Middleborough diner evokes bygone era
390 West Grove St., Middleborough
Open daily 5:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.; Friday and Saturday until 9 p.m.
Breakfast served Monday through Saturday until 11:15 a.m.; Sunday until 1 p.m.
Accessible to the handicapped
Eating at Dave's Diner in Middleborough is like traveling back to the 1950s, a simpler time when places like the local diner provided people with good and filling food at prices families could afford.
The décor evokes the bebop era, with its gleaming red-and-gold vinyl booths and a bold, black-and-white checkerboard floor. A jukebox sits in the entryway, playing '50s favorites.
And what would a diner be without a lunch counter? Dave's has a spacious counter where stools are just the ticket for single patrons or those who don't want to wait for a table.
We set out for Dave's Diner one recent Thursday well prepared, having already selected what we would sample for appetizers, main courses, and desserts, from a menu downloaded from the diner's website.
We started with the "Daddy O's" ($6), a large basket of onion rings with Thousand Island dressing for dipping. The rings were crisp and the combination with the dressing worked well. We also ordered the "Mambo Combo" ($9) - chicken tenders, quesadillas, and mozzarella sticks. Fried chicken is one of Dave's specialties and the boneless tenders made it easy to see why. The chicken was tender and flavorful, and the batter light. The bacon and cheddar quesadilla featured crispy pieces of bacon with melted sharp cheese. It was not heavily spiced, which was fine with us.
The "Blue Moon" specials that night offered an eggplant and hamburger lasagna - an unusual choice to see at a diner. It came with garlic bread, dessert, and beverage for $8. The sauce in the large square of steaming lasagna was sweet, and the eggplant well cooked. The dish rivaled the one served at our favorite Italian restaurant.
Our British guest agreed to order the fish and chips ($12), since we figured he was the expert on seafood. The haddock, although not fancy in its presentation, was just the way he liked it: moist beneath its crisp exterior, and with the malt vinegar he prefers as a condiment. He consumed the entire portion - and portions are large. He also finished off a tall root beer float ($3.79) in the process. The diner's root beer is from Maine and contains all natural ingredients, says manager Jack Spinetto.
The hamburger plate ($8), with gravy on the side, was not a typical choice for me but certainly typical diner fare. It came with real mashed potatoes and "peas and pearls." The burger was a cooked a little more than the "medium" specified, but it still retained good flavor.
Our final guest ordered the "Hot Tweety" sandwich - fried chicken ($7) served with lettuce, tomato, and honey mustard on a wrap, bread, or roll, and accompanied by fries. The chicken proved to be tender and moist, making the sandwich a good choice.
While it was hard to imagine consuming a dessert (about $4 each), we each ordered one from the extensive array in the display case. The apple crisp, a pie brimming with blueberries, and carrot cake were so good we each somehow finished them off. The only complaint was that the white cake with chocolate frosting was a little dry.
The diner is popular at all hours, so expect a wait, but the line moves quickly. Those waiting can pass the time by checking out the '50s memorabilia hanging everywhere or studying the dessert display.
All in all, Dave's Diner offers good food and good company. The atmosphere is down-home and friendly, the wait staff keeps the food coming, and servers are unfailingly smiling and helpful. Young children are welcome at Dave's, with the menu being far more kid-friendly than at most restaurants.
Spinetto, a managing partner with local businessman Dave Fisher, is always visible, keeping Dave's operating smoothly.
According to Spinetto, the diner is doing well even in the economic downturn. "We have a lot of regulars here, and a couple people come in three times a day," Spinetto said.
While Dave's is holding its own, other restaurants in Middleborough are not. "Four restaurants closed during the last six months in town," Spinetto said. "You don't like to see that happen. Everybody in this business puts their heart and soul into it."