Fond Roadfood memory — our introduction to the Putney Diner:
“We’re ready for our pies,” we tell Ellie the waitress.
“No, you’re not!” she responds, noting that we haven’t totally cleaned our plates of foot-long hot dogs with baked beans, macaroni and (cheddar) cheese, a meat loaf sandwich with cheese and cranberry sauce, shepherd’s pie, and split pea soup with ham.
We implore her, and she relents, cutting big, unwieldy slices of apple pie, crumb-top berry pie, and maple walnut pie. The maple walnut is especially hefty. “You want ice cream or whipped cream with that?” Ellie asks. “You need one or the other because the pie is so sweet.”
Although the logic of her recommendation escapes us, we do as Ellie says and have our maple pie topped with whipped cream. She is the kind of foodservice person who makes you want to behave right. “Can’t you tell I used to be a mother?” she says. Then comes the punch line: “But I gave it up due to lack of interest.”
So it went when we first visited the Putney Diner, which remains a Roadfood treasure just minutes away from I-91 at Exit 4. A happy little town cafe that does not look like a traditional diner, it maintains a true diner spirit as well as a true diner menu. In the morning, plates of plain or buckwheat pancakes come with only-in-Vermont maple syrup. Eggs can be had with kielbasa or corned beef hash. Broad-topped muffins are split and toasted on the grill. At lunch, you can count on square meals of meat loaf or roast turkey and stuffing, and in cold weather, the arcane Yankee favorite, American chop suey.
At the end of a meal, everyone tops things off with pie, the day’s varieties of which are set out on a low counter to the right as you enter. They include apple, maple walnut, chocolate cream, banana cream, and crumb-top four berry. In the summer, look for strawberry rhubarb. These are chunky, sturdy pies, served in slices that tend to fall apart on the plate. Not beautiful, but eminently edible.