sure if the diner actually ever operated in this location or was placed here to be a part of someone’s house. Someone I knew over 25 years ago actually went inside this place and said it was basically gutted and being used as a “family room”. The only recognizable thing on the inside was the former refrigerator built into the corner. It was being utilized as a shelf or something.

Barry Henley told me it had been altered since I last saw it and told me to check out a recent real estate listing that described it as…… Structure was originally a diner and converted into a single family residence. Septic will NOT pass Title V. Being sold “AS IS”. All offers considered. This listing also had some photos that showed the original diner windows had been replaced by inexpensive sliding windows. Other than that it was still recognizable.

You can see the listing here at this link….

Here are some of my other photos of it from the 1980’s…..

circa 1983 photo by Larry Cultrera

circa 1983 photo by Larry Cultrera

circa 1985 photo by Larry Cultrera

circa 1985 photo by Larry Cultrera

Allston’s Breakfast Club Diner gets a new on-site addition

early 1980’s photo of Ted’s Diner, Worcester Lunch Car No. 841
originally operated as Fahey’s Diner, it has been run under other names such as Henry’s Diner, Mike’s Diner and more recently as the Breakfast Club.
photo by Larry Cultrera

The diner currently operating as the Breakfast Club in the Allston section of Boston has recently been modified with a decent size handicapped accessible dining room addition. I was first informed about this by Mike Engle who had been by the diner with Glenn Wells and David Hebb after the Author Event for my “Classic Diners of Massachusetts” book in Somerville, Mass. back in November. So, in early December, Denise and I went over to the Breakfast Club for breakfast (of course). I snapped a couple of photos of which the next is one….

Dec. 12, 2011 photo by Larry Cultrera

As you can see the construction of the new addition was still in process. I was certainly curious about what they intended to do with the exterior covering. Naturally I was hoping for the best but as these things go, it could have been covered in a very uncomplimentary exterior material.

Early this past Saturday afternoon, I received an email from Bob Higgins informing me that he had been by the Breakfast Club and was completely impressed by what they had done. Needless to say, I took a ride over in the late afternoon to see for myself! Bob was right! I could not believe my eyes! Whomever did the work did an exemplary job recreating the “Worcester style” exterior on the new addition.

Here are my photos….

March 17, 2012 photo by Larry Cultrera

March 17, 2012 photo by Larry Cultrera

March 17, 2012 photo by Larry Cultrera

Seeing that this type of construction can still be done and really look decent makes me feel good inside to know that some owners realize what they have and don’t try to mess with it or modernize in a uncomplimentary way. Instead they decided to go the extra mile and do it right! Kudos to owner George Athanasopoulas on a job well done!

The nest generation of Diner Aficionado, revisited !!!!

I intended on writing this post a couple of weeks ago, but with the above mentioned closing of the Fish Tale Diner and the Bel-Aire Diner being demo’d, it just had to be put on the back-burner temporarily.

Back in 2005, in the Spring edition of the Society for Commercial Archeology’s Journal Magazine, I wrote about a few news items in that installment of the original hard-copy version of Diner Hotline. Among these was the announcement of the new exhibit at the Culinary Arts Museum (at Johnson & Wales University) called “Serving the World with Worcester Dining Cars”  accompanying the permanent exhibit “Diners: Still Cookin’ in the 21st Century”. The second piece of news was the release of Randy Garbin’s “Diners of New England” book, published by our friends at Stackpole Books.

There was also an installment of “Notes from the Hotline”  (not unlike this post) where I mentioned about the relocation of the old Cairo Diner (of Cairo, NY) which was hoped to be restored at that point in time, (it never happened as far as I know). Another piece in that “Notes” was about 2 national TV broadcasts featuring diners, Al Roker’s “Diner Destinations” (on the Food Network) and “Back to the Blueprint” featuring Steve Harwin’s Diversified Diners (on the History Channel).

