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Breakfast Places by Barbara van Reed

   The now frequently borrowed saying “all politics is local” can be applied to breakfast places as well. They are local, if anything. They have to do with the regulars that come every morning, and those that stop by again at noon. They have to do with the easy repartee between staff and customer, whether it’s a sunny spring day or a miserably wet winter morning.

 For our review of breakfast restaurants, we visited four of the many wonderful places tucked away in our Valley towns; those we chose serve a full breakfast as well as lunch.

 Our first stop on a Saturday morning was Peg’s Diner in downtown Whitinsville. Four of us just barely fit into one of the two available booths. Space is at a premium in most authentic diners and this 1936 Worcester Diner Car, with its classic black and white mosaic floor, is no exception. Most regulars will sit at the counter where the banter is lively.      

 Our server Debbie, herself a long time regular on the Whitinsville breakfast waitress scene, is quick with the coffee and the wit. And, also with the tea, which, she explains comes in an extra large mug, picked especially for its size by owner Karen, who believes tea should be served in big mugs, not little cups. We ordered omelets (mine a veggie) and eggs, along with homemade baked beans, a house specialty. The beans are made the traditional way in an old ceramic pot.  

 Debbie told us that Peg retired a year ago, and her son-in-law Mike Bronson and wife Karen now own the diner, continuing the grand, if dying, tradition of serving a most affordable breakfast in a classic diner setting.   

 Affordable is an operative word at Peg’s Diner. The single egg price is $1.25, omelets start at $3.30. Two eggs with toast and bacon is $4.75. Coffee and tea are $0.75. Although breakfast is served all day, the diner offers a good selection of sandwiches, starting at $1.75 for grilled cheese, as well as daily specials such as meatloaf, pot roast, and chop suey, starting at $4.95. On Fridays, fish and chips can be had for $6.95.

 Peg’s Diner is at 87 Church Street, Whitinsville, Telephone 508-234-0170. Hours are Tues-Fri: 5:30 to 2:00, Sat: 5:30-12:00, Sun: 6:30-12:00. No credit cards.

 Another Saturday morning we stopped in at the Dynasty Café on Route 122 in South Uxbridge. This location has had several changes in proprietorship in the last few years, and since December has been operated by the family that formerly owned the Wonder Restaurant in North Grafton.

 We spoke with Monty, whose brother and uncle are the new owners, and asked him: “why the name “Dynasty?” They were going to call it the Uxbridge Café, he said, but then his 11-year old nephew suggested “Dynasty,” and so that’s the name it became.

The café has two rooms with booths and tables, and a shiny wooden counter with 7 stools. On this morning, booths and tables appeared to be the preferred seating for a leisurely family breakfast. The brick walls and old Uxbridge town photos give the place a friendly atmosphere.   

 The breakfast menu is extensive, and includes some great sounding possibilities like steak and eggs, Irish eggs Benedict, malted Belgian waffles, and raisin French toast. They were tempting, but we stuck to our omelets and eggs, in order to make a comparison with our other visits. The omelets here didn’t score as high as Peg’s, but the home fries and grilled English muffin got our vote. There’s a kid’s menu that features a Mickey Mouse shaped pancake, with whipped cream ears and sprinkled with M&M’s.

 

Prices here start with one egg with toast and home fries for $2.75, two eggs with bacon, $4.50; omelets are $5.95 and up. Coffee and tea are $1.25. The Mickey Mouse pancake is $4.25. A weekday early bird special is $3.25 for eggs, home fries, toast and coffee.

 

The Dynasty Café has a separate lunch menu with homemade soups, salads, and a variety of sandwiches, burgers and wraps, and a long list of daily specials. Prices range from $2.75 for a grilled cheese sandwich to $7.99 for an open steak sandwich.

 

The Café is at 11 South Main Street in Uxbridge, 508-278-8088. Hours are Mon-Fri: 6:30-2:00, Sat-Sun 7:00-2:00.

