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15 Best Diners in New England

15 Best Diners in New England
20 votes, 3.65 avg. rating (73% score)
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New England is the birthplace of the American diner. It’s also where diners and diner cuisine have developed most fully over the years. From the lunch wagons of 1870s Providence, Rhode Island, to the gleaming steel-and-glass palaces of today, New England diners have long served as community gathering places, offering comfort food at affordable prices in a warm, homelike atmosphere. Food and travel writer Mike Urban, author of The New England Diner Cookbook (Countryman Press, 2014) has visited dozens of these iconic eateries throughout the six-state region. Here are his picks for the top fifteen New England diners.

O'Rourke's Diner Middletown CT
Photo/Art by Mike Urban
The Dubliner Omelet at O’Rourke’s Diner in Middletown CT.

O’Rourke’s Diner
After rising from the ashes of a devastating fire in 2006, this diner has galvanized its reputation as the best in New England. Owner Brian O’Rourke’s Irish heritage shines through in such menu items as the Dubliner Omelet, corned beef hash, and Irish Soda Bread. (The diner does all its own baking.) Another not-to-miss dish is the Steamed Cheeseburger, a central Connecticut specialty. Brian is constantly innovating in his kitchen, and every day features some hitherto unheard of (and unforgettable) dish springing from his creative mind and showcasing the freshest of carefully selected local ingredients. Middletown, CT. 860-346-6101; orourkesmiddletown.com

Agawam Diner Rowley, MA
Photo/Art by Mike Urban
Banana Cream Pie at the Agawam Diner in Rowley, MA.

Agawam Diner
This place epitomizes the way a good diner (or any restaurant, for that matter) should be run. Housed in a compact, stainless steel, 1950s Fodero diner car, the Agawam efficiently serves up a very basic and very excellent menu of diner classics, such as meat loaf, pot roast, upside-down chicken pie, omelets, pancakes–and its most famous item: pies. Co-owner Bubba Galanis bakes more than forty of them each day, and many end up in the display cases on either side of the kitchen door. Come here for the soul-satisfying comfort food, but be sure to stay for the pie! Rowley, MA. 978-948-7780

The A1 Diner Gardiner, ME
Photo/Art by Mike Urban
The A1 Diner in Gardiner, ME.

A1 Diner
Perched on metal stilts on a hillside some twenty feet above a parking lot, the A1’s precarious position in the world belies its reputation as the most gourmet diner in New England. Co-owner Michael Giberson is constantly innovating in the kitchen of his 1940s Worcester diner car, coming up with such dishes as Syrian Cod Cakes in a Spiced Tomato Sauce; Lamb with Eggplant Curry; and Spinach with Dates, Red Onions, and Sumac-smoked Pita. You may also enjoy regular diner food, such as a plate of beans and franks or the A1’s famous fresh-ground beef burger with hand-cut french fries. Gardiner, ME. 207-582-4804

Modern Diner Pawtucket, RI
Photo/Art by Mike Urban
The Modern Diner in Pawtucket, RI.

Modern Diner
Back in the late 1970s, the Modern was the first diner to make it onto the National Register of Historic Places. This 1940s Sterling Streamliner diner, owned by chef Nick Demou, is best known these days for its amazing weekend brunches. With such dishes as Linguica Hash Benedict; Lobster Cheese Grits; and a Sun-Dried Tomato, Caramelized Onion, and Feta Cheese Omelet, the Modern attracts devotees from Providence to Boston and all points between. The straight-up diner food is also excellent, especially the home-cooked meat loaf and the liver and onions. Pawtucket, RI. 401-726-8390

Maine Diner Wells, ME.
Photo/Art by Mike Urban
The Maine Diner in Wells, ME.

