Late-night diner visits were a staple of my teenage years in New Jersey. Now, many years and many miles away in Rhode Island, my diner experiences are rarer (and usually in the morning).
Coincidentally, the two states are instrumental in the history of diners. Providence was home to what is considered the world’s first diner, an 1872 horse-pulled food wagon. Then, as diner culture exploded in the early twentieth century, most diners were manufactured in New Jersey, helping the state earn its title of the Diner Capital of the World.
The diner history of these two states is present in West Side Diner, a chrome-coated gem on Providence’s Westminster Street. Manufactured in New Jersey in 1947, the diner operated for over 50 years on Atwells Avenue, just a mile from its current location. In 2003, the same year it was listed in the National Register of Historic Places, it was slated for demolition due to the development of Eagle Square. Luckily, a Providence developer came to the rescue, relocating and meticulously restoring it before new owners reopened it as West Side Diner.
The menu has plenty of classic diner fare like Hash and Eggs, as well as some newer selections like the Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough and Oreo Waffle. We sipped our cups of coffee – which in classic diner lingo would be a “pair of drawers” – and found that it was not all that bad for diner coffee. We deliberated sunny side up eggs or benedicts, but didn’t get past the omelette section of the specials menu. I tried the Linguiça and Spinach Omelette, which paired linguiça sausage with baby spinach, tomatoes, and feta. My husband had the Chili and Pico de Gallo omelette, filled with classic bean-and-meat chili and cheddar, and topped with avocado, pico de gallo, and sour cream. The omelettes were delicious, though our sides of home fries and hash browns seemed a bit bland. I didn’t mind leaving some behind to save room for our Stuffed Banana Berry French Toast, made with thick toast and plenty of berries. Our food arrived quickly and the waitstaff was friendly and professional.
This old diner has a secret – walk past the art deco interior, through a side door and past the restrooms, and you’ll find a tasteful back room hung with eclectic local art. The back room can accommodate parties too large for typical diner booths and has a bar that serves classic brunch cocktails as well as seasonal concoctions. In warmer weather, a patio is set up with a few tables for outdoor seating.
The West Side Diner is open daily for breakfast and lunch; I’m surprised nobody has taken advantage of the classic counter or back room for a dinner pop-up. Who knows what may be in store for this 72-year-old beauty?