We're not big fans of going out to eat. We used to enjoy it when we had regular paychecks coming in, but now it seems it's easier and cheaper to eat at home and the cook always serves up fresh ingredients and serves whatever we're in the mood for. The other morning, however, we had a chance to get out of the house for a few hours and wondered what we might do to take advantage of our precious free time together. We didn't want to go shopping and we've been feeling antzy to try something new ... go somewhere different for change. A little research had me looking for interesting things to see or do in nearby towns and the Modern Diner caught my attention.
First of all, we like diners. They're cheap, down-to-earth and though the offerings are not always the healthiest, the food is usually basic and tasty. The Modern is just over the Rhode Island state line in Pawtucket and it was mid-morning, so we headed there for breakfast. The Modern doesn't have a website or a Facebook page, but enough folks talk about it. Trip Advisor, Roadside America, Yelp, even Wikipedia had something to say.
Diners are nostalgic icons of another time in America. Coincidentally, Rhode Island calls itself “the diner state”. The first diner in the USA appeared just down the road in Providence, RI. Entrepreneur Walter Scott offered pies, light meals and hot coffee off his horse-drawn canteen truck to night workers during lunch breaks and at the ends of shifts back in 1872. I guess we can blame the American Industrial Revolution for beginning the fast food epidemic. I remember heading to the Rochdale Diner or the Cherry Valley Diner with my Dad when I was a little girl. The best part was sitting on the tall stools at the counter and twirling around until I fell off or Dad made me stop. Diners were common then. McDonalds was not.
A 1940 Sterling Streamliner, The Modern Diner is anything but modern nowadays. In fact, it's the first diner to be included on the National Register for Historic Places. Evidently, Disney used a sufficiently identifiable likeness of the Modern in one of their cartoons. The Modern folks sued, won and added a small addition, they call The Depot onto the back of the diner proper. I wasn't interested in dining in the non-diner portion though. It wouldn't have been the same.
A narrow corridor between the dining car and the Depot, serves as the entrance and waiting area. The parking lot looked crowded and there were already people waiting in line. We thought there would be a long wait on a busy weekend morning, but we were seated within 5-6 minutes, just long enough to let us peruse all the specials mounted in plastic on the wall.
This is a neighborhood kind of place. Everyone knew everyone. Most folks didn't even require a menu. People were friendly and full of good-natured chatter. We got a booth for two and coffee was offered immediately. We checked out the menus, but my mind was already made up … a tapenade omelet served with home fries and toast.
We ate, chatted and people-watched. Tall and short, fat and skinny, young and old made their way in and out for breakfast. Some waited for booths, but the singles just made their way to the counter. When the waiter was too busy to fill their coffee mugs, they went behind the counter and helped themselves.
The window beside me, looking out on East Street, had a bullet hole scar and I noted a bit of breeze streaming in from the outside. David assured me it was from an overzealous teen with a pellet gun, rather than a Magnum.
We might not eat out often, but we when we do, we strive for the distinctive. And today, we did just fine.