The Maine Diner
More than 6 million customers have enjoyed the fine cooking at this famous southern Maine eatery since it first opened its doors the early 1980s. Brothers Myles and Dick Henry started with their grandmother’s recipes for dishes such as Lobster Pie, Red Flannel Hash, and New England Boiled Dinner, and they expanded the menu from there. Myles’s Seafood Chowder is nationally renowned, and the fried clams, cod cakes, and baked stuffed haddock further elevate the diner’s reputation for great, fresh seafood. Out back is a three-acre garden that provides the Maine with plenty of fresh produce throughout much of the year. Wells, ME. 207-646-4441; mainediner.com

Sonny’s Blue Benn Diner in Bennington, VT
Photo/Art by Sonny’s Blue Benn Diner
Sonny’s Blue Benn Diner in Bennington, VT.

Sonny’s Blue Benn Diner
“Vegetarian” is the watchword at this southern Vermont eatery, which has been serving numerous meat-free dishes since the late 1970s, well ahead of the mainstream vegetarian movement. Sonny and Marylou Monroe have been owners of this Silk City diner since 1974, pioneering such dishes as Sonny’s Scrambled Tofu, Veggie Enchiladas, and Raspberry Crunch French Toast. Each day, there are more specials than items on the menu—indicative of a busy and innovative kitchen. Bennington, VT. 802-442-5140

Betsy's Diner Falmouth, MA
Photo/Art by Mike Urban
Scallop Chowder at Betsy’s Diner in Falmouth, MA.
Tags:
Mike Urban

Author:

Mike Urban

Biography:

Mike Urban is an award-winning food and travel writer, book editor and packager, and former vice president and associate publisher of the Globe Pequot Press. He has written three books on New England: Clam Shacks: The Ultimate Guide to New England’s Most Fantastic Seafood Eateries; Lobster Shacks: A Road-Trip Guide to New England’s Best Lobster Joints; and The New England Diner Cookbook: Classic and Creative Recipes from the Finest Roadside Eateries. Mike lives in Old Saybrook, Connecticut, with his wife, Ellen, and their four children. Connect with Mike Urban on LinkedIn!
Updated Saturday, January 15th, 2011

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64 Responses to 15 Best Diners in New England

  1. Christian LEMONCHOIS January 27, 2015 at 9:51 am #

    I’m a French and a great lover of Diner. I will add to your list : the Four Sisters Owl Diner at Lowel, NH, the Route 104 Diner at New Hampton, NH, the Sunny Day Diner at Lincoln, NH but my prefered of all is the Agawam Diner. I ate in all these Diners and many others.
    I love the Diners, the New England and all we found there.
    Best regards.

    • Andy May 9, 2015 at 6:35 pm #

      Owl Diner is in Lowell, MA

      • gail December 1, 2015 at 4:30 am #

        Is the owl diner still open? Best omelettes.

        • john saxelby January 14, 2016 at 8:43 am #

          Yes it is

  2. Robert & Roberta January 27, 2015 at 10:07 am #

    Miss Lyndonville Diner in Lyndonville, VT is one of my husband’s favorite!

    • Doug Steward April 21, 2015 at 5:41 pm #

      Agreed!

    • David B Campbell December 1, 2015 at 8:02 am #

      Yes this is a great diner….staff is great…Food is excellent…a genuine place

  3. George Williams January 27, 2015 at 11:13 am #

    Consider the Palace Diner in Biddeford, ME.

    The Modern in RI looks exactly like the Salem Diner in MA

    Too bad the Fishtale in Salisbury MA closed with its beautiful dining deck overlooking the Merrimack River and Newburyport on the other side.

  4. Rich Bishop January 27, 2015 at 8:54 pm #

    The Route 9 diner in Amherst, MA is the best! Great diner food and wonderful service!

    • Joanne Wisniewski April 20, 2015 at 7:14 pm #

      This dinner is now closed – not because of the food but management problems.

  5. Ginny Hodgkins January 28, 2015 at 7:16 am #

    Dave’s Diner in Middleboro, MA is excellent! I am also a fan of Moody’s Diner in Waldoboro, ME.

  6. Marilyn Otterson. January 29, 2015 at 8:05 am #

    How about the Peterborough diner?

