You’re looking thin

Become a regular at one of Central Mass’s many diners

Diners are full of flavor – if not always in their food, then definitely in their character. They are home to local color and fabulous vintage ambiance. If you need a new Sunday morning ritual, consider this list of local diners as a great place to start.

Blue Moon Diner

102 Main Street, Gardner, (978) 632 4333

Last week in a baby blue and yellow trolley car, I ate breakfast like they do in the movies. As I sat across the booth from my steady and indulged in crisp cinnamony French toast, Sam and Dave’s Soul Man boomed from the jukebox, the cook grooved in front of the griddle and the waitresses sang along.

Blue Moon Diner fits right in among the historic brick storefronts that line Gardner’s Main Street. Located across from the faded Bowl Away, this 1948 relic offers authentic diner meals all for $7.25 and under.

Although Blue Moon gets an A for atmosphere, its food quality was inconsistent. The home fries, the hallmark of every greasy spoon, were fantastic. Whole cubes of crispy potatoes were thoroughly spiced and just greasy enough. Skip the cheese sauce, unless you enjoy watered down Velveeta. The French toast was also a huge hit, but the pancakes were mealy and unremarkable.

When the parched slab of scrambled eggs arrived at my table I was not enthused. The omelet, however, was fluffy and moist. When ordering an omelet, keep it simple. The overly ambitious creations such as chicken fajita overpowered the flavor of the eggs.

Order as directed and you will be ensured a gastronomically satisfying meal with a healthy dose of vintage flare. The Blue Moon is open Monday through Friday 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 6 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Paul Mac’s Diner

185 Shrewsbury Street, Worcester

Don’t expect to be given a menu when you visit Paul Mac’s on Worcester’s Shrewsbury Street. This Tuscan-style diner offers crusty fresh baked breads, sandwiches and hearty soups.

“Whatalya have?” a waitress called from behind the counter. We gave her our order and before we were back from the self serve soda machine, a bowl of piping hot soup and “Joe’s Special,” a pasta dish featuring spinach, hamburger and cheese, were waiting at the table.

The “Italian style” chicken noodle soup had a flavorful tomato-based broth and was seasoned with plenty of fresh basil. The classic Italian combo of tomato and basil made for a pleasant spin on the standard chicken noodle soup. Salads were fresh, but there was nothing special about this familiar union of iceberg lettuce and tomatoes.

The only standard diner fare at Paul Mac’s is the hamburger, but don’t count on the accompanying fries, the only sides available here are soup and salad. Even low carb disciples can enjoy the diner experience at Mac’s with lemony fresh tuna or chicken salad over greens.

It may not be a typical diner, but it certainly has diner prices with nothing over six bucks. My dining buddy summed up the “Paul Mac’s” experience nicely saying, “It’s simple and good.”

Lunch is served Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and dinner from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.

Annie’s Clark Brunch

934 Main Street, Worcester, (508) 756-1550

Every customer is “Honey” to Annie of Annie’s Clark Brunch on Main Street in Worcester.

Just steps from Clark University’s campus, Annie’s is a favorite hangout for students, who can be found clad in pjs, reading the Saturday morning paper beneath framed photos of Annie’s bearded husband riding his Harley.

Annie’s offers classic comfort food from an off-beat mother figure who greets students by name, asks them about their classes and will keep bringing plates of unordered food to the table if she thinks you’re looking too thin.

Hot coffee is served in Christmas mugs, no matter what time of year and Annie is always brewing something special behind the counter. The day I visited, it was extra thick spicy chili. The burgers and sandwiches off the grill were delicious, but the fries were starchy and lacked appeal. Buttery pieces of lightly coated French toast came with a generous side of bacon. Prices were student friendly with nothing over $6.25.

When you visit make sure you check out Annie’s extensive pig collection, and keep a special eye out for the pig clock, sure to brighten anyone’s day!

Tina’s Worcester Diner

169 Millbury Street, Worcester, (508) 757-7775

On a rainy Saturday morning, we considered staying cozy in bed, but Tina’s Worcester Diner beckoned.

Former Miss Worcester manager, Tina was behind the grill serving up breakfast favorites to the few of us who ventured out. Two eggs, two pancakes and two strips of bacon for $2.95 seemed worth getting wet for.

While I happily munched on a sweet, meaty link of kielbasa, the perfect compliment to any egg dish, Tina’s daughter (also our waitress) cooed to her baby over the phone. Hashy home fries, seasoned to perfection accompanied my delicately thin, but rather soupy omelet. Stay away from broccoli and instead go for the popular heart-clogging cheeseburger omelet.

We were obviously the odd people out in this territory of regulars, but we were treated like family just the same.

Tina’s is open Monday through Wednesday from 5 a.m. to 3 p.m., Thursday 5 a.m. to 8 p.m., Friday 5 a.m. to 9 p.m., Saturday 6 a.m. to 1 p.m. and Sunday 7 a.m. to 1 p.m.

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