VT Diner Tour: Chelsea Royal Diner

Chelsea Royal Diner

Chelsea Royal Diner, West Brattleboro, VT

The Chelsea Royal Diner is an opportunity to see well-preserved elements of a vintage 1938 Worcester Diner, with a vaulted “barrel” ceiling, black and white mosaic tiled floor, and marks on the floor where the stools were once bolted in place. It still has the original windows and double front doors, as well as the original coolers back in the corner. Booths now sit along the outside walls as well as in the space where the counter and cooking area once were, beneath the metal framework of the original vent system.

Chelsea Royal inside

The diner has been expanded with the addition of a building behind it, which is where one enters and where all the food prep occurs. The “Royal Farm” is visible behind that building, including chickens, gardens, an ice cream stand, and picnic tables. The original counter is in the newer building, which also has booths and tables and the restrooms. Everything looked clean and sharp and well taken care of.

We were seated by a hostess and immediately taken care of by a friendly waitress wearing a Chelsea Royal Diner t-shirt that said “Good Food Served Fast” across the back. Plenty of staff were on hand to keep things clean and moving right along. The menu was extensive, and they had many specials. Breakfast all day featured their own farm-fresh eggs, and they also spotlighted veggies from their farm, as well as local produce from neighboring farms. They serve all grass-fed beef, and when Don ordered his burger well-done, the waitress’s reaction was a horrified “No, no, no, you don’t want to do that with grass-fed beef!” At her suggestion, he went with medium-well. Their logo, it turns out, was remarkably true; the food came incredibly fast.

BLT: Unfortunately, my BLT was a disappointment. The toast was dry and thin, made with store-bought bread that was slightly burnt. The bacon was good, the tomato standard, and the lettuce okay. It seemed thin on mayonnaise. Three slices of a fat sour pickle and a generous heap of ripple chips accompanied it. On a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being excellent and 5 being average, I gave it (5).

Burger: Don’s burger was cooked just right and was juicy and flavorful, the grass-fed beef a notably positive change from the commercially processed burgers served elsewhere. It came with tomato, onion, lettuce, and pickle slices, and he substituted fries for the chips, for $2 extra. He gave the burger (9) and said it would have been a 10 except that the tomato and onion each had a hard core that made them unappealing.

French Fries: The handcut fries were excellent and worth the extra charge. (10)

Dessert: Once again, dessert was an adventure! (See our Bob’s Diner review.) Don ordered Indian Pudding, something we both love, but when it came, we agreed that it was inexplicably sour and inedible. The waitress apologized and took it away, and Don ordered the Maple Walnut pie. It was the opposite extreme—a sweet and gooey Vermont version of a southern pecan pie—and Don loved it. He gave it (8). Apparently the crust could have been better, but the filling was great.

BLT: $5.50, included chips and three large pickle slices
Burger: $6.99, grass-fed Angus beef, plus lettuce, tomato, raw onions, pickle slices, and chips
French fries: $2.00 extra, upgrade from chips
Pie: $3.50
Root beers: $2.25 ea., 20 oz. refilled

Total bill before taxes and gratuity: $22.49 

Chelsea Royal Diner does not accept credit cards or out-of-state checks.

Restrooms: The restrooms were fun. Designated as “Royal Kings” or “Royal Queens,” each was a large single-person room with a colorfully painted mural that included a full-size king or queen, as appropriate. They were clean and bright and well-maintained. My only complaint was that, for a restaurant with their capacity, a single-person bathroom resulted in a waiting line outside the door. (9)

Service: Friendly and fast. (10)

Overall experience: 8.5

Contact Information
Chelsea Royal Diner
487 Marlboro Rd.
West Brattleboro, Vermont 05301






VT Diner Tour: Bob’s Diner


Bob’s Diner, Manchester Center, VT

Bob’s Diner is on VT Route 11, in a rural area outside of Manchester. A sign at the road makes it easy to spot, and it is surrounded by an ample parking lot. The outside has an Art Deco look to it, with black and white check panels and silver trim. Inside, it had the standard counter plus tables and chairs and a jukebox. Some of the photos on the walls were cockeyed, and the interior seemed tired overall.

We were greeted and seated by a friendly waitress who was also doing her own busing while handling several tables, and at least one table remained uncleared for quite a while. They seemed understaffed for the number of tables plus counter, but we were there on a Thursday, and it’s possible the volume of business took them by surprise.

Our food took a while to arrive, and our waitress apologized, explaining that they had to call in Bob, the owner, to help at the grill.

BLT: My BLT was very good. The toasted whole wheat bread had a homemade quality to it, nice and thick. The bacon was generous and cooked just right, and it was accompanied by fresh Romaine lettuce, generous mayo, and slices of the usual off-season tomato. On a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being excellent and 5 being average, I gave it (8).

Burger: Don’s burger was the usual chewy compressed ground beef purchased in patty form, cooked well-done as he requested. The golden, slightly crusty roll was better than average, and it came with lettuce, tomato, and raw onions, with relish, ketchup, and mustard on the side. He gave it (7).

French Fries: Don’s burger included French fries which were very tasty and nicely cooked. (8)

Dessert: Dessert turned into an adventure when the waitress announced that they had a new baker, and they would be interested in feedback. Unfortunately, Don’s coconut cream pie was exceptionally dry, with more emphasis on the coconut than on the cream, and he did not finish it. The waitress did not seem surprised and kindly marked it as no charge.

