Sunday, January 3, 2010

Let's Beat 'em With Breakfast

I grew up with diners. I've been going to them since as a baby, a waitress would hold me so my parents would have a chance to eat. But my near-obsession with diners didn't take hold until I moved away from the New York City metro area and came to New England.

And this post should come as no surprise to those who know me, even just a little.

Diners are a New England export, but they have decreased in numbers and reduced their hours here, while New York and New Jersey took them to the next level. Even the idea of running one around the clock for shift workers and other late night hangers-on came from New England. And now my quiet hometown in New Jersey has several twenty-four hour diners with expansive menus and not a single issue or complaint from neighbors - and they have New England to thank for it! They're a vital part of the fabric of the community there, just as they once were up here. (And they are also safe places for young people to go at any hour with little money and still get something to eat).

The first proper diner was said to be in Providence, and its descendant, The Haven Bros. wagon, can still be found parked on the street there all night. But the industry really exploded in places like Worcester and later, New Jersey. I'll spare you a detailed history, but I would like to make sure we all understand what a diner is and where they came from. This is the brief and informative Wiki.

Now that we're on the same page, let me tell you about breakfast today. We had it at two o'clock in the afternoon, but it wasn't brunch. Brunch is fancy. Brunch is served in cafes, bistros and restaurants that normally do not have breakfast on a weekday. Sometimes brunch is advertised to have live jazz that turns out to be lukewarm covers of dreadful adult contemporary hits (ahem - Red Rock). But we had a proper breakfast. There was only one problem, however. We had to have it in Salem.

As a fan of going out for breakfast on Saturdays and Sundays, I've roamed around Lynn and sampled almost all of them. We're lucky to have so many weekend morning breakfast options and I can honestly say I like most of these places. I just have an issue with most of them closing at one in the afternoon.

Sure. It's easy to tell me to just get my lazy ass up earlier. Often, I do. I'm also not a business owner. I'm just a hungry and opinionated patron. But hear me out on this one.

The Salem Diner was only open until 2pm, and we barely squeezed in. It was full of young people, eating breakfast at a time when it's proper for young people to do so. As we were ordering, more large groups of young people were turned away. Eureka! Let's keep breakfast going longer in Lynn! These kids were arriving by car anyway, and if I know teens and twenty-somethings, they'll take no issue with driving a mile or two longer to get breakfast.

Teens are loyal customers and carriers of enormous appetites. I think we're literally turning away from good honest cash by closing down at one in the afternoon Saturdays and Sundays. Advertising would almost take care of itself, as word would spread quickly through texts, Facebook, etc.

Lynn establishments should also pay attention to twenty-thirty-something childless adults, who are also big fans of a late weekend breakfast. That's the group likely to revitalize this city and we may as well start to cater to them with something wholesome. In other neighborhoods with this demographic, such as the diverse Jamaica Plain in Boston, or Somerville, there are many options at least until three in the afternoon (and with better music.)

Plus, I finally have an excuse to ask, why should Salem be the only place to benefit from Salem State, anyway? We're just down the road a bit! College students want, and need breakfast anytime, and they do not want it from an awful and rude Route 1 iHOP or the dirty one on Highland Avenue. Those chains are truly places of last resort or for those who haven't discovered alternatives. We all know Lynn's breakfast places are better than the chains. They're just not open as often, or as late.

But I have to admit, the Salem Diner was friendly and the food was good. Furthermore, they had gluten free bread!! As one of the unfortunate gluten-intolerant, it was a very pleasant surprise. It's also another example of how we're letting other places beat us. We can't afford to lag behind here any longer, so let's beat 'em with breakfast. Okay?

Artist: Tom Waits
Song: Eggs and Sausage


  1. The Lynnway would be a perfect place!

    Reds in Salem is good. Mildreds?. There are a few places on the beach in Swampscott too.

    iHOP(used to be in vinnin sq) is a place I cannot step foot in as well...

    Stacey -blog

  2. As far as I know Sam's Grille serves breakfast all day on Saturday, and til 1 or 2pm on Sunday. The owner is a great lady and the staff is really nice. For coffee drinkers, the coffee is good, just not a dark roast. But there are refills. I think the food is good here. I'd describe it as good, diner food. Check them out!!

  3. we are too spoiled in New England with the best foods.

  4. I would love to see some of Lynn's breakfast establishments open later and have no issue with that point.

    At the same time, it's unreasonable to assume that our restaurants are able to stay open beyond current hours and continue to remain financially viable.

    If there were a clear financial opportunity for extending operating hours, restaurant owners would do it. Short of that (and I highly doubt that a breakfast joint will entice late-rising, hungover college students to make the 10-15 minute trip into Lynn), I doubt we'll see much change on this front.

    Not trying to sound overly negative here, but examine the premise: It's very difficult to operate a profitable restaurant. Restaurant owners are not in the business of closing the door on solid business potential, so the reasonable conclusion (and one the owners seem to have made) is that there simply isn't enough revenue potential to justify the additional operating costs of extended hours.

  5. Anon,

    Of course it would have to be a financially sound move to stay open later. We're also not talking about anything that requires permits or zoning. It's purely up to the business owner. I just happen to have a customer's opinion on it.

    When I go out for breakfast past 1am on a weekend, it's not because I'm hungover (not that I've never been, but I'm usually not). The same goes for a lot of people who might be in the mood for an afternoon omelette. Either way, I'm not the only one.

    What's happening is many are going to Route 1 or Salem, were places do serve breakfast later, instead of spending their breakfast dollars in Lynn.

    As I said, I saw tons of people turned away at 2pm at the Salem Diner. I wish I could have told them about a place in Lynn that was open. And I do know now, that Christopher's is open until 3pm on Saturdays, and Tatiana's has a brunch menu until 3pm.

    Furthermore, I lived in Jamaica Plain for nine years, where it's possible to have brunch at a much later time, and some of these places have lines going down the stret. Before JP, I grew up where it's possible to have anything you want on a 24/7 basis. I'm obviously biased, and admittedly spoiled when it comes to these conveniences.

    I just think there's money to be made, and if I had a breakfast joint, I'd make sure word got out that I was open an hour or two later than everyone else.


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