Notes from the Hotline, 5-20-2012

Documentary about Providence, RI’s Haven Brothers Diner in the works!

Haven Brothers Diner in Providence, RI…. April 19, 2012 photo
by Larry Cultrera

Jeff Toste of Ramp Media Lab has started filming footage for a new documentary entitled…. “Haven Brothers, Legacy of the American Diner” for which I was interviewed on camera back in April (hopefully my part won’t end up on the cutting room floor). Haven Brothers, the legendary mobile food cart that sets up outside providence City Hall every night can trace its roots back to a horse-drawn lunch wagon in the 1880’s.

Haven Brothers Diner in Providence, RI. That is Jeff Toste on the left, filming the diner in the process of setting up next to City Hall.
April 19, 2012 photo by Larry Cultrera

Although Jeff has received some funding to continue the process, he is no where near close enough, money-wise to finish the film. Therefore he is starting a Kickstarter Campaign that interested people can donate to, to help him reach his goal. Below is the flyer for the debut of the Kickstarter event at the Culinary Arts Museum at Johnson & Wales University

A documentary about a Providence icon – the oldest operating American diner on wheels

Produced by Ramp Media Lab, and made possible through major funding support from the Rhode Island Council for the Humanities, an independent state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Thursday, May 24, 2012 – 6:00 to 8:00 pm at the
Culinary Arts Museum
315 Harborside Boulevard
Providence,RI 02905

RSVP required byMonday, May 21, 2012
phone number is (401) 598-2805

Suggested donation: $10
All proceeds will support the production of the film

The Haven Brothers food truck will be parked outside of the museum for the evening, with plenty of tasty fare available for purchase.

Do you have a Haven Brothers story you would like to share? Interviews will be conducted at the museum, in the diner exhibit!

Museum Director Richard J.S. Gutman will be on hand to introduce Jeff at this event as well as speak about mobile lunch wagons, and food carts through the years. Being that this event is on a week night, I will not be attending but I urge anyone who might be interested to RSVP by tomorrow (although Richard Gutman clued me in that they will except all RSVP’s right up to Thursday!), or at the very least donate to the Kick starter campaign! Other links are……

@HavenBrosMovie on Twitter

Red’s Kitchen + Tavern of Peabody, Mass. opens

Red’s Kitchen + Tavern, U.S. Route 1 North, Peabody, Mass.
May 19, 2012 photo by Larry Cultrera

Red’s Kitchen + Tavern has opened as of Tuesday, May 15, 2012 on the former site of the late lamented Bel-Aire Diner. The restaurant is part of a larger building that was built on the site that will house other businesses sometime in the near future. This new restaurant is related to a long-time fixture in downtown Salem, Mass…… Red’s Sandwich Shop. The original Red’s is known for their breakfasts and lunches and the new place will feature the signature meals as well. But it will also be open for dinner and has a full liquor license.

Red’s Kitchen + Tavern, U.S. Route 1 North, Peabody, Mass.
May 19, 2012 photo by Larry Cultrera

When this new development was started, the Bel-Aire Diner was actually still going to be a part of the complex, built into the new building. But it seems when Red’s became part of the equation, the diner was nixed! It seems with all probability that the new people thought the diner was in pretty bad shape and would have been limiting to the size of the restaurant they envisioned operating. The new place seats over 200 people and has a small dining room on the back that could be used for functions and meetings. It is nice and clean and features “U-shaped” counters similar to Red’s in Salem as well as a nicely appointed dining room. The open kitchen is also remeniscent of the original Red’s.

Denise and I had breakfast yesterday at Red’s and were nicely impressed by the place! (I should have gotten interior shots). I wish the owners well and hope for their success at this brand-new location! For those who want to check the place out for themselves Red’s Kitchen + Tavern is located at 131 Newbury St. (U.S. Rte. 1),  Peabody, Ma 01960, phone: 978-531-7337
The Hours of Operation are… Sunday: 6 AM – 10 PM, Monday thru Wednesday: 5 AM – 10 PM and Thursday thru Saturday: 5 AM – 11 PM

Bel-Aire Diner, 1952 – 2012, Goodbye old friend!

