In 1986, Nick Demou and his late father bought an old, abandoned diner and moved it to its current location on East Avenue in Pawtucket, Rhode Island. But this was no ordinary diner. Built in 1941, it was one of only a handful of Sterling Streamliner diners still in existence, and is today one of only two such diners still in operation (a third apparently lies abandoned in Westport, Massachusetts).
The Modern Diner, which Demou now runs with his brother-in-law, Frank Aguiar, has a few claims to fame. Its historic status is one. Even before Demou bought the joint, it had street cred: In 1978, it was the first ever diner to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Another claim to fame is Demou’s custard French toast, which in 2015 was named the best diner dish in the country by the Food Network show Top 5 Restaurants. The dish—which comes topped with fresh strawberries, blueberries, sliced kiwi, house-candied pecans, and raspberry syrup—came into existence pretty much by accident. Some 20 years ago, Demou made an excess of vanilla pudding. Not wanting to let it go to waste, he thinned it out and added it to the French toast. The rest is diner history.
Apart from the French toast, the Modern Diner sells many of the classic breakfast and lunch dishes you’d expect from an eatery of its kind. There are pancakes, muffins, sandwiches, burgers, plenty of eggs in various styles, and weekend specials such as the linguica hash and lobster Benedict. You’ll also find at least 30 daily specials on the wall as you walk in the door. It’s all tasty comfort food, in an old-school diner atmosphere that hasn’t changed in years.
Know Before You Go
Modern Diner opens for breakfast and lunch daily (it closes at 2:00 p.m.). It only accepts cash.