    • Nicole C April 20, 2015 at 10:12 pm #

      Love the Peterborough Diner!

  7. Linda Orlomoski January 29, 2015 at 8:38 am #

    I totally agree with the A1 Diner and the Agawam Diner being on this list but I think you need to check out the Miss Portland Diner in Maine and the Miss Worcester Diner in Massachusetts also. Both are classic Worcester Lunch Car Company diners (as a matter of fact, the Miss Worcester Diner is located right across the street from the original Worcester Lunch Car Company factory which is now a flea market) and they both serve up some of the best classic diner food to be found in New England. Miss Worcester also specializes in a wide variety of stuffed french toast that is to die for and the Miss Portland has some of the best corned beef hash evah that sure the heck isn’t like the stuff you get out of a can!

  8. patti February 2, 2015 at 11:10 am #

    Cant believe 4Sisters Owl Diner in Lowell Ma…..hands down best bennies in the world!!

  9. Bonnie April 20, 2015 at 3:10 pm #

    Moody’s in Waldoboro, Maine is the best.

  10. Sean April 20, 2015 at 3:36 pm #

    Yea zero noted in MASS? Many were made in Worcester. Boooooooooooooooooooooooooooo

    • Brenda Darroch April 20, 2015 at 3:48 pm #

      Hi Sean,
      There are two diners from Massachusetts are on this list.

  11. les April 20, 2015 at 5:55 pm #

    Miss Flo’s in Florence, MA is a powerful memory for me. Need to get there again.

  12. Dianne April 20, 2015 at 6:47 pm #

    Sorry….Moody’s in Waldoboro, ME might have been a good choice 30 years ago but not so much now.

    • Gina Hoffses December 2, 2015 at 6:34 pm #

      I agree Dianne. Moody’s has gone down hill with food and service. If you’re looking for a top diner in Maine, I’d stick with the A1 Diner in Gardiner! Food is great, clean environment and great service!

  13. Roberta April 20, 2015 at 7:27 pm #

    Cruisers in Gardner, MA (super menu)
    Blue Moon in Gardner, MA (menu not so great)
    Hen House in Gardner, MA

  14. Pam April 20, 2015 at 7:52 pm #

    How about Redliner Diner in Portsmouth, NH
    Wonderful food!

  15. Dan M. April 20, 2015 at 8:30 pm #

    These all sound great! You should also check out LAKESIDE DINER in Stamford, CT. A fixture in Stamford since the 1950s, this is the very definition of homestyle diner food. EVERYTHING on the menu is excellent, and they are most well known for their donuts (made on premises) and the Curly Chili Dog. Their Breakfast Burrito, Red White and Blue Waffle, and Eggs Lakeside are among the many other favorites. GREAT PLACE!

  16. Nicole C April 20, 2015 at 10:14 pm #

    Zips Diner in Killingly Ct is a classic diner worthy of mention.

  17. Peggy O'Neil Farabaugh April 20, 2015 at 11:06 pm #

    Don’t forget the Windsor Diner in Windsor, Vermont!
    https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Windsor-Diner/177842948918943

  18. mike April 20, 2015 at 11:21 pm #

    let’s not forget Littleton NH Diner and Peterborough NH Diner.. while not a diner, check out Guldies in Berlin NH

    • Kenn April 21, 2015 at 4:01 pm #

      Yes, the Littleton Diner! I have searched the world over for the best corned beef hash…….
      It is in Littleton NH!

  19. Les April 20, 2015 at 11:59 pm #

    would like to add one more suggestion. When visiting Cape Cod, don’t miss a trip to the Red Cottage on Old Bass River Rd in South Dennis. It’s old time charm and creative cuisine will keep you coming back; but don’t be surprised to find the usual waiting line. Well worth the wait!

  20. Sue Meub April 21, 2015 at 3:31 am #

    beg your pardon … You missed the Palace Diner in Biddeford .. Thank goodness Bon Appeitite did their research and named it in the top 50 new restaurants ..

