On a hill above the western bank of the Connecticut River, down past the charming brick and brownstone buildings of Middletown’s historic Main Street, sits an incongruous shiny silver-and-glass building, with an old-fashioned neon sign overhead proclaiming “O’Rourke’s Diner.”
This eatery has been a town institution since 1941, when John J. O’Rourke purchased the building. During the 1960s, John’s nephew Brian joined the fold, learning to grill eggs by his uncle’s side. In 1977, he took over. When a terrible fire devastated the place in 2006, it was through the support of the community that Brian was able to reopen six months later. Diners here feel this sense of community. “There are no ‘servers’ here,” Brian says, “only family.”
Although the O’Rourke’s menu boasts respectable versions of eggs, toast (all bread is homemade), and pancakes, Brian also turns out unexpected treats such as “Eggs Oscar”–a twist on eggs Benedict, with Swiss cheese, asparagus, Hollandaise, poached shrimp, and fingerling potatoes–as well as 28 different omelet options.
Our favorite creation, though, is his why-didn’t-we-think-of-that “Irish Soda Bread French Toast.” This firm, crusty bread with plump raisins and toasted caraway seeds is a perfect foundation for rich custard. Brian serves it with homemade jams and clotted cream, but it’s equally delicious with warm butter and syrup.