The classic “diner” was born in New England in 1858 when a young entrepreneur, from Providence, Rhode Island, decided to start selling sandwiches out of a basket to newspaper nightshift workers and others burning the midnight oil. His success was so great that he quickly grew his business and started selling food from a horse-drawn covered wagon, which inspired the first diner and hundreds since, which serve as beloved community gathering spots for catching up with neighbors while enjoying a bite to eat.
Lebanon’s Four Aces Diner, which has been serving locals and visitors for 60 years, also has its own intriguing story. From its somewhat-deceptive exterior as part of a colonial-style building, customers take a trip back in time to the interior: an authentic railroad car, Worcester Diner Car #837, that dates to 1952. Mosaic tiled floors, old-fashioned booths with built-in coat hooks, counter seating with soft-topped diner stools, and memorabilia like a bust of Elvis all evoke bygone eras.
“The Four Aces Diner has been a part of this community since 1952, when it was delivered from the Worcester Lunch car company,” says Lebanon native Leann Briggs, who along with her brother, Steve, has managed the restaurant since 2011. “Since then the diner has been in almost constant operation serving people from our community, all over the country, and many places from around the globe.”
A longtime favorite among locals, including the Dartmouth College crowd, the diner often draws lines out the door. Staff is known as some of the friendliest in town, while the expansive menu features delectable diner fare with special touches, such as cinnamon bun pancakes and popovers served with maple butter. Six to eight options change weekly, but can’t-miss dishes include corned beef hash, which is made on the premises using 120 to 200 pounds of brisket each week, and four versions of eggs Benedict.
“We call ourselves the Upper Valley's ‘Egg Benedict Authority,’” Briggs says. “On April 16th, which is National Eggs Benedict Day, we will have 12-18 special Benedicts that we create to celebrate the day.”
In addition to weekly specials that keep their menu fresh, Four Aces sources as much as possible locally. During the summer, an ice cream stand and outdoor seating area with picnic tables and umbrellas allow diners to enjoy the warmer weather. Whatever time of year you visit, however, expect a memorable experience.
“The diner is a meeting place for all sorts, sometimes folks leave having made a new friend while here,” Briggs says.