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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
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
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
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
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.