  21. Forrest MacGregor April 21, 2015 at 7:53 am #

    Underneath the Blue Benn, in Bennington, VT, I am convinced there is a complex of workers and machines that work 24/7/365 to make the items on a menu that puts the NYC phone book to shame.

    I so love that place, with its stainless steel and booth-unique Patsy Cline quarter driven juke box and its OnlyInVermont honor system of waiting for a table that it is the first place I recommend (no kidding. #1) for anyone who needs an IV injection of what it means to live here and only has an hour to spend.

    Bennington College kids who WILL be famous some day or not care… locals who have visited since 1950…. me, a transplant Southern boy… waitresses who began and stopped ovulating as employees….

    Get in your car and drive there, now. Do it. Have a nice muffin or a vegetarian Mexican burrito.

  22. Kay April 21, 2015 at 10:03 am #

    I suggest someone checks out Carl’s dinning car in Oxford, Mass.
    Awsome food and Great portions!
    Aome days you need to wait outside in line.
    I LOVE THIS PLACE!

    • Sammy and Jim April 22, 2015 at 7:34 am #

      I was looking for Carls on this list was surprised when it wasn’t there…My son and I go every Sunday morning he loves his steak tips!! The lines are always long but worth the wait

  23. Rafal Cisowski April 21, 2015 at 10:44 am #

    Laurel Diner in Southbury is my favorite place to eat in town,Great food and great people!

    • Linda Coad April 24, 2015 at 4:06 pm #

      Laurel Diner has been a constant staple in Southbury, CT., since
      the 1950’s. Great comfort food. Best Reuben in town, My next best spot is the Blue Benn Diner in Bennington, VT. It’s hard to pick a favorite item there. Everything is great.

  24. Helen Belanger April 21, 2015 at 11:22 am #

    You forgot the Club Diner on dutton st. In Lowell mass. Been there for 77 years 3 generations have been running it. One of the best breakfast around.

  25. Suz April 21, 2015 at 12:02 pm #

    Used to canoodle with a Holy Cross College boyfriend at a Worcester, Ma diner near the campus. This was in the late 60s. In my memory it looked much like the W. Lebanon diner in NH that’s pictured. The friendly staff poured us cup after cup of coffee on snowy nights.

  26. Charlie Eise April 21, 2015 at 12:48 pm #

    Olympia Diner – Berlin Turnpike, Newington, Ct.
    Miss Washington Diner – New Britain, Ct.
    O’Rourke’s Diner – Middletown, Ct.
    Quaker Diner – West Hartford, Ct.

    • Jennifer Kelley April 21, 2015 at 4:23 pm #

      Love the Quaker Diner!!

  27. Jason Black April 21, 2015 at 3:54 pm #

    It doesn’t have “diner” in the name, but I think you should check out Lou’s Restaurant in Hanover, NH. Amazing breakfasts, baked goods and you can get a great coffee milkshake any time! You can learn about it here: http://lousrestaurant.net/

  28. Doug Steward April 21, 2015 at 5:44 pm #

    Two of my favorites are the Miss Lyndonville Diner in Lyndonville, VT. and the Crossroads Diner in Bethel, ME. Both have great food, reasonable prices, and wonderful staff.

  29. Linda Tre April 21, 2015 at 6:58 pm #

    How about the Miss Wakefield Diner in Wakefield NH right on Rt 16?

    They have a wonderful Philly Cheese Steak omelet and you can also get it as a sandwich on sourdough bread. Yummy!

    Their Eggs Benedict are delicious as well. Definitely worth a visit, in my humble opinion.

    The unit is originally from Albany NY. Nice little article I found on it. : http://www.theheartofnewengland.com/travel-MissWakefieldDiner.html

  30. Michelle April 21, 2015 at 10:44 pm #

    Lindy’s diner in Keene NH, it been there forever. Their food is to die for always a favorite stop when I visit Keene!

