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Best Diners in New England

Yankee Plus Dec 2015


Best Diners in New England
13 votes, 4.00 avg. rating (79% 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’s a sampling of his picks for the best diners in New England.

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

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;

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

Moody's Diner Waldoboro, ME
Photo/Art by Mike Urban
Four-Berry Pie at Moody’s Diner in Waldoboro, ME.

Moody’s Diner A waystation on mid-coast Maine’s U.S. Highway 1 since the 1930s, this third-generation Moody family institution is known far and wide for its magnificent pies. Still using co-founder Bertha Moody’s lard-laden piecrust recipe, you can’t go wrong with any pie ordered here. The chocolate cream pie has been voted the most popular by customers, but Moody’s four-berry pie and walnut pie aren’t far behind in the voting. Other dishes of note include fresh doughnuts made daily and the half-pound Percy Burger, named after co-founder Percy Moody. Moxie soda is the drink of choice here. Waldoboro, ME. 207-832-7785;

4 Aces Diner West Lebanon, NH
Photo/Art by Mike Urban
4 Aces Diner in West Lebanon, NH.

4 Aces Diner Camouflaged beneath a red clapboard building, this 1952 Worcester diner car serves up heaping helpings of comfort food during the week then turns gourmet on weekends, when it caters to the students and faculty of nearby Dartmouth College. To illustrate, one of the most popular weekday dishes is a four-cheese grilled cheese sandwich; on weekends customers clamor for such delicacies as the Pan-Seared Tuna Cake Eggs Benedict. The 4 Aces makes fresh doughnuts daily, and on weekends only, there’s a maple-glazed sour cream doughnut that’s cut in half, tossed on the grill, and served with hot maple syrup and whipped cream. West Lebanon, NH. 603-298-5515;

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Please Note: This information was accurate at the time of publication. When planning a trip, please confirm details by directly contacting any company or establishment you intend to visit.

Mike Urban


Mike Urban


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!

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9 Responses to Best Diners in New England

  1. K Hall January 27, 2015 at 9:38 am #

    I totally agree on Moody’s Diner. Absolutely THE BEST I have ever been too. My husband and I go there a lot. We have even stayed in their cottages. They’re awesome!! But I of have to say I’m from Connecticut and I am truly disappointed in O’Rourkes making the list. I feel their meals are highly overrated and the service is truly lacking.

  2. Lynda Sawyer Poole January 27, 2015 at 10:52 am #

    My favorite was Brickett’s Diner in St. Johnsbury VT. Those were the good old days on Joe’s Pond! My mom was a Brickett!

  3. Dotti Moe January 28, 2015 at 6:46 am #

    Gilliys in Portsmouth,NH its the old time dinner used to go there when I was growing up used to be a wagon dinner in Market square came everynight and now its a dinner in the a Forever place in Portsmouth

  4. J January 31, 2015 at 2:30 pm #

    New Bedford, MA has a few. We even have one, Shawmut Diner, that was removed from it’s spot and brought to the Department of Corrections in No. Dartmouth (Hernandez fame). Bristol County Sheriff Tom Hodgson plans to remodel it and use it for training/rehabilitation purposes for the inmates. I’ve read that it’ll be open to the public for our dining pleasure.

  5. Jim F February 4, 2015 at 7:02 pm #

    Moody’s was awesome when the kids had mid coast hockey tourneys. A stop at Moody’s on the way back and they were asleep before hit Nobleboro.

  6. Robert K. February 4, 2015 at 9:37 pm #

    the best diner in New England is Zips In Danielson Ct. Best Prices and Great Service.

  7. norm simpson February 4, 2015 at 11:58 pm #

    Being from Winslow Maine and serving lobster rolls in san fran . I love these stories.

  8. Shirley Sawyer February 9, 2015 at 8:40 pm #

    Yep, I knew this diner was in Gardiner. Haven’t been there is a long time. Maybe when I go up to Maine this year I’ll go there ( I live in VA now). The food was always good. I’ve been to Moody’s too.

  9. roberta February 25, 2015 at 7:42 pm #

    The Fairfield Diner in Fairfield, Connecticut is the best by far because it is spotlessly clean, has tons of delicious fresh seafood dishes, deli items and outrageous desserts. It also specializes in vegetarian dishes. I always stop there on my way to and from NYC/Massachusetts.

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