In all the years I lived in Massachusetts and went ‘sploring for diners, I never was able to visit the Yankee Diner on Route 20 in Charlton MA, even though it is conveniently located just a few miles from the intersection of the Mass Pike and Route 84 in Sturbridge. My bad!
So when I learned from the power of the interwebs that they were open under new management AND we happened to be staying just down the street, I made it a point to check out this classic Worcester built diner. While this diner has gone through a lot of owners and name changes it’s currently known as…
J&E’s Yankee Diner
OMG – so worth the wait!
Food was better than average diner fare with a flair: I had the “Yankee Benedict” while Retro Roadhusband got the meat eaters breakfast burrito (scroll down for photos.) Our waitress was a dear and my only regret was that we had missed the new owners bythismuch during our visit.
Knowing I totally had to get this diner onto the Retro Roadmap map I reached out to owner Erin Hubbell who was kind enough to give me some background on how she and her restaurant partner Jessica Melanson came to revive this historic gem (1930s Worcester Lunch Car, #735, for those who keep track.)
Erin’s first waitressing job was at another classic diner – the Edgemere Diner in Shrewsbury (a 1940s era Fodero) and she just loved it, and realized she wanted to work in the restaurant industry.
“But not just the everyday restaurant…I wanted the kind of place where the customers come in and you know the coffee they drink and their order without having to say anything to them except – hows your day going, and whats new?”
When she moved on to another restaurant job, she met her partner-in-dinering, the J in J&E’s Diner – Jessica. Realizing that they both had complimentary strength in the world of restauranting (Erin loves to cook, Jess loves to meet and greet the people – remembering their names, what they like to eat) they went about trying to buy the Edgemere Diner when the Yankee Diner popped up on Craigslist:
It was JUST what we were looking for! We didn’t even need to go see it… it was an original Worcester dining car with 32 seats, right on Route 20. Within minutes of talking to the landlord it was a done deal, and from there every single step has been absolutely amazing. The Town of Charlton has been unbelievable to us. We feel like we have known all of our customers for our whole entire lives!
Open for Breakfast and Lunch 7 days a week from 6am-2pm, I was not sure what to expect as far as the menu goes, and was fully prepared to do the Mod Betty Standard (two eggs over easy, white toast, bacon) but once I saw what was on their menu (and later – all the delish looking food photos posted on their Facebook page) I knew I was going to deviate and get another fave.
Corned Beef Hash, with Eggs Atop – the Yankee Benedict. Nom!
Knowing of the Hash Purists out there, I asked Erin about theirs and fear not…
” Our hash is homemade…goes through 3 different cooking processes before it hits the table…we have mastered it People love it!! Our whole menu is based on large portions, and nothing from a can! We make everything to order. We wanted to offer a large variety of different menu items. Not just bacon and eggs. We have something for everyone…and our price range is anything from a basic egg and cheese sandwich for 2.29 to a Yankee Sampler 3 eggs, hash, bacon, sausage, a pile of home fries, and toast for 9.99.”
As promised, a photo of Retro Roadhusband’s delish and almost too stuffed to finish breakfast burrito/panini/wrap:
As far as taking over a 75+ year old business that had gone through a number of owners, they’re digging their lil diner:
“We did our best to clean everything up – from polishing all the original hardware, and clean all the original porcelain, and also fixed the barstools! It can get quite greasy in there if you don’t keep up with washing ceilings, walls, booths etc. We had a huge unexpected project of rebuilding the front fridge (original icebox) My brother in law, my husband, and random crew of friends spent COUNTLESS hours working straight through the night to restore it to perfect working condition. Everyone who comes in comments on how cool that fridge is.”
“We love to have fresh flowers on the tables and we’ve recently started offering Friday Night Dinners, which are BYOB and have been a great success!”
So why not stop in the next time you’re truckin yourself across Mass via the Turnpike (or Route 20) or doing the North South thing on Route 84!
You will pass Chains that will try to intrigue you with their quick meals and their supposed home cooking, but you’ll know that just a moment or two more down the road you’re going to Eat in a Classic Diner, Support a Local Business and Enjoy that feeling of knowing you’re part of the success of a place like J&E’s Yankee Diner.