Any time you’re looking for local flavor, head to the local diner. That’s just as true here in Maine as it is anywhere else. But there’s just something about Maine diners that’s a little more … everything. Many of them are still slinging pancakes in vintage prefabricated ‘dining car’ structures that flourished throughout New England in the 1930s and 1940s but grow rarer each decade. The menus feature the usual staples like coffee, burgers, a slice of pie (all made with fresh, local ingredients, of course) along with added coastal tastes like haddock Reubens and lobster rolls. You’ll find well-loved diners all over the state, but here are a few of the most famous:
Moody’s Diner, Waldoboro
This iconic DownEast diner on Route 1 has been family owned since 1927.
The Menu: Can’t go wrong with the seafood rolls (choose from fried shrimp, fried clam or crabmeat), but save room for dessert. Moody’s serves eleven different flavors of homemade pie, along with homemade donuts and Whoopie Pies.
The Regulars: Locals and tourists alike get treated like family here.
A1 Diner, Gardiner
This retro lunch car has a menu that’s anything but old-fashioned. Its current owners have added in some international flavor and upscale flair to traditional diner fare.
The Menu: Order the daily special.
The Regulars: Attracts in-the-know locals from Augusta and beyond, so get there early.
Palace Diner, Biddeford
With only 14 stools at the counter and a spot on Bon Appetit’s 2014 Best New Restaurants list, Palace Diner may be one of the hottest spots on the southern coast.
The Menu: Buttermilk flapjacks for breakfast, a tuna melt for lunch.
The Regulars: Hearty, homegrown dishes attract both the hip crowds and hungry mill workers.
Miss Portland Diner, Portland
Mainers appreciate quality ingredients, good service and reasonable prices, and so that’s what Miss Portland offers. Everything served up in this 1949 Worcester Lunch Car is made from scratch using locally-sourced ingredients.
The Menu: All-day breakfast. Make sure to try the hash or a haddock Reuben.
The Regulars: You’ll find a real cross-section of the Portland scene served up here – everyone from students to CEOs.
Maine Diner, Wells
When the Maine diner opened in 1983, the locals knew they had a good thing on their plate. The fresh food (produce grown in the garden out back) served here continues to attract summer crowds from Maine’s beaches.
The Menu: Lobster pie, seafood chowder and Grapenut custard.
The Regulars: Locals love it year round, despite the influx of summer tourists.
Becky’s Diner, Portland
This local institution made its name serving breakfast to the fishermen and dockworkers of Portland Harbor every morning before the sun rose. The rest of Portland soon followed for lunch and dinner.
The Menu: The lobster omelette and fish chowder are top notch, and you can get a roast turkey dinner any day of the year.
The Regulars: Depending on the time of day, fishermen, tourists or just locals hanging out.
Brunswick Diner, Brunswick
Generations of vacationers have been welcomed to MidCoast by this bright-red landmark on Route 1. A small place serving big portions, it’s open 24 hours on weekends to accommodate travelers heading to points north.
The Menu: They serve breakfast all day, but the lobster rolls are legendary.
The Regulars: A mix of weekend travelers, Bowdoin College students and MidCoast locals.
Dysart’s, Bangor and Hermon
These diners - in Bangor and just outside the city - serves comfort food at its best.
The Menu: French toast made with homemade bread, blueberry pancakes, milkshakes and poutine featuring Maine-grown home fries.
The Regulars: Truckers, campers and northern Maine folk.