Forward to next post: Open thread 73
So there you are, traveling around New Hampshire (and circa), and you want to eat something that isn’t Burger King. Whacha gonna do?
I present: Two diners and two truckstops, beloved of the local ambulance crews coming back from long transfers.
The Fort @ 18 is the only 24/hour 7/day location on my little list. This is just off I-89 (Exit 18) in Lebanon, NH: go north on 120 to Heater Road (it’s on the right, just past Evans Road (where Lebanon High School is located). The truckstop is behind the Getty station. It isn’t obvious from the road. Breakfast all day. (The skillet breakfast, which is eggs, potatoes, and meat mixed together, is pretty good.) The dining room is in the back; you have to walk through the convenience store to get there.
There’s a U-shaped central island with stools around it, and some booths against the wall. A corkboard with folks’ snapshots. They’ll probably sell souvenir coffee mugs and tee shirts. (Most of the rest of these places do, they probably do too.) The interior walls are an amazing shade of yellow. I suppose it’s cheerful. (When I go there “cheer” isn’t high on my list of things I’m looking for, but “coffee” is.) More working class, lots fewer tourists than any of the other spots on this list, too. When you’re heading north on 120 If you get to Dartmouth/Hitchcock Hospital, you’ve gone too far.
Downstate, at Exit 20 off I-93, you find The Tilt’n Diner, which has a sort-of Fifties Music theme to it.
Diner HistoryThe Tilt’n Diner is the only one on this list with a liquor license. They boast a full bar. The cherry Coke here is cherry syrup and Coke, the vanilla Coke is vanilla syrup and Coke. The Tilt’n Diner buys and sells old magazines; if you have old magazines for sale the number is 603 536 1922.
We opened the Tilt’n Diner in June of 1992 but our authentic diner was built way back in 1953 by the O’Mahoney Diner Company.
The Diner’s early days (1953-1971) were spent in Waltham, MA, where she was known as the “Monarch Diner.”
In 1972 she was moved to Salisbury, MA, and became “Linda’s Jackpot Diner.” Linda’s Diner had closed when Alex Ray bought her in 1988.
The rest as they say, is HISTORY.
Get off at Exit 18; go east on Rt. 3 (that is, take US 3 North). (From the northbound exit you can see the diner (a silver car with a Pepto-Bismol Pink building attached behind it) from the stoplight at the end of the ramp. From the southbound exit you have to turn left and take the bridge over the highway to get there.)
If you go the wrong way on Rt. 3 you get to Tilton, New Hampshire, itself. Tilton has a set of allegorical statues representing the continents. Asia is over by the high school. America is the Indian Maiden, on Main Street in front of the town hall. Europa is called “Timetable Mabel” because she originally stood at the railway station. The Civil War memorial is a thing of wonder. So — if you get to a set of amazing statues, you’ve gone the wrong way. Turn around to get to the diner.
The Littleton Diner. Down the street from Thayer’s Inn (where Sam Grant stayed during his tour of the White Mountains in 1869) and next door to the Masonic Temple. Main Street, Littleton. Exit 41 off I-93. Cash and checks only. No credit cards, no Canadian money accepted. This one started off as a parlor car diner in 1930. It was replaced by a Sterling Diner and expanded in the 1940s; it has a back dining room now (with a mural all the way around the top of the room showing Main Street in all four seasons). The interior and exterior are made of enameled metal. The menu is Typical American Diner. The pancakes are made from locally ground flour. The corned beef hash has recognizably been corned beef in the recent past. You’re well north of the frappe line here: if you want a milkshake you have to ask for a frappe.
Get off at Exit 41, head into downtown (there’s a helpful sign saying “Historic District”). You’ll come to a stoplight at the top of a hill, beside the Opera House (with an octagonal tower on it). This stoplight is the farthest north stoplight in New Hampshire. Turn left to get to the diner. Finding parking can get … interesting. There is free parking behind the Village Bookstore.
Main St., Littleton, is also US 302. If you continue south on 302 (through Lisbon (home of the Lilac Festival), Bath (where there’s an amazing general store), and Woodsville (where Cottage Hospital is located), you cross the Connecticut River into Wells River, Vermont, home of P&H.
P&H Truck Stop. Over in Vermont, Exit 17 on I-91 (Wells River). You can see it from the exit whether you’re traveling north or south. “P&H” stands for “Pride and Honesty.” Under new management, alas, their grill service ends at midnight. But you can get breakfast all day. This is the sort of old-fashioned deep-fried truck stop where you can feel your coronary arteries closing up just driving into the parking lot. It’s French enough (on the direct route up to Quebec) that french fries are served with mayonaise and the menu is bilingual English/French. They renovated the place (and made it all clean and bright and family friendly — no more Adult Novelties for a quarter in machines in the men’s room, or graffiti by the toilet paper rolls reading “[Name of trucking company] contracts — take one”). But they still have the little pegboard games. During the renovation the mural showing Wells River in four seasons was removed and saved. It’s now in two sections (rather than one long painting) and located in the back dining room.
Only pure Vermont Maple Syrup served there, and the french toast is … amazing. The bread and pies are outstanding. The cinnamon raisin bread is essentially a large stickybun turned on its side and baked in a loaf pan. The Vermont Maple Pie is almost too rich to eat. They sell bread and pies to go.