It is a problem deciding what to have for breakfast at the Four Aces Diner because there are so many inviting choices. How could one NOT have a hot popover with maple butter on the side? Or an immense maple-glazed sour cream donut cut in half, buttered, grilled, and topped with whipped cream? I went for both and had no regrets, but I am sorry I did not taste the creamy pimento cheese polenta sticks and the sweet corn fritters topped with powdered sugar and maple syrup. Also among the specials the day I visited were smoked peppered salmon and cream cheese on a bagel, maple baked beans, and a blue-plate special of pan-fried calves liver smothered with onions and bacon.
I get happy when I see red flannel hash on a New England menu. It is an old-time dish that once was popular but now is hard to find. What it is: corned beef hash with beets added. Normally the beets are mixed in enough that the hash turns the color of red flannel. At the Four Aces, little cubes of beet are added, contributing their flavor in tiny pops, but not dramatically effecting the taste of the whole dish, or its color.
West Lebanon is north enough that road signs give distances in kilometers as well as miles, so I felt obliged to try the poutine (a Quebecoise passion) that was also on the daily-special menu. It is half good, the French fries crisp and elegant, the cheese more flavorful than most (while not at all squeaky fresh like connoisseurs demand), but the whole thing is undone by gravy that tastes ersatz. I don’t know if it actually comes from a can, but it tastes it.
Four Aces, which is Worcester Dining Car #837, is one of the most handsome, most well-worn classic diners I know. There’s almost no pattern left on the Formica counter, and there are places where decades of elbows have worn right through. But overall it presents a fine picture with its curving pink ceiling, dark wood booths, chrome-banded counter stools, and tiny-tile floor. If you’re a diner lover, it’s a must. And if you are hungry in West Lebanon, it will fill the bill.