Best Diner in Every New England State

Down-home cooking with a side of classic atmosphere is on the menu at these favorite New England eateries.

By Yankee Editors

Jul 14 2022


Please note that many establishments throughout New England have modified their hours and/or operations in response to COVID-19. Please check with individual businesses and organizations for the latest information before making travel plans.

New England isn’t just the birthplace of the diner — it’s at the very center of the diner universe. The earliest versions of these beloved greasy spoons opened their doors here, and many of the iconic metal lunch cars that define a certain kind of Americana were manufactured here too: in Worcester, Massachusetts, to be precise. Today, more than a century after diners first began welcoming customers with the promise of a hearty, inexpensive meal served quickly, New England is still home to many revered examples of these breakfast and lunch joints.

But which is the best diner in every state? Read on to discover our favorites.

Best Diner in Every New England State

Best Diners in New England
Best Diner in Rhode Island | Modern Diner
Photo Credit : Mike Urban

Best Diner in Rhode Island:
Modern Diner, Pawtucket

Simultaneously a trailblazer and one of the last of its kind, this zippy-looking Sterling Streamliner diner has been a community hub and source of pride since 1941. The “Modern” name may seem oxymoronic for a cash-only, all-day-breakfast spot with a perfectly retro interior, a nostalgic soup-to-meatloaf menu, and National Register of Historic Places status. But wait till you see the playful specials concocted in chef Nick Demou’s scratch kitchen — linguica hash omelets, lobster grits, butterscotch coconut almond pancakes, bacon-garnished breakfast cocktails — each one a visual and gustatory treat that explains the out-the-door lines. Named a 2019 Yankee Editors’ Pick for “Best Diner.”

Best Diner in Connecticut:
O’Rourke’s Diner, Middletown

The next-level fare that springs from the tireless mind of chef-owner Brian O’Rourke makes the battle for diner supremacy in Connecticut no contest (think: bacon vs. candied jalapeño bacon). Beloved dishes such as Irish soda bread French toast are available all day, but once lunchtime kicks in, steamed cheeseburgers are the “when in Connecticut” choice most folks gravitate toward — even 2018’s surprise visitor, Harrison Ford. Named a 2019 Yankee Editors’ Pick for “Best Diner.”

Best Diners in New England
Best Diner in Maine | A1 Diner
Photo Credit : Mike Urban

Best Diner in Maine:
A1 Diner, Gardiner

Perched on metal stilts on a hillside some 20 feet above a parking lot, the A1’s precarious position in the world belies its reputation as the most gourmet of the best diners in New England. The past and current owners have been consistently innovative in the kitchen of this 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 fries. Named a 2017 Yankee Editors’ Pick for “Best Diner.”

Best Diner in Vermont:
Miss Lyndonville Diner, Lyndonville

If it’s a Sunday morning, good luck getting a table here, as folks queue up for short-order eggs and cream pies and a homey atmosphere (the coffeepot-toting servers might just call you “hon”). Look for specialties such as French toast stuffed with marmalade and cream cheese; skillet breakfasts of bacon, home fries, and eggs blanketed in sausage gravy; and buttery blueberry pancakes as big as your face. Named a 2018 Yankee Editors’ Pick for “Best Diner.”

Best of Massachusetts | 2019 Editors' Choice Awards
Best Diner in Massachusetts | Agawam Diner
Photo Credit : Ethomsen / CC BY-SA 3.0

Best Diner in Massachusetts:
Agawam Diner, Rowley

Known for fruit, cream, and angel pies — and also upside-down chicken pies mountain-topped with mashed potatoes — this stainless steel classic built by the Fodero Dining Car Company in 1954 is kept humming by a family whose diner-owning roots run deep in Massachusetts. Bring cash and your biggest appetite: First-rate fried seafood and all-day breakfast favorites such as the homemade hash omelet would tempt you even if the prices weren’t so reasonable. Named a 2019 Yankee Editors’ Pick for “Best Diner.”

Best Diner in New Hampshire:
The Hungry Diner, Walpole

This is no down-and-dirty greasy spoon. The dishes here are literally pasture-to-table, as the meat used in the stellar tacos, hot wings, and burgers is sourced from the Hungry Diner’s sister business, Walpole Family Farms, located a mere five miles down the road. Take your plate outside to a dog-friendly front yard where you can play a round of cornhole or hang at a picnic table, sipping one of more than a dozen craft beers on tap (from of-the-moment breweries such as Kelsen, Banded Brewing, and Springdale) or a maple milkshake. Named a 2019 Yankee Editors’ Pick for “Best Diner.”

This post was first published in 2020 and has been updated. 

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