I also had a small piece about my new friend Spencer Stewart describing him as the next generation of Commercial Archeologist. Spencer’s dad Michael, a member of the SCA had influenced his then 14-year-old son and fostered his interest in diners and other roadside places. Spencer had been reading his dad’s copies of the SCA Journal and essentially looked forward to reading “Diner Hotline”! He decided to contact me and introduce himself. I was certainly intrigued by this teenager’s fascination with diners and decided to write about him in the next Hotline. I eventually met Spencer and his dad Michael in September of 2010.

Larry Cultrera and Spencer Stewart at the Portside Diner in Danvers, Mass.
Photo by Michael Stewart

Even though I found Spencer’s love of diners refreshing (reminding me of myself at his age), this was not exactly new to me. You see, back in 1992, I was contacted by a lady from Fort Collins, Colorado by the name of Cindy Siefken, (now Cindy Banfield). She told me about her 7-year-old son Philip and how he developed a keen interest in “Diners”. Cindy related to me how he had been previously struggling in his personal life, in school as well as at home. One day she had come across a television special that featured various diners that she and Philip watched. He became very excited as the Siefken’s reside in a “diner poor” region and Philip had never actually seen a diner before! Cindy said that this new interest had started to bring Phil out of his shell and he wanted to learn all he could about this piece of Americana!

In our conversation she told me how she found my name. She had come across a copy of the November, 1986 edition of Smithsonian Magazine with the major article that I was included in. So she looked me up and found my phone number. I told her that Phil’s interest really intrigued me and that if she did not mind, I could send a little “care package” of diner ephemera and other extra odds and ends to start his collection. She was extremely grateful, especially when I told her I could make a special video tape with various television specials and shows that I had been interviewed for about diners.

Also during that initial conversation, she stated: “well, we don’t have any real diners in Colorado”. I then asked her… how close are you to Lakewood? She answered “not too far”. So I informed her that in fact there was a real honest to God diner called Davies’ Chuck Wagon Diner at 9495 West Colfax Avenue in Lakewood. She was beyond ecstatic! As soon as she found out she made plans to take a little excursion with her husband Dave, daughter Emily and of course Phil! The little care package including the video tape I sent, became part of Phil’s Christmas present that year and the family took its first trip to Davies’ Chuck Wagon on Christmas vacation. These next few photos document their first visit to a “real” diner………

Dave, Phil and Emily Siefken outside Davies’ Chuck Wagon Diner
December, 1992 photo by Cindy Banfield (formerly Cindy Siefken)

Dave, Emily and Phil Siefken outside Davies’ Chuck Wagon Diner
December, 1992 photo by Cindy Banfield

Dave Siefken outside Davies’ Chuck Wagon Diner. One of the best “diner” signs anywhere! December, 1992 photo by Cindy Banfield

Inside Davies’ Chuck Wagon Diner December, 1992 photo by
Cindy Banfield

Phil and Emily (Dave is almost in the frame) sitting in a booth
December, 1992 photo by Cindy Banfield

Emily and Phil sitting at the counter. December, 1992 photo by
Cindy Banfield

These next photos show the next visit to Davies’ Chuck Wagon on the occasion of Phil’s 8th birthday on March 5, 1993

Phil with his friend Nick celebrating his birthday at Davies’ Chuck Wagon
March, 1993 photo by Cindy Banfield

Phil’s birthday cake, March, 1993 photo by Cindy Banfield

Here is another photo from May of 1993 (I do not know the occasion) showing Phil with a temporary tattoo…..

May, 1993 photo by Cindy Banfield

Well, I had basically fallen out of touch with Phil and his mom over the last number of years. I did have a more recent contact with Cindy a few years ago and found out she had gotten divorced and then remarried, so at least I knew that tidbit of information. But last year I was thinking of them again and got the bright idea to look them up on Facebook. Lo and behold I found both of them! We renewed our friendship and are now in touch more on a regular basis. He is currently employed as the Maintenance Manager of the Armstrong Hotel in Fort Collins!

I recently asked Phil about the photos his mother sent me back then. I figured they were from 2 different trips. I also asked him about his memories and feelings on his first visit to Davies’ Chuck Wagon back when he was 7-years old. He wrote back with this…..