Regular readers of Diner Hotline know that I have been following the saga of the Bel-Aire Diner of Peabody, Mass. for quite a while.  This diner was one of the closest to where I live, located about 4 miles north of Saugus on U.S. Route 1. Built by the Mountain View Diner Company (Car No. 359), it was bought brand-new in 1952 by brothers Peter & Bill Kallas, the diner remained being operated by members of the Kallas family until it closed abruptly around a half dozen years ago. Immediately after it closed it had two bright yellow banners that stated “Closed for Renovation” hanging from the front on either side of the entryway. Somehow though, I had a strong feeling that it would probably never reopen.

front of Bel-Aire Diner Breakfast Menu, circa 1980’s. From the
collection of Larry Cultrera

back of Bel-Aire Diner Breakfast Menu, circa 1980’s. From the
collection of Larry Cultrera

Prior to the diner being closed there had been reports that the Kallas family had been talking about redeveloping the site for quite some time. At one point, they were hoping to lease the property for a Hooters Restaurant but the City of Peabody was not willing to go along with those plans. Then within a few years of the diner’s closing, a large poster type sign was hung on the sign supports for the adjacent Gas Station (also owned by the Kallas’). The poster depicted a large building that would be built to house businesses related to the truck stop, including the diner and gas station. The new building was to be built around and over the diner (only the diner’s front facade was to be visible).


Before the plans were put into motion it was announced that the tenant for the restaurant portion of the new development was going to be the people who operate Red’s Sandwich Shop in downtown Salem. The new restaurant was to be called Red’s Kitchen and Tavern. About this time, I saw newly revised architectural drawings of the building and it looked different. The biggest difference was that the diner did not seem to be included anymore, an ominous sign to be sure!


the earliest known postcard image of the Bel-Aire Diner. From the
collection of Larry Cultrera

The second version of a Bel-Aire Diner postcard, it had aquirred awnings and the sign colors were changed. From the collection of Larry Cultrera

Soon there after, the diner was readied to be moved out of the way for the developers to start on the project, see…….


It was also announced that the diner was For Sale, see….
The diner stayed up on cribbing in the front of the property all thru the winter of 2010-11. See…….

In March of 2011 it was relocated to the extreme right corner at the back of the property. John Kallas was still hoping to sell the diner at this point.

photo on the back cover of a vinyl E.P. by The Peter Calo Band (a local band). circa 1983. The photo was shot with the band members sitting in the corner booth of the Bel-Aire Diner. From the collection of Larry Cultrera

As I just happen to drive by the diner 1 to 2 times a day during a normal work week (Monday thru Friday), I have been able to keep an eye on the situation. I also keep informed thru Google news alerts ( for Diners) and of course rely on the unofficial network of “Diner people” for tidbits, etc. In a recent news article, John Kallas was quoted as saying that if there were no buyers for the diner come springtime, he would make the decision to have the diner scrapped. Within the last 2 weeks, it was reported that  John Kallas was quoted as stating that if anyone wanted the diner, he was willing to give it away to anyone who would arrange to remove it from the property.

This news really meant it was nearing the end for the old stainless steel diner! Steve Harwin of Diversified Diners (Cleveland, Ohio), who in my opinion is the premier diner restorationist in the world, had been apprised of the situation and contacted Kallas. After a short conversation or 2 between Kallas and Harwin, as well as a little soul searching and some number crunching, Harwin decided he could not make the commitment to save this one unfortunately.

These next few photos are pretty much my earliest images that I shot of the Bel-Aire Diner……..

January, 1981 photo by Larry Cultrera

January, 1981 photo by Larry Cultrera

January, 1981 photo by Larry Cultrera

September, 1982 photo (at sunset) by Larry Cultrera

This next photo was shot circa 1990 by my buddy, Steve Repucci. I wanted some photos taken of me for a Society for Commercial Archeology (SCA) publication and this was one of those photos…..

man, what a difference 22 years make!

As I drove by the Bel-Aire on this past Monday after work, things looked pretty much the same, but by Tuesday afternoon it was a completely different story! Just as I was approaching the diner,  I glanced over at it and saw a dumpster as well as the left end of the diner already dismantled! I knew that this was it, the diner was pretty much history.

I was on my way home as my wife Denise and I had an appointment to meet a tradesman about some work we were planning on having done, so I knew I could not get my camera and go back for some photos. I did bring my camera to work with me the next day and was planning on getting over to the diner possibly at lunch to see if I could get some photos. I decided to see what was up and stopped at approximately 5:40 AM. I was able to pull right up almost to the fence that surrounded the diner and shine my high beam headlights on the what was left of the structure. It was demo’d back from the left end by a couple of windows as the next 3 images will show…..

