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!

Somerville, Mass’ Buddy’s Diner seized for non-payment of taxes

I just received word from Brian Ballou, a reporter for the Boston Globe that an old time favorite of mine, Buddy’s Diner has been seized by the Massachusetts Department of Revenue for non-payment of taxes. This apparently happened yesterday, July 18th.

Buddy’s Diner – 113 Washington Street, Somerville, Mass.
April, 2011 photo by Larry Cultrera

According to Mr. Ballou, this has been coming on for quite some time, in fact he mentioned that a seizure is usually the last resort for the Dept. of Revenue when all other options have been exhausted. The amount of taxes owed is quite substantial and more than likely the diner will be auctioned off to get some of the monies owed at some point in the future.

Buddy’s Diner is a 1929 vintage Worcester Lunch Car (WLC No. 624) that originally operated in Leominster as Sawin’s Diner and reportedly came to Somerville in the early 1950’s. Although it is not included in the Multiple Property Submissions for the National Register of Historic Places, it nonetheles is designated a Landmark through the Somerville Historic Commission.

I am saddened by this news, even though I have not patronized the diner on a regular basis in the last few years. At various times I was there every morning before work. Back in the late 1980’s/early 1990’s, during a stint working for a company in the Allston section of Boston and again more recently when I was employed down the street at Acme Bookbinding in Charlestown just 4 short years ago. Buddy’s was one of the featured diners in my book “Classic Diners of Massachusetts” (published last October by The History Press).

I will keep tabs on this and hope that the diner can possibly reopen sometime in the near future.

July 4th Interview – Boston Globe

I was honored to be interviewed for a piece that appeared  in the Boston Globe “G” section on July 4th. It is part of their series called the “G Force”……..


Medford native celebrates classic diners

G Force
July 03, 2012


Larry Cultrera


From 1988 to 2007, the Medford native wrote a column about diners for the Society for Commercial Archeology Journal. Since then, he has maintained
his Diner Hotline blog, and last year, he published “Classic Diners of Massachusetts” (The History Press), which goes into its third printing this month.

Q. You write that your journey started in 1980, and you have since visited and photographed more than 820 diners. What spurred your interest?

A. I’ve had an interest in diners since I was a little kid, but it wasn’t until 1979 or 1980 that I became aware they were disappearing. I was also getting into 35mm photography around that time and [diners] fed my different sensibilities: my love of history in particular. The history grabbed me.

Q. What about the history?

A. I knew that diners were built in factories; they weren’t generally built on-site. It wasn’t until 1980 that some books were starting to come out. First, John Baeder, the photo-realist artist, brought out “Diners” in 1978 and it featured his paintings and drawings. And in 1979 Richard Gutman brought out “American Diner,” which was the precursor to a book he brought out in the ’90s called “American Diner: Then & Now,” which has since become the bible for diner history. Once I started reading the history and figuring out there’s all these different manufacturers that used to build diners and some that still do at that point in time, you start identifying the different manufacturers by the different styles, details they put into their products.
So it was like how a classic car buff could look at a certain car and say, “Oh, that’s a 1957 Chevy Bel Air and it’s modified in this manner.’’ A diner buff can say, “That’s a 1948 Jerry O’Mahoney and it’s been altered by doing this or that ” or “most of it’s original.”                

Q. Are New England diners different from diners elsewhere?

A. What really differentiates northern New England diners from southern New England diners, say, Connecticut, or even Long Island, N.Y., or Pennsylvania diners, is the fact that after 1960, especially by 1965, we weren’t getting any new diners up here, whereas the diners down in New York, southern Connecticut, were continually being upgraded. Owners go back to the factories and have new diners built, generally bigger than what they had. Up here, you could call them conservative-style diners, because they were just very small. And they managed to hold on, still dwindling little by little over the years. We still have the greatest collection of early- to mid-20th century diners anywhere.

Q. Does interest in diners ebb and flow or are they destined to eventually become extinct?

A. It sort of goes in spurts. By the late ’70s, diners were really starting to die out, especially around here. But with the books that came out, there came a resurgence. Right now, you don’t see too much happening around here except there’s a chain called the 5 and Diner that started out in the southwest, Phoenix. In about 2006, a family from Massachusetts decided to buy a franchise of the 5 and Diner and they opened it in Worcester, where the history of diner-building started. And within two years, they bought the whole chain.