Yes they were two different occasions. My parents took my sister and me there once before my birthday; in either January or February I assume (turns out it was December). I recall that when we went there for my Birthday, my friend Nick came with us. I remember I was so excited on the first trip there (about 60 miles from home) I was actually anxious because we were not sure if it would even still be there, having never been there before and only knowing by the post card you sent me that it had been there in the past.

I remember that my sister was not a willing participant, she was a picky eater at age 6 and it didn’t help that we drove by Casa Bonita a mile or two east of the Diner to get there. (Casa Bonita is a kid-oriented Mexican restaurant with cliff divers and an indoor waterfall & such). I was delighted when we got there and saw it for the first time. Davies’ Chuck Wagon Diner was the first Diner I had ever seen. As you know we have almost none out west here and it seemed so exotic to me.

I loved the manufactured look and the gleaming stainless steel. As soon as we walked in, it didn’t feel as exotic, it felt incredibly familiar, humble, and intimate due to the small size (compared to other restaurants). My father was a truck driver and I had been to several truck stops before, so seeing features like the counter and stools. The career waitresses were another thing that made it seem humble. This was not the kind of place my parents would go after Church while pretending to be yuppies with a perfect family and I liked that. Davies’ invited you to be truly authentic and beautiful much like the diner itself. I honestly don’t recall how the food was or what the prices were like, but very little has changed since my first visit. It’s safe to assume that it’s always had good food at reasonable prices. Back in about 93 fake diners started popping up in this area and I remember despising them even as an 8 year old for being cheap knock-offs.

That conversation with Phil came earlier this month. I saw that it was Phil’s birthday (his 27th), boy does time fly! I of course wished him a Happy Birthday and he responded back to say he had made a special trip to Davies’ Chuck Wagon Diner for lunch that day! He then posted  3 photos he had shot with his phone on his Facebook page. That is what got me thinking about this post. I mentioned I would like to use those shots and he said I was welcome to use them. So here are Phil’s shots from March 5th of this year…..

exterior photo of Davies’ Chuck Wagon Diner by Phil Siefken

interior photo of Davies’ Chuck Wagon Diner by Phil Siefken

exterior photo of Davies’ Chuck Wagon Diner by Phil Siefken

My friend Phil Siefken at 27 years of age!

I know if Phil ever travels out this way, he will get a tour of all the great diners here in the Greater Boston area from yours truly!

Fish Tale Diner, 1970 – 2012

Rumors have floated around for the last few years that the Fish Tale Diner of Salisbury, Mass. was eventually going to close. Unfortunately, that day has finally come. Michelle Merrill Freeman and her family have been leasing the diner for 19 years and it is with a heavy heart that they have decided not to renew the lease with their landlord, the Bridge Marina. Various reasons have been mentioned as to the closing (I will not go into that here), but the story is, the diner will probably never reopen at this location again.

Fish Tale Diner, last day of service. March 11, 2012 photo by Larry Cultrera

The Fish Tale is Worcester Lunch Car No. 762 and was the original Agawam Diner that was bought brand-new by the Galanis family in 1940 and operated for over 6 years in Ipswich. The Galanis’ bought a larger Worcester Lunch Car in 1947 to replace the first. At that point in time, the first diner was sold to a family who operated it at Cook’s Corner in Brunswick, Maine until 1950, when that owner could not make a go of the business.

Fish Tale Diner, last day of service. March 11, 2012 photo by Larry Cultrera

It then was bought back by the Galanis’ who had it refurbished by Worcester Lunch Car before having it installed at a new location on the corner of Route 133 and U.S. Route 1 in Rowley, Mass. where it operated until 1970 when it was replaced by the current Agawam Diner. This is when the first Agawam Diner was moved to Salisbury to become the Fish Tale Diner. The new location had to be one of the most scenic operating sites for any diner in Massachusetts. Located on the shore of the Merrimac River on Rings Island overlooking Newburyport, the view was always exquisite!