March 14, 2012 photo by Larry Cultrera

March 14, 2012 photo by Larry Cultrera

March 14, 2012 photo by Larry Cultrera

Once I had seen how much was gone, I made the decision to get back sooner than lunch break to get more photos in daylight as I figured if I waited longer, there would not be anything left. I got back to the diner just before 9:00 AM and took the next bunch of shots…..

March 14, 2012 photo by Larry Cultrera

March 14, 2012 photo by Larry Cultrera

March 14, 2012 photo by Larry Cultrera

March 14, 2012 photo by Larry Cultrera

March 14, 2012 photo by Larry Cultrera

March 14, 2012 photo by Larry Cultrera

March 14, 2012 photo by Larry Cultrera

That is Doug Earp, owner of D.R. Earp Interior Demolition Co.
March 14, 2012 photo by Larry Cultrera

March 14, 2012 photo by Larry Cultrera

March 14, 2012 photo by Larry Cultrera

March 14, 2012 photo by Larry Cultrera

March 14, 2012 photo by Larry Cultrera

Richard Currie of RC Recycling of Brentwood Inc. speaking with Doug Earp.
March 14, 2012 photo by Larry Cultrera

Final shot before I went back to work.
March 14, 2012 photo by Larry Cultrera

Before I left work for the day, I checked Facebook and saw that Gary Thomas had been by the site and the photo he posted showed the very last section of the diner (a small section of roof from the right end) left to be crunched and tossed into the dumpster. By the way, there were at least 3 dumpsters full of debris! I drove by just after 3:30 PM and there was nothing left of the old diner!

Well I can say I have had many a meal there over the last 30 years and I believe it is a shame that no one could have saved this diner so it could have possibly had another life at a different location. I am sure I will probably check out Red’s Kitchen and Tavern when they open for business in the near future, but I know it just won’t be the same!

Notes from the Hotline, 8-28-2010

Diner Hotline meets Diner Hunter

Larry Cultrera and Spencer Stewart inside the Portside Diner
photo courtesy of Michael & Spencer Stewart

I have known Spencer Stewart for a half-dozen years. He contacted me back in 2004 to let me know how he was an avid Diner Buff (at the young age of 14) and that he was a regular reader of the old print version of Diner Hotline (SCA Journal).  I found this intriguing and actually wrote about him back then in another “Notes from the Hotline” (Spring 2005, SCA Journal).  I referred to Spencer as “the next generation of commercial archeologist” in that piece. 

We almost met a few years ago when he was on his way up north with his dad Michael for a family vacation I recall, but did not connect on that trip due to bad logistics. As a side note, about a year after I started the Diner Hotline Weblog, Spencer created his Diner Hunter blog……. ( We finally got the chance to meet this week when again Michael & Spencer were on their way north, this time to Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia for the beginning of Spencer’s sophomore year at that school (with a stop in Maine along the way).

Their timing was perfect driving up from Baltimore, as they were coming into my hometown of Saugus, Mass. at exactly the same time I was driving home from work! I brought them into the house to meet Denise and to show them some of the collection on display and then we went out for a bite to the Portside Diner in Danvers. It was great to finally meet these guys!

Michael & Spencer Stewart inside the Portside Diner
photo by Larry Cultrera

Larry & Spencer standing in the drizzle outside the Portside Diner
photo courtesy of Michael & Spencer Stewart

Larry sitting in a booth, waiting for his meal at the Portside Diner
photo courtesy of Michael & Spencer Stewart

Something’s starting to happen at the Bel-Aire Diner

Bel-Aire Diner, U.S. Rte. 1 in Peabody, Mass.
photo by Larry Cultrera

I posted not long ago about the reported eventual redevelopment of the Bel Aire Diner located on U.S. Route 1 in Peabody, Mass. As I drive by the site twice a day to and from work, I have been keeping a close eye on it. Well things started to happen this week as I noticed the utility wires that connected to the diner were removed and the parking lot behind and to the right of the diner had been excavated. The gas station next door was also being dismantled.

rear view showing back of Bel-Aire Diner kitchen (w/door open)
also the partially dismantled gas station in back ground

Looking along the right side of the diner w/parking lot torn up

partially dismantled gas station, the office (to the right) will still be
used – at least temporarily.

looking back toward the diner thru the dismantled wall of the gas station

Even though I wrote in a previous post that the diner was going to be included in the newer, larger building to be built on this site, I have had conflicting reports that it may or may not actually be used and it is either going to be moved out or worse case scenario, destroyed. I looked inside the open back door to theon-site-built  kitchen and saw that it has been completely stripped of any and all equipment. The diner itself has a lot of things being stored inside from what I can tell. Also, there are architectural drawings and renderings on a wall in the gas station office that give conflicting info. The renderings show the diner as part of the new building and the newer drawings show something completely different. One thing is for sure, Red’s Sandwich Shop of Salem will be operating a restaurant in whatever building is used for food service on the site (whether it is the reused diner or something completely new).

