Joe’s Diner

Review by: ayersian

Having driven by many times without stopping, we came to Joe’s Diner in quiet Lee for breakfast before exploring the Roadfood potential of western Massachusetts’ Berkshire County. Joe’s is notably famous as the inspiration for Norman Rockwell’s painting “The Runaway.” After waiting ten minutes for a table, our waitress sat the two of us at a six-top, despite our pleas not to take such a large table. We compromised by offering the end of the table to the couple behind us in line, thus we got to sit, literally, with locals at a communal table of sorts.

After one perusal of the menu’s prices, we were astonished that we could eat well for less than ten dollars total, and it seemed that the locals who packed the place weren’t here so much for the food as the experience. Our waitress, a wonderfully sassy gal, seemed to know everyone that came through the door. We didn’t notice the dollar-extra real maple syrup sign until after we ordered, so we asked the waitress if she’d please add that to our order. She jokingly replied, “No, you can’t have it.” And when our plates arrived, she gave us the regular syrup in a plastic squeeze bottle. Maybe she legitimately forgot, but did it matter? Not in the least, for our food was well-prepared and hardy.

The most expensive item on the breakfast menu at a mere $6.95 is two pancakes, two eggs, meat, and toast. We ordered this—eggs over medium, sausage, and rye toast—plus a single French toast and home fries. The rye is seedless and dense, with its toasted texture resembling wheat bread. The French toast is also dense, made with white bread, and eggy yet firm. The fries are a mixed bag, with the ratio of burnt vs. soft textures stacked toward the latter, whereas we prefer the crunchier crust. The most noteworthy item is the sausage: plump, gray links cut in half lengthwise and grilled, with a delightfully porky taste and a sage-laden kick.

Former owner Joe Sorrentino hung up his apron several years ago, but Joe’s Diner perseveres nigh on unchanged into its sixth decade of business. The food is well worth the price, and commemorative T-shirts, mugs, and hand-painted signs are for sale at the register. The walls are adorned with yellowed newspaper and magazine articles, celebrity-autographed glossies (from Hugh Downs to Dunkin’ Donuts spokesman Fred the Baker, a/k/a Michael “Time to Make the Donuts!” Vale), and other paraphernalia that signifies American diner culture. Roadfooders should expect to wait for a table to enjoy this historic, not-to-be-missed eatery.

Directions & Hours

  • Monday: Closed
  • Tuesday: 6:00 AM – 8:00 PM
  • Wednesday: 6:00 AM – 8:00 PM
  • Thursday: 6:00 AM – 8:00 PM
  • Friday: 6:00 AM – 8:00 PM
  • Saturday: 6:30 AM – 3:00 PM
  • Sunday: 7:00 AM – 1:00 PM

What To Eat

Link Sausage

DISH
French Toast

DISH
Pancakes

DISH
Eggs and Toast

DISH
Corned Beef Hash

DISH

Joe’s Diner Recipes

Discuss

What do you think of Joe’s Diner?

One Response to “Joe’s Diner”

Brian Sniatkowski

July 27th, 2013

The decor is genuine greasy spoon and a step back in time, but I don’t mean that in a good way. The seats at the counter have so many layers of duct tape holding them together that you can barely see the original material. My wife needed to move to another seat because the exposed duct tape glue was sticking to her shorts. I’m all for stepping back in time, Americana and local character, but not sticky seats, glacial service and rude staff and that’s what you get here.

We arrived on what appeared to be a very busy late morning, but were lucky enough to find a few seats at the counter right away. After making the aforementioned shift in seats we sat our ravenous bottoms down and waited for the waitress, and we waited and waited. It was 20 minutes (all this time sitting with the previous patron’s dirty plates in front of us) before we were first greeted by one of the most surly waitresses I’ve ever encountered (and I’m from NJ where surliness is an art form among diner waitstaff). She removed the dirty dishes and took our orders, and if there was a moment’s hesitation we got a “C’mon, c’mon” and she’d cut us off with a “how do you want that?” or “what size?” before we could even get the words out of our mouths.

OK, our orders were finally in and we sat, and sat. We watched some people (apparently locals who knew the waitstaff) who came in after us order, eat and leave before we even received our coffee and OJ. And we weren’t the only ones. A small group who came in just after us and sat at a table still hadn’t even received menus and were a little annoyed. A table opened behind us and when a woman carrying an infant attempted to sit at it, the waitress said “Ya think you could wait a minute until I can finish cleaning the table?”. At first I thought she might have been joking, but her tone and the look on her face were simple nastiness.

Now we were 45 minutes into this dining experience when the waitress came by with our coffee and OJ and the glass of water my wife asked for several times while we sat there, without a hint of her request being heard. We discussed leaving and going someplace else but decided that by the time we drove elsewhere, ordered and ate we wouldn’t gain much time-wise. We were wrong. Our meal wasn’t delivered for another half hour. During that wait the table that came in after us was getting slightly vocal about the service as they finally had their menus but STILL hadn’t placed their order.

Finally we received our dishes. My friend loved his pancakes and my wife thought her French toast was flavorful but under cooked and soggy. My eggs were done perfectly, though the corned beef hash I ordered was bland and the potatoes were nothing special.

Half way through the meal my wife asked for a refill of coffee, The waitress never acknowledged the request so my wife pleaded a bit louder “PLEASE may I have another cup of coffee”. Her response was “I heard you the first time, I’m busy”. Well if she heard her the first time then perhaps a simple “I’m busy but I will bring it to you soon” would have sufficed.

Anyway, nearly two hours after we first sat down for what we expected to be a quick diner breakfast, we left and joked that it was time to start discussing lunch options.

Bottom line, the food is standard diner fare and average to below average. Portions are generous and prices are very reasonable, but the service is downright awful unless you are known to them. If this review was just about the food I probably would have added a star. If you don’t mind paying to be rudely treated by the staff this might be your kind of place. And business seems to be brisk, so maybe it’s time to reupholster the stools? And perhaps they could turn on the AC. I mean it’s July and we’re in the middle of a heatwave.

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