BLT: $5.95, included chips and two pickle slices
Burger: $5.95, included lettuce, tomato, raw onions, condiments, and French fries
Pie: N/C
Root beer: $1.75
Coffee: $1.75

Total bill before taxes and gratuity: $15.40

Restrooms: Unisex, large, well-lit, and clean. Nothing fancy, but well-maintained. (10)

Service: Understaffed but cheerful and friendly. (8)

Overall experience: 8

Contact Information
Bob’s Diner
2279 Depot St.
Manchester Center, VT 05255

VT Diner Tour: Miss Lyndonville Diner

Miss Lyndonville diner

Miss Lyndonville Diner, Lyndonville, VT

The Miss Lyndonville is easy to find as it sits on Route 5 in Lyndonville in a business district. The original diner has been surrounded by frame-built construction so that from the outside, it looks like any restaurant. Inside, it is very clean, bright, and well-maintained, with a large number of booths and tables, and one can sit in the original diner. Artwork by local artists adorns the walls, and everything about it is bright and cheery.

Miss Lyndonville counter

We seated ourselves and were immediately greeted by a friendly waitress. We ordered our usual BLT on toasted whole wheat for me and a well-done burger for Don. Neither came with chips or fries included, so we added an order of onion rings that the waitress assured us would serve two. The place was well-staffed with people busing tables and filling salt shakers.

The food was served in a reasonable amount of time, and the surroundings were so pleasant, the wait was no problem. The food itself, however, was somewhat disappointing.

BLT: The BLT was made with dry, crumbly, over-toasted (read burnt) bread that literally fell apart, leaving me to grip the lettuce, tomato, and bacon without the benefit of bread in several places. The bacon was generous and tasty; the tomato was okay for an off-season tomato. Lettuce was unremarkable. Mayo okay. On a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being excellent and 5 being average, I gave it a (4).

Burger: Came medium, not well-done. Was the usual chewy compressed ground beef purchased in patty form. Bun average. Tomato, lettuce, etc. okay. (7)

Onion rings: Commercial frozen, no-taste onion rings with uniformly gritty cornmeal coating. Nicely deep-fried; not greasy. (5)

Dessert: Maple Cream Pie (7)

BLT: $4.49, included one minor pickle slice
Burger: $4.99, one minor pickle slice
Onion rings: $3.29
Pie: $3.79
Root beers: $1.99 ea.

Total bill before taxes and gratuity: $20.54

Restrooms: men/women separate; sunny, large, and clean; multiple stalls; interesting pictures of traditional railroad-style diners on the walls; well-maintained; fresh and very nice. (10)

Service: excellent; quick; friendly. Well-staffed. (10)

Overall experience: 7

Parting thoughts: the inclusion of chips would have raised the rating, but probably also the prices. Very clean and nice atmosphere; extensive menu. Other food choices might fare better. Give it a try if you’re in the St. Johnsbury/Lyndonville area.

Contact Information
Miss Lyndonville Diner
686 Broad St.
Lyndonville, VT 05851


In Search of the Old-Time Diner

Miss Lyndonville menuMy husband and I love old-fashioned diners — as in places to eat, not those who do the eating — and this summer, we have set out to visit one per week here in Vermont.

An old-fashioned American diner is not just another restaurant. A true diner has very specific characteristics, including a distinct structure, a wide range of “American” foods, a casual atmosphere, and low to moderate prices. Servers are usually friendly and equally at home with the lone coffee-drinker, the boisterous family, or a group of leather-clad bikers. These independently owned establishments are most common in the Northeast, Pennsylvania and Delaware, and parts of the Midwest. Vermont has several scattered across the state.

Although that cute little diner may look like a retired railroad car, it most likely never rode the rails. Authentic diners are pre-fabricated buildings, often resembling railroad cars, built specifically to be stationary eating places. Sterling Streamliner diners, manufactured from 1939 to 1942, were inspired by the sleekness of streamlined trains of that era and even include stainless steel panels on the exterior. Others, such as the classic Worcester diners out of Worcester, Massachusetts, sport porcelain enamel exteriors, often with the diner’s name written across the front.

The traditional diner floorplan was a service counter with floor-mounted stools facing a food prep area along the back wall. Larger models added booths or tables against the front wall and at the ends. Many had tile floors and a curved “barrel vault” roofline both inside and out. Over time, some expanded through the addition of framed construction or more pre-fab modules, and sometimes the original little diner disappeared within a larger building but is still identifiable once you’re inside.

For comparison purposes, my husband, Don, and I have taken to ordering the same thing in each diner. I get a BLT on toasted whole wheat bread, and he gets a burger. We usually drink root beer, and if his burger doesn’t come with fries, we either order them or we order onion rings. He’s a dessert person; I’m not. We rate our meals, and we check out each place for quality of service and cleanliness, including the restrooms. We’ll let you know what our meals cost before taxes and tip.

And so, we invite you to check in now and then if you’re interested. We’ll give you the low-down as we see it. Our goal is to roam the whole state eventually, but who knows what else might come up to change it all? Anyway, that’s our plan and, for now, we’re sticking to it.

The Miss Lyndonville Diner, Lyndonville, VT

Bob’s Diner, Manchester Center, VT

Chelsea Royal Diner, West Brattleboro, VT

Windsor Diner, Windsor, VT

Birdseye Diner, Castleton, VT

Miss Bellows Falls, Bellows Falls, VT

CJ’s Diner, Quechee, VT

Springfield Royal Diner, Springfield, VT

Blue Benn, Bennington, VT

Country Girl, Chester, VT

Parkway Diner, South Burlington, VT