Fish Tale Diner, last day of service. March 11, 2012 photo by Larry Cultrera

When I first started patronizing the Fish Tale Diner in the early 1980’s it was being run by “Fast Ed” and Dot Chooljian and their daughters, Debbie, Diane, and Patricia. It was open very long hours, in fact the diner was famous for its overnight hours. I am not sure when they left the business but I do know Michelle Merrill Freeman along with her sisters Jeannie Merrill, Rhonda Merrill Griffin, Mabel Merrill Lewis and Wendy Merrill, have been the heart and soul (as well as the beauty and brains) of this diner  for the past 19 years!

Denise Cultrera sitting at the counter at the Fish Tale Diner,
last day of service. March 11, 2012 photo by Larry Cultrera

In the last couple of years, I have been getting semi-regular news updates from the stalwart Bob Higgins who has managed to frequent the diner once or twice a week for a number of years. He has been relating to me news such as the possible imminent closing of the diner due to various circumstances that might have been happening. But luckily, most of those have gone by the wayside until now. A couple of weeks ago, he told me that the diner was closing for sure, by the end of this month (if not sooner).

Fish Tale Diner, last day of service. March 11, 2012 photo by Larry Cultrera

So I started making plans to have one last breakfast at the diner. I had been shooting for yesterday (Saturday the 10th of March) but the weather turned out to be a little iffy with snow squalls in that section of the North Shore. So I decided to stay close to home. That very same afternoon Bob informed me via email that the diner was closing today so that sealed the deal and Denise and I headed up to Salisbury this morning around 7:00 am. We walked thru the door and there was Bob Higgins along with his wife Jeanne. So we all had a nice last meal enjoying the service of waitress extraordinaire Mabel Lewis.

Jeanne & Bob Higgins along with Mabel Lewis at the Fish Tale Diner,
last day of service. March 11, 2012 photo by Larry Cultrera

One thing I should mention, whenever I have had breakfast at the Fish Tale Diner in recent years, I have always ordered the “Apple Pancakes”! This diner is one of the few that carried that item on the menu and I could not bring myself to order anything else! I will certainly miss that!

close-up of the sign of the Fish Tale Diner, last day of service.
March 11, 2012 photo by Larry Cultrera

I, along with other diner enthusiasts lament the closing and can only hope that the owners of the Bridge Marina my decide to sell the diner at a later date to someone who will move it and hopefully reopen it at a new location.

One last look at the Fish Tale Diner, last day of service. Goodbye old friend!
March 11, 2012 photo by Larry Cultrera

More changes for a Diner in Plaistow, NH

Betty-Ann’s Diner, August 13, 2011 photo by Larry Cultrera

I last made mention of the this diner in Plaistow, NH back in June at the end of the post I did on a short Memorial Day roadtrip. At that time Bob Higgins had sent a mesage about the former Diner 317 and how it was being reopened as Betty’s Diner. Well since then, the diner did reopen on June 25th as Betty- Ann’s Diner. The sightly different name was due to the objections of another restaurant, Betty’s Kitchen in North Hampton, NH. They apparently felt that there would be a conflict of interest if the diner in Plaistow (over 30 miles away) used the Betty’s Diner name.

Owned by the Pentoliros family since it was brand-new in the 1950’s, this is Mounatin Veiw Diner No. 317 and it was originally located on Route 28 in North Reading, Mass. It operated at that location as Pent’s Diner until it was moved to its current location circa 1959. It was operated here by the Pentoliros’s as Hope’s Diner into the early 1970’s but has had quite a few operators and names over the intervening years. I knew it as the Plaistownian Diner, and Route 125 Diner (1980’s) and the longest recently being as Eggie’s Diner, since the early 1990’s. Eggie’s moved to a new location in nearby Atkinson, NH over a year ago leaving the diner vacant. By the end of the summer (2010) it was being renovated and updated so it could reopen as Diner 317. It did reopen in November but unfortunately closed in March of this year.

Denise and I finally got over there for breakfast on Saturday, August 13th. It was not crowded but did have quite a few patrons. I thought the food was good and the service decent. By the end of the next week Bob Higgins had emailed me to say it looked like the diner had closed! It seems the new operator and the owners had some sort of disagreement and the owners decided to get back to operating the diner.