Bel Aire Diner to become Red’s Kitchen & Tavern

I got an email yesterday from Robert DeCristoforo, a friend and former coworker of mine. The email had a link to an article from the July 7th Salem News, (Salem, Mass.) about the upcoming plans for the Bel Aire Diner located on U.S. Rte. 1 in Peabody, Mass. This article confirmed info that I already knew and posted about back in April, see….

 The Bel Aire Diner is a large Mountain View Diner from the early 1950’s that has been closed for a number of years. It is just up the northbound side of U.S. Rte. 1 from the Sonic Drive-In that was opened almost a year ago.


Here is the Salem News article….

July 7, 2010

Red’s plans to open Route 1 restaurant, too

By Matthew K. Roy
Staff writer

PEABODY — Red’s Sandwich Shop, a culinary institution in downtown Salem since 1945, could be coming to Route 1 in Peabody.

Owner John Drivas has plans to open a second Red’s at the site of the long-shuttered Bel-Aire Diner on Route 1 north. It will be called Red’s Kitchen and Tavern.

“For our type of operation,” Drivas said, “it’s a perfect location.”

Red’s made a name for itself in Salem by offering an affordable variety of traditional breakfast and lunch menu options. Pending the approval of the city, the Peabody version of the restaurant could open by late fall or early next year in a new commercial building that will house multiple tenants. Ground could be broken on the project as early as next week, said David Ankeles, lawyer of property owner John Kallas.

“We’ve been looking (to expand) for some time,” Drivas said.

The third owner in its history, Drivas has run Red’s for 23 years. The Peabody location will reflect the menu and concept of the original restaurant.

Though still in the planning stages, the new restaurant is projected to be 5,000 square feet with seating for 175. It will offer breakfast, lunch and, unlike the original Red’s, dinner. The proposed operating hours are 5 a.m. to 1 a.m., according to a special permit application filed with the City Council.

“Red’s has got a good reputation, I’m sure they’ll have a positive impact in that area,” City Councilor Dave Gamache said.

Gamache represents the ward where Red’s is slated to locate.

“As soon as we can get that corner developed, the better off we’ll be,” he said.

Red’s needs the council to grant it a special permit because it intends to sell alcohol. Drivas is seeking a full liquor license. In Salem, he operates with a beer and wine license.

“It has every type of restaurant you can think of, but I don’t feel that Route 1 has a Red’s,” Drivas said. “It will be a great addition to the city of Peabody and the Route 1 area.”

The site will have 130 parking spaces and provide day and overnight parking for tractor-trailers. Among the businesses in the nearly 21,000-square-foot building will be a convenience store and motorcycle shop, Ankeles said.

But Red’s will be the primary draw.

“I hope (Drivas) gets a chance to do a bang-up job up there,” Ankeles said. “He’s a good guy, and he has a great reputation.”

Regular customers of the original Red’s need not worry. Nothing will change there, Drivas said.

The Central Street hot spot is popular among locals and visitors to Salem and has served its share of luminaries, particularly from the world of politics.

The late Sen. Ted Kennedy dined there, so has Sen. John Kerry, former Gov. Mitt Romney and first lady Barbara Bush.

Red’s would become part of a restaurant revival on Route 1 in Peabody. A new Sonic restaurant has thrived since opening last summer.

Santarpio’s, a famous, family-run East Boston pizzeria, is transforming the former Bennigan’s restaurant on Route 1 north into its 300-seat North Shore home. The Peabody venture will be the pizzeria’s second location, after 107 years in business.

The Bel-Aire Diner went out of business in 2006.

Because of its summer recess, the council will not take up Red’s special permit application until late August.

I personally do not like that Red’s owners are planning not to use “Diner” in the name of the new restaurant. Instead of “Red’s Kitchen & Tavern” they could  name it “Red’s Kitchen & Tavern at the Bel Aire Diner”, or how about “Red’s Bel Aire Diner”, just thinking! – LAC

Thanks for the link Robert!