By Paul Giorgio
Central Massachusetts appears to be the center of the diner universe. Maybe that’s because one of the 10 companies in the United States that built diners was located in Worcester. The Worcester Lunch Car Company operated from 1906 to 1961, first on Franklin Street and later moved over to Southbridge Street. During this time, they built 651 diners. The company was sold in 1961 and became the Worcester Deluxe Diner Manufacturing Company.
The Lunch Cars were unique in that they all had barrel roofs and distinctive porcelain enamel exteriors. Almost all used a Gothic-type face for their name on the outside.
Let’s take a look at some diners in Worcester today. They are all unique in their own way. Some are open for breakfast and lunch, others serve at night and only a few remain open 24 hours a day.
If you are a club goer, a night owl or a worker on the late-night shift, there are only a couple of places to choose from. One is the Kenmore Diner on the corner of Grafton & Franklin Street in Worcester. This diner, which is literally under I-290, was rebuilt by owner Jimmy Yansides after being destroyed in the Worcester Cold Storage fire. The menu is packed with classic diner favorites. Breakfast choices are their specialty. They are open all night on Fridays and Saturdays and serve lunch on Fridays.
The Boulevard Diner on Shrewsbury Street serves round the clock. Interested in meat loaf, a plate of pasta or eggs? You got it! The diner has been run by the George family for two generations. Jimmy George took over ownership from his father Ringo. The Boulevard, built in 1936 and on the National Register of Historic Places, is perhaps the finest example of a Worcester Lunch Car Company Diner.
Directly across the street from The Boulevard is the Parkway Diner. Originally operating at night, The Parkway now serves breakfast and lunch. And like The Boulevard, you can get diner food, breakfast specialties or Italian dishes. Be sure to try the lasagna. This diner is now in the hands of the second generation of the Evangelista family.
The Canal District sports a few diners, like Corner Lunch on Lamartine Street, Green Island Diner on Millbury Street and the quintessential diner Miss Worcester on Southbridge Street. By the way, Miss Worcester didn’t have to travel far since the Worcester Lunch Car Company was located right across the street.
If you want to travel further a field, Spencer has two diners on Main Street ~ Kenwood Diner and Charlie’s Diner. Charlie’s is an example of the mobility of the lunch car. The diner relocated to a number of different areas, the last of which was on Plantation Street. It was then put into storage before reemerging in Spencer a couple of years ago. Like most diners, it is under second or third generation ownership of the Turner family.
Edgemere Diner on Shrewsbury’s Route 20 has recently undergone a renovation and is now called “The Edge.” It now serves as a hotdog stand and has received rave reviews. Word has it that they make their own relish.
The newest diner in Worcester just opened last year ~ Blanchard’s 101 Diner at 322 Cambridge Street. This diner has an interesting history. It was most likely the last diner built by the Worcester Lunch Car Company. However, it was never finished until the Blanchard Catering Company bought it a few years ago and rebuilt it.
This brings us to our last diner which really isn’t a diner anymore ~ Ralph’s Chadwick Square Diner. Ralph’s, as it is known to everybody in Worcester, has become one of the local hotspots for great live music. The original diner was preserved and a two-story building was built around it. The menu is very limited with burgers, chili and other dishes.
Many diners in Central Massachusetts have disappeared or have relocated to other parts of the country. The best way to make sure we don’t lose anymore is to stop in for a meal at any of these neighborhood places. Everyone will know your name by the time you leave.