Monday, March 21, 2011

The Liver & Onions Diaries

inside the diner
Maine's Diners, Drive ins and Dives or, how we found bliss in comfort food.

In the past 6 years we have sampled many of the local diners along the Rt 1 corridor. Rock is a diner aficionado. And, his favorite food is liver and onions. Liver and onions is a basic diner food, at least around here. Because I suffered thru liver & onions as a kid (sorry, Mom, you know I hated it then and I still hate it now!) it's not something we ever have at home. Thus, the great diner eat-out experiment.

My diner food is a BLT. It's basic and it covers all of my favorite food groups- namely salt and fat. Oh, sure, there's the tomato. And the lettuce. And the bread. But, face it, it's all about the bacon. Salt & fat.

On Monday we went to the Brunswick Diner, Tuesday it was the Miss Portland Diner and Wednesday was the Miss Wiscasset Diner. We've already sampled Becky's Diner, Moody's Diner, the Ship's Chow Hall and the Maine Diner.

Here, then, is our run down of the latest diners and how they handled both liver and onions and the BLT:

(I'll start with the liver & onions because it was the hardest meal to find on the menu.) For overall looks, taste and heartiness the Brunswick Diner wins hands down. Their liver & onions serving was topped with bacon, slathered with sauted onions and filled half the plate.

The best BLT? Well, I was really partial to Becky's Diner. And then we went to the Brunswick Diner. They have nice, wide strips of bacon, cooked just right. Not too crispy, not too soggy. Good bread, too. A little too much mayo. Uh oh, then we went to the Miss Portland Diner. Great bread, bacon cooked just right and a touch of mayo.

Now I'm having to start to take notes! The Miss Wiscasset Diner was a letdown. I ordered a grilled cheese w/ bacon & tomato. Half the sandwich had no bacon. Well, what's the sense? It was grilled just right, tho. But, sorry, if half the sandwich is missing the bacon, it just doesn't cut it. No liver & onions on the menu. Maybe they have it as a special.


Best liver & onions: the Brunswick Diner
Best BLT: a tie among the Brunswick Diner, Miss Portland Diner, Kopper Kettle and China Dine-ah
Best onion rings: the Brunswick Diner
Best sweet potato fries: Miss Portland Diner
Best looking diner: Miss Portland Diner
Best ambiance/friendliness: Ship's Chow Hall (Wiscasset)
Best looking desserts: Moody's Diner
Best value: Miss Portland (our check each day was $20 without tip, but Miss Portland included a salad and rolls with the liver & onions)
Best tater tots: Montsweag Roadhouse
Most precariously perched diner: A1 Diner in Gardiner
Diner with the best name: China Dine-ah
Best bacon: Kopper Kettle 
Keep reading for more travels...

On the road in 2012

Last night we went to Reunion Station in Damariscotta (just off Rt 1, on the left, headed north, so it counts!) This is a couple of converted railway cars, but it definitely fits the 'diner' category. We were probably the only non-Mainers in there. For those who think the Maine accent is gone, think again!

I didn't have the BLT and there were no liver & onions on the menu, so we just picked at random. It's good, homestyle cooking with a lot of train memorabilia all over.

If you don't want to drive that far, don't forget that the Montsweag Roadhouse is about 30 minutes north of here on Rt 1. Only place in Maine we've found tater tots on the menu!

And yet another one- Sunrise Cafe, right here in Freeport! Excellent BLT. Rock loved the meatloaf sandwich. Suggest skipping the onion rings.

liver and onionsLiver and onions at the A1 Diner in Gardiner. (Ignore the half-eaten pickle please, Rock dropped it as I snapped the pic!)

Happy Spring! Today we went to the A1 Diner in Gardiner. Rock got his usual liver & onions and I went with the BLT and onion rings. Rock thinks adding a couple of slices of bacon to the liver & onions would have made it perfect. I loved my BLT. Bacon in every bite! The onion rings were good and there was a mess of them! If you're headed toward I-95 on I-295 from here, it's worth the 10 minute detour!

A1 Diner in GardinerYes, it appears to be balanced on stilts between the building in the back and the sidewalk. Check out the 'flood yardstick' that was posted in the parking lot 'dowstairs' next to the building and you can see why!

flood marker in Gardiner
That 29', 100-year flood mark was about even with the bottom of the diner. Stilts indeed!

On the road in 2013:

We hit a truck stop in Bangor- Dysart's. Exit 180 off I 95, follow the sign, .1 miles. Great service & food. Definitely a locals' place, the waitresses knew almost everyone. Had our usual liver & onions and BLT. Good choices all around. No room for pie, but desserts were definitely going to all the tables around us. Maybe next time!
dysarts coffee mug
Dysarts Truck Stop

Not a diner but a food cart in Westbrook after getting the Christmas tree...Open until 2 AM! Burgers, fries, hot dogs and clam cakes!

don's lunch wagon westbrook
Don's Lunch Wagon in Westbrook

On the road again in 2014!

So far this year we've hit the Kopper Kettle in Topsham and the China Dine-ah in China.

Kopper Kettle has excellent bacon! Good and thick and the bread was toasted to perfection for my BLT. No liver & onions on the menu that day but Rock had a burger that was yum as well.

Then a day trip to China and Waterville. (More on that later!) Stopped at the China Dine-ah where we did have liver & onions and a BLT.

Excellent service all around, really friendly crowd and the interior was completely done in place specifically for that location. Great wide pine boards everywhere.

Very good onion rings! The BLT was yum and goes right up to the top of the list (see above). The liver & onions only needed bacon strips on top to make it perfect.

Great drive in the fall!

China Dine-ah sign
Interesting use of your standard glacial rock in the yard.

strawberry rhubarb pie at china dine-ah
Oh, did I forget to mention the pie?

White Cedar Inn Bed and Breakfast 178 Main St Freeport, Maine 04032

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hey...Monica and Rock. Thanks for the info on L&O. It is one of my favorite meals, also - and hard to find. My only problem is substituting L&O for lobster. Half of it is an "O" word...but when in must eat lobster! Nev would be the one eating the BLT in our family!

Carol (& Nev)