The distinctive blue-and-white Maine Diner in Wells, Maine.
Photo Credit : Mike Urban
Please note that many establishments throughout New England have modified their hours and/or operations in response to COVID-19. Always check for the latest information before making travel plans.
When driving along Route 1 in Wells, Maine, keep your eyes peeled for the blue-and-white awnings of the Maine Diner — and be sure to stop in for some of the best comfort food in New England (or anywhere, for that matter).
In Praise of the Maine Diner
Brothers Myles and Dick Henry bought the Maine Diner and its half-acre garden plot in early 1983 from Socrates “Louie” Toton, who used to own another diner in Boston. The Henrys’ first customer crashed into a pole next to their parking lot in the predawn hours, then stopped in to sober up with some breakfast and hot coffee. After that inauspicious beginning, business steadily picked up. In the intervening years, the Maine Diner has served more than seven million customers.
Step through the front door, and you find yourself in a large fluorescent-lit room with a long counter and numerous tables and booths in the L-shaped dining area. The walls are covered with historical photos and accolades from celebrities around the country. There’s often a wait for a table or counter seat, especially in summertime, but things move quickly, as the diner’s kitchen and serving staffs have decades of experience.
There are several dishes not to be missed at this hallowed eatery. For breakfast, try the Myles Henry Downeast Benedict: two cod cakes topped with poached eggs and hollandaise sauce, accompanied by home fries and an English muffin. Or go for the El Tiante (a dish favored by and named for the famed Red Sox pitcher Luis Tiant): two poached eggs atop corned beef hash with toast and a fruit cup on the side.
There’s plenty to enjoy in the way of seafood, too. Start with the seafood chowder, another Myles Henry creation that has won numerous awards over the years. The diner’s lobster pie, invented by one of the Henrys’ grandmothers, calls for generous chunks of lobster topped with cracker crumbs, butter, and lemon, then baked in serving-size casserole dishes. The hot and cold lobster rolls are top-notch (and available in winter!), as are the sweet, crunchy fried clams and clam strips.
Then there are the nightly specials of New England diner stalwarts: meatloaf (Mondays), shepherd’s pie (Tuesdays), beef stew (Wednesdays), New England boiled dinner (Thursdays), seafood casserole and fresh salmon pie (Fridays), Yankee pot roast and red flannel hash (Saturdays), and roast pork dinner (Sundays).
For dessert, standouts include Maine blueberry pie (try it with a scoop of Maine blueberry ice cream); creamy Indian pudding topped with vanilla ice cream; and the grape-nut custard pudding, which comes with a dollop of whipped cream on top.
The diner’s half-acre garden offers plenty of fresh seasonal produce (broccoli, green peppers, tomatoes, eggplant, etc.) for use in many of the diner’s dishes. Back when Louis Toton was owner, he actually closed the diner in the summertime to work in the garden, but that’s one tradition the Henrys decided to skip.
The Henry family recently sold the diner to Jim MacNeill, who has been its general manager for some 20 years. The future of the Maine Diner is in good hands, so be sure to stop by and enjoy a little slice of diner heaven when you’re in southern Maine.
Have you ever visited the Maine Diner in Wells, Maine? What’s your favorite Maine diner dish? Let us know in the comments below!