 

Our next stop, on a Thursday morning, was Paul’s Center Bakery in downtown Millbury. In the middle of a block of buildings on Elm Street, Paul’s is an unprepossessing, but friendly, place where everyone knows your name. There were lots of regulars there, judging by the local t-shirts, and this might well be the only gathering place in Millbury that’s open at 5 a.m. in the morning.    

 

The restaurant isn’t large, with just 4 tables and 12 stools at the counter, but that leaves room for an extensive display of very tempting baked items, made on the premises. Our waitress Carol was another good example of what makes the personality of a breakfast place, a spark and a sense of fun.

 

We ordered omelets and eggs again, and I judged this veggie omelet to be the winner. The veggies were crispy and still had color. Perfect.  The rest of the breakfast menu is simple, with pancakes and French toast, and the kid’s menu is fun, with a onesie pancake and green eggs and ham. Prices start at $2.50 for two eggs and toast, omelets start at $3.00. The kid’s pancake is $2.00 and green eggs and ham, $1.25. Coffee is $1.24 and tea is $0.84.      

      

 

 

 

 

 

 

For lunch, there is an assortment of sandwiches ($2.89 for grilled cheese, $4.89 for a tuna melt), all made with the Bakery’s homemade bread, as well as chowder and chili, for $3.15.

 

Paul’s Center Bakery is at 75 Elm Street in Millbury, 508-865-0055. Hours are Mon-Fri: 5:00-5:00, Sat-Sun 5:00-1:00. 

 

Before we went to our fourth breakfast place, The Picket Fence in Douglas, we talked with Douglas resident Dave Cellucci, who is a frequent eater there, possibly the most frequent, since he’s there most every morning, and often for lunch as well. He epitomized the local angle: he goes there because it’s close, it’s convenient, it’s a nice place, the food is good, the cook Dan jokes around, and the owner Diane is very personable. It’s fun.

 

We judged for ourselves, and it’s hard to match the energy and verve that owner Diane Dube brings to the place. The Picket Fence thus wins the award for being the most entertaining.

 

Diane tells her story. She lives just over the line in Rhode Island and has a sister in Douglas. Four years ago the old Elmwood Club on Main Street was vacant, and Diane’s sister set up a challenge: “You vowed to set up your own business before age XX, and you’ve got just two months to go.” She then took her to see the empty building. Diane said she peered over a snow bank into the windows, and decided right then and there that she would start her own restaurant business, even though she’d only ever worked in offices; cooking and waitressing were not on her resume.

 

“The old, historic building was erected around 1860 as an office for the once great and world-renowned Douglas Axe Manufacturing Company, which flourished here for over a century from 1798 to 1912.” It became the Elmwood Club around World War I, a place for recreation for the men of the community. There’s much more to the history of the building, and you can read it on the Picket Fence menu, from which these quotes are taken.

 

Inside, the building is special too, with tall windows, high ceiling and fireplace. Diana has decorated the walls with pieces of white picket fence, of course begging the question, why is it called The Picket Fence? It’s the white picket fence of the dream house she never had…and now she has it, because she lives here now, she says figuratively, meaning the restaurant.

 The restaurant has six stools at the counter and 9 booths for groups. The counter is popular with the locals, of course, and the chatter is non-stop. Our neighbor in the next stool tells us how business deals are made here.

 The Picket Fence menu features a standard variety of eggs and omelets, but also includes eggs Benedict and crabby patties, crab cakes topped with poached eggs and hollandaise sauce, and bagel or croissant breakfast sandwiches. For pancake lovers, there are blueberry or chocolate chip pancakes. One egg, with home fries and toast is $2.25. Three-egg omelets start at $4.75. Coffee and tea are $1.25.

The lunch menu is extensive, with salads, homemade soups and chowder, sandwiches, clubs and melts, as well as 5 or 6 daily specials. Our neighbors at the counter offered their favorites: the open faced sandwiches and the French onion soup. Now that it’s almost summer, it’s important to note that the restaurant serves ice cream too.

 The Picket Fence is at 338 Main Street in Douglas, 508-476-7990. Hours are Mon-Fri: 7:00-2:00, Sat-Sun: 7:00-1:00.

 

 

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