Q. Which local diners are your favorites?

A. The Capitol Diner in Lynn, which has been run by the same family since the late ’30s, and the Salem Diner. Even though its current owners are fairly new to the diner, they’ve been in the restaurant business for many years and they are continuing the tradition at the Salem Diner and have rejuvenated
that place.

Q. In your photo, you’re wearing a shirt from Tim’s Diner in Leominster. What’s the story?

A. It’s a great diner and one of my favorites, primarily open only in the mornings. It’s one of the diners I wish I lived closer to because I’d be there a lot more often. The family that’s been running it has been running it since the early ’50s. It was originally known as Roy’s Diner. They’re famous for their fish chowder. The locals can’t wait for Fridays. It goes right out the door.

Interviewed by Glenn Yoder

Boston Globe does 10 Worcester(built) Diners

Looks almost like The Boston Globe did a take on Diner Hotline’s top 10 Diners of Massachusetts from last July (see with their article in the New England travel section today entitled “Ten diners stamped Worcester”

The difference being all the diners they chose were Worcester Lunch Car diners.

Ten diners stamped ‘Worcester’

by Patricia Harris and David Lyon

Rescued or refurbished, serving breaksfast or after the bars close, these lunch cars vintage 1907-57 still cook on all burners

The eight most comforting words in the American vernacular must be, “Can I warm that up for you, hon’?’’ Or so it seems when dawn is breaking, the grill is sizzling, and you’re hunched on a stool reading a newspaper over coffee.
Between 1907 and 1957, the Worcester Lunch Car and Carriage Manufacturing Co. built 651 diners. Only a fraction survive, but with their porcelain-enamel exteriors and real wood trim, they are as timeless as the reasonably priced comfort food on their menus. Here are 10 of them.


“I can’t believe how many people stand across the street and take pictures of this place,’’ says Mary Jane Simone, grill cook. “This diner has been sitting on this spot since 1948.’’ In fact, it was the showcase model for the Worcester Lunch factory across the street. Simone and owner Kim Kniskern brainstorm the inventive breakfast menu, which includes ethnic variations of eggs, home fries, and toast such as American (with steak tips), Polish (with kielbasa), and Polynesian (with fried Spam). Miss Woo regulars find the diner a comfortable groove. “I pretty much know what to throw on the grill when they come in the door,’’ says Simone. 300 Southbridge St., 508-753-5600. Breakfast $2-$7.95, sandwiches $2.25-$6.95, plates $6.95-$8.95. Cash only.


Thursday through Sunday nights after the bars close are the busiest times at this National Historic Landmark, says manager Lisa Carenzo. That and weekend mornings. Although it’s an all-night establishment (complete with glowing neon), the Boulevard rarely has the lonely feel of Edward Hopper’s “Nighthawks.’’ With just 14 stools and five vintage wooden booths, it’s always packed. Carenzo says the 1936 diner has been in her family since the 1960s; her grandfather had started as a dishwasher at age 12. Eggs, burgers, and tuna melts are on the menu, but regulars favor the lasagna, manicotti, and chicken parm sandwich. You can even get the meatballs, sausage, and sauce to go. 155 Shrewsbury St., 508-791-4535. Breakfast $4.65-$8.25, sandwiches $1.95-$6.95, plates $6.95-$11.25.


Owner Chris Giannetti can point out some rare vintage touches at his compact yellow-and-red diner, like the discreet brass and enamel plate that identifies it as #765 (which means it’s the 565th Worcester diner, since numbering began at 200). It was delivered to Fitchburg in 1940, and Giannetti has owned it for 16 years. He and his brother sanded and stained the oak panels to restore the interior wooden trim. Even his mother is involved. Giannetti handles the usual breakfast dishes, burgers, and sandwiches, but Mom makes the puddings, cobblers, and cakes. 6 Myrtle Ave., 978-343-9549. Breakfast $2.50-$6.75, sandwiches $2.25-$5.50.


