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