Excellent | Worth a Detour
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.
|Meals Served||Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner|
|Credit Cards Accepted||No|