Betty-Ann’s Diner, August 13, 2011 photo by Larry Cultrera

The following is an article from the Lawrence Eagle-Tribune about the diner. The article incorrectly states the latest person to run the diner, Anthony Raia only operated it for a month. (It was more like a month and a half). It also says the Pentoliros family bought it in 1959. As stated above, they bought it brand-new in 1952 and moved it to Plaistow in 1959.

Plaistow Diner Changes Hands Again
By Cara Hogan

PLAISTOW — The diner at 127 Plaistow Road has changed hands yet again, this time going back to the original owners.

After just a month, BettyAnn’s diner is no longer run by Haverhill resident Anthony Raia. The Pentoliros family owns the property and has taken over the diner.

What happened is in question, with Raia and the Pentoliros family offering different versions. But Raia is out and BettyAnn’s reopened Thursday as Hope’s.

Perry Pentoliros said he and his brother Larry are operating the diner, rather than leasing it to someone else. Larry Pentoliros said their first two days of business went well.

“We did some business,” he said. “It was at full capacity.”

The diner has a long history; it has changed hands and names many times. The Pentoliros family bought the diner in 1959. They operated it first as Pents and later Hope’s for decades.

The family got out of the restaurant business in the early 1990s, leasing the 8-acre property to Eggies for 17 years. That restaurant moved to Atkinson in 2010.

Diner 317 opened early this year, with a focus on using local food. The diner closed in March, just months after it opened.

Raia leased the property in June and opened for business June 25, under the name BettyAnn’s. He painted the authentic 1950s diner pink and hoped to play up the nostalgic feel to make his diner a local landmark.

“We want to bring this back to a ’50s-type diner,” Raia said when it opened.

The dream didn’t last long. Now, Perry Pentoliros said, the family is tired of dealing with tenants.

But Hope’s opened prematurely. The Pentoliroses took over last week, but the business was still in Raia’s name. The town health officer closed them down Aug. 18.

“During a change of ownership, many times both owners work through the process,” Denise Horrocks said. “That wasn’t taking place, so they closed until the change of ownership could be official.”

The diner re-opened once the paperwork was completed.

“It opened early (Thursday),” Horrocks said, “They passed the compliance inspection (Wednesday).”

Larry Pentoliros said they worked hard to put in new kitchen equipment, get a new menu together and get the restaurant ready to open.

“We had to do warp speed to get the diner open,” he said.

Perry Pentoliros said he wanted to get the diner open and start making some money as soon as possible. Neither he nor his brother has worked in the diner business, but their father ran the diner for many years. Pentoliros said it’s important for them to keep the diner going.

“My brother Larry and I are going to run it to keep my mother’s legacy alive,” he said. “We’re changing it back to Hope’s diner, named for my mother.”

The name will change, but the color won’t. The brothers will keep the bright pink paint.

Well, let’s see how long it operates under the Hope’s Diner name. I am intrigued to see the owners will run it and wish them luck with high hopes for increased business. I know Bob Higgins will keep me posted!

Diner roadtrip, Memorial Day, 2011

I decided I needed to get to southeastern Massachusetts over the long weekend for some new photos. These would be for my “Classic Diners of Massachusetts” book. I am attempting to use entirely all-new photos for all the diners I am “featuring” in the book, mainly so I can show these diners as they are today. The diners I was interested in photographing were Betsy’s Diner in Falmouth, the Shawmut Diner in New Bedford and Al Mac’s Diner in Fall River. I was also hoping to squeeze in Don’s Diner in Plainville if we had time.

So Denise and I headed out on Saturday morning and stopped for a quick bite and a cup of coffee at Marylou’s Coffee Shop in West Quincy, right off the Expressway. After Marylou’s, we pointed the vehicle toward State Route 28 and followed it all the way into Wareham. We passed Dave’s Diner, a Star Lite Diner in Middleboro and the “closed” Sisson’s Diner, a “converted trolley car” in South Middleboro as well as the Mill Pond Diner, a 1950’s O’Mahony in Wareham along this route. I am happy to report that Dave’s and the Mill Pond were doing a great business. After crossing over the Cape Cod Canal we also passed by the Patriot Diner in Pocasset which also seemed to be doing a great business.

