Anyone alive today who grew up in Middletown, Rhode Island, probably ate at Tommy’s Deluxe Diner. From 1953 to 2006, the iconic stainless-steel Americana food-temple served generations of good folks from the small New England beach town. If any Rhode Islanders care enough to wax nostalgic over the french fries and shakes of their youth, they’ll now have to go to Oakley, Utah.
What’s now the “Road Island Diner” was manufactured for and displayed at the 1939 World’s Fair. Themed “The World of Tomorrow,” the fair forecasted trends in home appliances, entertainment, and food service. The eatery, a 16-foot-by-60-foot specimen from the legendary Jerry O’Mahony Diner Company, featured green Italian marble countertops, Tiffany glass clerestory windows, and hand-laid quarry tile flooring. It was bought shortly after the fair and moved to Fall River, Massachusetts, where it served as a functioning diner for 14 years before being sold again and moved to Rhode Island.
In Middletown, the diner would stay in Greek immigrant Tommy Borodemus’s family for four generations, becoming somewhat of a local landmark. When the family sold their property to a Tim Hortons in 2006, the diner changed hands again, though this time its new home wasn’t just a state away.
In 2007, the diner was transported from Rhode Island to Utah. Due to its size, however, the haul was forbidden from interstate highways. The several-thousand-mile backroad journey entailed state police escorts and pilot cars, but upon arrival in a small Utah mountain town, the historic diner found a loving home without any damage to all of its beautifully maintained original furnishings.
The Road Island Diner now offers Utahns classic diner fare with an eye to the upscale. Standard burgers, fries, and shakes grace the menu, though Asiago dip, crab cakes, a codfish sandwich, and a trout almondine make comparatively star-studded appearances. “This Is Not A Fast Food Diner,” reads the menu. It is, however, certainly a well-traveled one.