The place doesn’t have to be filled with formica and chrome, but it sure doesn’t hurt. It definitely ought to have regulars who hold down the same stools week after week. Then menu can be budget-friendly and crowd-pleasing, but we’re not opposed to diners that have skewed a little frilly. Maine’s small towns and tourism culture make the state a cradle for the quintessentially American diner. Here are five spots where we’re always eager to slide into a booth.
The bright-red rail-car–style diner has been in the same spot in Brunswick for 77 years, but its history starts 40 miles away, in Norway, where it was built by a local carpenter. Inside, retro vibes still prevail — play some Jerry Lee Lewis or Chuck Berry on the jukebox to go with buttermilk biscuits doused in sausage gravy. 101 Pleasant St., Brunswick. 207-721-1134.
The fact that Eastport’s WaCo Diner is the oldest in Maine is made all the more incredible by how it weathered the economic headwinds that have buffeted the little city way down east. Eastport isn’t the bustling cannery town it once was, but the WaCo is every bit the vital local gathering place it’s been for 99 years. 47 Water St., Eastport. 207-853-9226.
A chrome-y 1946 Worcester dining car, it sure looks the part of a classic, but the menu nowadays leans into creative, international-inflected street foods: carnitas tacos, falafel sandwiches, kimchi-topped burgers. Proof that things can change and stay the same. 3 Bridge St., Gardiner. 207-582-4804.
Among the draws at the Brunswick Diner: bottomless coffee and perfectly golden home fries, seasoned with secret-recipe “diner dust.”
A relative spring chicken, Becky’s has only been around since 1991. But its perch on both the working waterfront and the periphery of the Old Port quickly made it a favorite of everyone from fishermen in need of a quick 5 a.m. breakfast to visitors who saw the place on Guy Fieri’s show and want to take their time tucking into a triple stack of blueberry pancakes. 390 Commercial St., Portland. 207-773-7070.
Get all of our latest stories delivered straight to your mailbox every month. Subscribe to Down East magazine.