The weather was funny this particular morning as it was warm and sunny away from the coast but we were going in and out of Fog as we were mostly by the ocean. That is why the diner photos (with the exception of Don’s Diner) are a little on the cloudy side. Oh well, what can you do!

We got down to Betsy’s Diner shortly after 9:00 am and the diner seemed to be hopping. Denise overheard someone say they had gotten the best crowd they have seen all spring that morning (it has been a really unseasonably cold one). We got something else to eat and I briefly talked with Karen Chandler, who along with her husband Dave, have been operating the diner since they bought it from Larry Holmes in 1994.

Betsy’s Diner, Falmouth, Mass. May 28, 2011 photo by Larry Cultrera

Betsy’s Diner interior. May 28, 2011 photo by Larry Cultrera

Betsy’s is a beautifully maintained 1950’s Mountain View Diner that originally operated in Kuhnsville, PA under names such as the Peter Pan Diner and Michael’s Family Restaurant before being relocated here in the early 1990’s. I obtained a take-out menu for some info for the book as well as the photos and we were on our way again, heading toward the Shawmut.

The Shawmut was fairly busy as it was between breakfast and lunch. I had given owner Phil Paleologos a call when we were traveling from Falmouth to New Bedford and he promised to meet us within a half hour. This was when I found out that my buddy Phil’s concept of 25 minutes was actually closer to an hour. So while we were waiting, I got some new photos of the outside and inside of this great 1954 O’Mahony diner.

Shawmut Diner, New Bedford, Mass. May 28, 2011 photo by Larry Cultrera

Shawmut Diner interior, May 28, 2011 photo by Larry Cultrera

In fact, we were ready to leave when he finally showed up. We did have a nice few minutes talking with him. I got at least 3 bear-hugs from him (he never shakes hands as far as I can tell). Phil is the friendliest diner owner I know!

After saying goodbye to Phil, we continued west into Fall River for our next diner destination….. Al Mac’s Diner. We got there and it was still foggy but I got some decent photos. We met Garet Xanyn who co-owns the diner along with his father-in-law, Norman Gauthier. I asked for a take-out menu so I could refer to some of the diners offerings in the book. But unfortunately, they were out of them. Garet promised me that he would email me a copy.

Al Mac’s Diner, “Justly Famous Since 1910”, Fall River, Mass.
May 28, 2011 photo by Larry Cultrera

Al Mac’s Diner interior, May 28, 2011 photo by Larry Cultrera

I started heading home when Denise asked me about the possibility of checking out Don’s Diner in Plainville. She wanted to know if there was enough time to get there and then back home around the time we needed to be in Saugus. I said we could probably fit it in, so we detoured down I-495 over to Wrentham, which is just north of Plainville. We got to Don’s right after they closed, but the door was still open, so we went in. I was hoping to meet Perry Perreault who is the current operator for the business that was started by his grandfather in 1936. Unfortunately, he had just left! I explained to the waitress who was still on duty that I needed a couple of interior photos for the book. She said she could not give me permission, so I asked her to call Perry, whom I had been in contact with a day or two before to get permission. She did call him and he told her it was OK. So I got my shots and went home.

Don’s Diner, Plainville, Mass. May 28, 2011 photo by Larry Cultrera

Don’s Diner interior, May 28, 2011 photo by Larry Cultrera

After Don’s, we scooted home and went about our usual Saturday afternoon routine at home and I was able to get some more writing in for the book. The next day we had breakfast at the Four Sister’s Owl Diner on our way up to Hudson, NH for an errand. After that I got some more writing in and around noon time we went and dropped something off at the place I am employed in Danvers. We then jumped over to nearby Beverly for another errand which was conveniently located near the newly opened stand called The Scotty Dog, a place that features a true “Chicago Hot Dog”. This is located on the corner of Rantoul Street and Elliot Street (Rte. 1A & Rte. 62) where Ron Dogs had operated for a short time.

