Review by: Michael Stern

Brian O’Rourke’s diner just keeps getting better and better. It almost perished in 2006 when it was ravaged by a fire. There was no insurance, but regular customers loved it so much that a fund was created and enough money raised to bring it back to life. A lustrous Mountain View Diner that has been a Main Street fixture in Middletown, Connecticut, since 1946, it supplements familiar diner fare with the local oddity known as steamed cheeseburger, and, best of all, with unpredictable meals from relentlessly creative chef Brian O’Rourke. For example, the menu describes an item listed as “Brian’s Breakfast” thusly: “No two breakfasts are ever the same, and you do not know what you are going to get. Neither do your servers, so do not even try asking!” A few possibilities on the petit déjeuner degustation: duck hash, a waffle topped with barbecued pork, poached eggs with smoked salmon, a Dubliner omelet (corned beef hash and Irish cheddar), banana bread French toast with clotted cream.

Brian O’Rourke, who grew up in the diner started by his uncle John O’Rourke, loves to talk about the food he makes. One spring he enthralled us with a clever story about how he traded meals with a local fisherman to get fresh shad and shad roe for his dinner menu. Another time, he explained in mouth-watering detail how he made an all greens soup because he came across a good supply of fresh collards and mustard greens and the caraway in his garden was ripe for picking; he combined these with sweet kale, sorrel, and ricotta cheese, sour cream, and yogurt to create a thick, invigorating brew as hearty as vegetables can be. “I’ve been doing a lot of drying lately,” Brian told us one September, holding up an plastic carton filled with chili powder made from hundreds of dried, ground, golden cayenne peppers. “Here, smell,” he said, opening the top. The aroma was dizzying – sharp, earthy, sunny. “This is a season’s worth,” he boasted. “All I need is a pinch for my soups or sauces.” Then, even though we had just finished dessert, he brought out a little crock of chili so we could taste. It was zesty, tongue tingling but not scorchingly hot, with a deep savor from the red wine he had included. Wine in chili? It’s not the true-Texas way, but O’Rourke’s is nothing if not original.

What To Eat


Steamed Cheeseburger


Swordfish Cakes

Bacon & Eggs


O’Rourke’s Recipes


What do you think of O’Rourke’s?

2 Responses to “O’Rourke’s”

Rich Anthony

January 14th, 2009

Went for dinner. This is a diner. Whoever heard of diner prices at $17 or $18? So we ordered sandwiches. The Reuben was so dry it could choke a horse; no taste, no dressing on the Reuben, no sauerkraut, just awful. The coleslaw had so much back pepper, it burned your mouth. The corn and cauliflower chowder looked and tasted terrible. Main courses offered were seafood, more seafood, and more seafood, and then lamb…

Now for the waitress: I asked, how does the turkey sandwich come? Hmmm, what do you mean? Lettuce, tomatoes, mayo I asked? She says, I don’t know, I never had it… As we paid, we were asked about the food. We told her and said we would never be back for dinner. The person couldn’t have cared less; gave us NO satisfaction.


Joseph Rogo

December 11th, 2008

After watching D,D & D’s trip to O’Rourke’s I thought I would give it a try. Now believe me, I appreciate a good diner and understand the diner/waitress “what’ll ya have” stuff. But I have to tell you, the waitress here was waaaay out of line.

From the time I walked in she was just plain rude. Hey, I’m a big boy, I can take it. But right after me two elderly women came in and she was just plain mean to them. She yelled across the diner at them like they weren’t part of the human race. The table behind me were arguing about whether to leave any tip at all. They ended up agreeing on two bucks. The rest of the staff… wonderful. No sign of management on site. I got the feeling she didn’t like all us strangers coming in and filling up the restaurant.

My breakfast was good: two poached eggs over brown bread with ham, bacon, hash, and fingerling potatoes. I didn’t care for the brown bread too much, but the hash was excellent. The big problem was the price tag. Not worth $13.00. Not even close. Not with all the kitsch in the world.

In the TV segment it appears the owner is on-site a lot. If he condones this kind of behavior towards his customers, shame on him.


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