  31. Jim Yeager April 21, 2015 at 11:27 pm #

    Check out Hartland Diner, Hartland , VT

  32. Amanda Mayes April 22, 2015 at 3:06 am #

    Main Sreet Station Diner Plymouth NH So good and interesting menu.

  33. Alexis April 22, 2015 at 10:27 am #

    Uncle Charlie’s Finer Diner in South Weymouth, MA! The food is delicious!

  34. Mary April 22, 2015 at 7:06 pm #

    I do not understand why the Tilton Diner did not make your list!

    • David B Campbell December 1, 2015 at 8:04 am #

      Yes this diner is awesome also

  35. Bill Kenny April 23, 2015 at 9:52 am #

    The Miss Portland Diner which was rescued by Tom Manning and resurrected in grand fashion is a staple in a city known for it’s fine eateries, Portland, Maine. They serve a Corned Beef Hash that is to die for… Always sparkling clean with a staff that treats you like family….Very Surprised that it did not make this list?

  36. Julie April 23, 2015 at 10:13 am #

    Palace diner in Biddeford, ME redefines the category. Lakeside Diner in Stamford, CT is a charming classic.

  37. Carol Zani April 23, 2015 at 12:46 pm #

    I’ve only been to some of these diners but I loved Moody’s, and I would definitely go back.

  38. Dorene April 23, 2015 at 5:07 pm #

    Wayside Restaurant in Berlin Vermont, Best rolls in Vermont.

  39. anne conan April 24, 2015 at 5:26 pm #

    A1 has the best food in Maine – and the worst wheelchair access.

  40. Bill Gough April 26, 2015 at 2:46 pm #

    The Birdseye Diner in Castelton, VT is worth going out of your way for…….

  41. Julie April 26, 2015 at 4:44 pm #

    Okay, okay…it may not be the BEST, but for sheer uniqueness, you can’t beat Haven Bros. in Providence, RI. Where else can you find a diner that travels to its destination every night? The people watching alone is enough to get you there…lol.

  42. Theresa November 30, 2015 at 7:27 pm #

    Gilman’s Fairlee Diner in Fairlee, VT. has been there since the 30’s. Great place to eat with home cooked food. Stop in and see us, you won’t go away hungry!!

  43. sue davis December 3, 2015 at 11:35 am #

    You missed my favorite, the Miss Lyndonville Diner in Lyndonville, VT! It’s been around FOREVER! Food is great and prices are better.

  44. Bob December 4, 2015 at 3:08 pm #

    Hey Suz. The diner in Worcester near “The Cross” is the Miss Worcester. It’s on Southbridge St under the railroad tracks. It’s still there. I also went to “The Cross” and I grew up in Worcester. I know it well and also did some canoodling.

  45. Bob December 4, 2015 at 3:12 pm #

    Hey Les. I am familiar with the Red Cottage. Great food – if you can get a table. But it’s not a diner. However I would also recommend it to anyone traveling through South Dennis.

  46. Peter Thiel December 29, 2015 at 7:44 pm #

    Want the best milkshake? Aero Diner next to the airport on Rt 6 in Windham, CT has it. Classic breakfasts, burgers and cruise nights too!

  47. cynthia mastoris miller January 14, 2016 at 1:57 pm #

    My grandfather owned Jack’s Pie Shop in Webster Mass. His pies are legendary still in the area. He and my Dad, Nicholas, as well as my grandmother Bonnie, and a couple of other employees provided pies to most of the local diners around back in the late 30’s to the early 60’s.

    Anyone remember?

  48. Tony the Tigger January 14, 2016 at 2:34 pm #

    How could you not include Miss B’s (now the Brunswick) Diner in Brunswick, Maine??? Or the Olympia Diner in Newington, Connecticut… sigh, those two were wonderful fixtures of a childhood well spent… in diners, at least!

  49. Scoobie61 January 20, 2016 at 8:42 pm #

    Don’t forget Duncan’s Dairy Bar in Brunswick, NY awesome homecooked food ..love it

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