In 2000, Jamie Floyd, formerly a waitress, traded her order pad for a grill cook’s spatula when she bought the Blue Moon (Worcester #815) and set about getting it listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Fifties memorabilia abounds and bygone stars make cameos on the menu. The Big Bopper breakfast, for example, includes eggs, toast, home fries, and a choice of homemade roast beef or corned beef hash. The Elvis burger is dressed with peanut butter and bananas. The wooden addition has the patina of age, but hardcore diner fans favor the 14 stools and five booths of the original dining car. Is it better to be an owner than a waitress? “The headaches are better,’’ Floyd says. 102 Main St., 978-632-4333, Breakfast $3.45-$7.25, sandwiches $3.95-$6.95, lunch plates


Aficionados might remember this 1950 diner as northern Vermont’s Miss Newport. Car mogul Kevin Meehan rescued it from “a boneyard’’ and restored it to vintage glory as an amenity to his Imperial auto dealerships along Route 16. With re-chromed stools and a new entry crafted to match the original dining car, the Miss Mendon opened in January with an unusually extensive comfort-food menu. It’s already doing a bustling business, which shows that there’s no keeping a good diner down. 16 Uxbridge Road, 508-634-3000, Breakfast $1.95-$10.95, sandwiches $4.99-$8.99, plates $8.95-$17.99.


Proof that good things come in small packages, 10-stool Casey’s is so compact that the entry is through a sliding door and there are no booths. There is, however, a window on one end, and cook-waiter Eric Slaney says, “Even when it’s 5 degrees outside, people are lined up at the takeout window.’’ Chances are they’re ordering either the diner’s famed steamed hotdogs or its juicy burgers. One of the oldest Worcester diners in these parts, it was built in 1922 and purchased by the Casey family in 1925. They’ve been running it ever since. Over the years the exterior has been reclad in wood, but the interior gleams with the patina of 85 years of good grub. 36 South Ave., 508-655-3761. Sandwiches $2.25-$3.90. Cash only.


Martha Kazanjian was 7 when her family bought the Owl in 1982, “but I tell people I was born in a booth,’’ she says. Kazanjian seems to know most of her customers by their first names, from the families who pile into the booths on weekends, especially after church, to the police and politicos who stop by for coffee on weekday mornings. No one leaves hungry. Grill cook Wayne Kasilowski says that “construction workers come in for breakfast so they can skip lunch.’’ Daily specials like American chop suey on Monday or baked haddock on Friday rarely change. “We have to keep on a schedule,’’ says waitress Kerrie Peasle, Kazanjian’s cousin. “The regulars are used to it.’’ 244 Appleton St., 978-453-8321. Breakfast $1.75-$10.50, sandwiches $5.50-$7.50, plates $6.25-$7.50.


This 1952 stainless steel and enamel beauty serves comfort food with a twist. Only open for lunch and dinner, the diner is dedicated to Thai street food. Instead of burgers and fries or eggs and hash, the kitchen whips up generous plates of pad thai and tamarind duck. Rather than banana cream pie, dessert might be deep-fried bananas wrapped in egg roll skin or ginger or green tea ice cream. Lanna Thai is one of the rare diners that specifies the heat levels of its dishes and proudly announces, “We do not use MSG.’’ 901c Main St., 781-932-0394, Plates $7.95-$9.95.


There might be a long wait for one of the six booths on a weekend morning, but this spacious 1954 stainless-steel diner has 20 stools, so you can belly up to the bar and watch the grill cook work a little magic as the waitresses stream in and out of the kitchen. While you await your order, you can scan the four large flat-screen televisions tuned to various sports channels. Pop culture memorabilia highlights the ’80s, the decade that gave us the teen angst movie for which the diner is named and the original “Diner’’ with a pre-degenerate Mickey Rourke. 270 Western Ave., 617-783-1212. Breakfast $2.99-$8, sandwiches $5.29-$7.49, plates $6.49-$12.89.


Walking into the Rosebud during the day is like stepping through a time warp to an era when the waitresses called everyone “dear’’ and “hon’ ’’ and the daily specials came with a terrific soup. Ask Helen DeFrancisco what kind of soup it is and she’ll say “good, homemade soup.’’ Although the Davis Square institution is known for its evening bar and music scene, the streamline restaurant section lives up to its billing as “Somerville’s home cooking diner since 1941.’’ Helen’s Famous Bloody Mary offers something of a variation on the theme. “I make my own hot sauces in four different flavors,’’ DeFrancisco says. “It started as a joke, but my customers wanted me to make them hotter. It just took off.’’ In fact, you can get one of Helen’s specialties at 8 a.m. six days a week. “On Sunday we can’t serve until 11,’’ she explains. 381 Summer St., 617-666-6015, Breakfast $1.25-$8.95, sandwiches $6.50-$7.95, plates $10.95-$16.95.