I met Steve Scott who runs the business with his son Matt along with a few other employees. I was excited to see that they were doing a decent business as they had their Grand Opening two days before. I was not hungry so I grabbed a couple of photos and promised to be back.

The Scotty Dog, Beverly, Mass. May 29, 2011 photo by Larry Cultrera

The Scotty Dog, Beverly, Mass. May 29, 2011 photo by Larry Cultrera

Well, I did get back there on Tuesday after work. I got a Chicago Dog (a Vienna Beef Dog) with all the fixin’s, a kosher pickle spear, 2 slices of tomato, diced onions, 2 sport peppers and neon relish with a dash of celery salt (I did not get the yellow mustard, I don’t like mustard) on a steamed poppy seed bun and an order of French Fries. The photo below is the very first time I have ever photographed a meal I was about to eat! I felt really weird doing that, let me tell you. But I figured, I see “Food Bloggers” doing it all the time so here you go.

An order of French Fries with a Chicago Hot Dog at The Scotty Dog
May 31, 2011 photo by Larry Cultrera

I wish the crew at The Scotty Dog good luck and hope to get up there for semi-regular meals.

I also heard from Bob Higgins over the weekend and he sent reports and photos of the former Diner 317 in Plaistow, NH. They had only been open a short time, from the opening in November, 2010 to the closing in March of this year. Now it looks like this beleagured diner is reopening as Betty’s Diner fairly soon. Bob said the stools had been removed (hope they put real ones back in, not movable ones) and they painted the exterior a bright pink (which actually does not look bad). I guess we will have to check this out in the near future and see what happens.

Betty’s Diner, Plaistow, NH. Photo courtesy of Bob Higgins

Betty’s Diner sign, Plaistow, NH. Photo courtesy of Bob Higgins
as you can see the project for the new sewer pipes being installed along Rte. 125 seems to be moving along.

Betty’s Diner, Plaistow, NH. Photo courtesy of Bob Higgins

Thanks to Bob Higgins for sending along these photos.

Notes from the Hotline, 3/15/2011

Diner 317 closes after a short run

Diner 317, Rte 125 in Plaistow, NH. Nov., 2010 photo by Larry Cultrera

 Bob Higgins has been keeping tabs on Diner 317 in Plaistow, NH and has been updating me periodically, he had mentioned to me previously that he thought the diner was struggling for business. I wrote about this diner back in Novemeber, see…… . Well Bob wrote me an email over the weekend to tell me that it is indeed true that the diner is now closed. Here is what Bob said in his email from Saturday…. Was in Plaistow this morning, the diner is vacant and for rent or lease. There is a sign by the road and also in the window for rent and a telephone number. I think it has been gone for maybe a month or so.

I feel badly that the operators, John Woods, his cousin Chris Woods and Justin Behling could not pull this off. I believe there were mitigating circumstances that may have led to the closing such as an on-going road construction project on Rte. 125 near the diner as well as this recession.

Progress at the former site of the Bel-Aire Diner

I have been watching the progress on the redevelopement of the former Bel-Aire Diner site in Peabody, Mass. Things were going fairly slow due to the heavy snowfall we had gotten over January and February. But in recent weeks, things have really started happening. The construction of the new building which is slated to house a few truck-stop related businesses has been moving right along with the raising of the steel framework taking place in just about 3 weeks. Here are some photos from last week showing the diner still on-site and the building rising behind it….

Bel-Aire Diner with new building, photo March 6, 2011 by Larry Cultrera

Bel-Aire Diner with new building, photo March 6, 2011 by Larry Cultrera

Bel-Aire Diner with new building, photo March 6, 2011 by Larry Cultrera

Bel-Aire Diner with new building, photo March 6, 2011 by Larry Cultrera

I have a feeling the diner is not going to get sold right away and it cannot stay where it is for too much longer. John Kallas has said that if no one buys the diner he will have it shrink wrapped and moved to storage behind the new building.