Palace Diner. [Photos: Tom Minervino]
The Palace Diner in Biddeford, Maine's oldest diner, re-opens tomorrow morning with new managers and a new focus. The Pollard dining car originally opened in 1927. It closed last Septmember, then was leased in December by Chad Conley (formerly of Gather in Yarmouth) and business partner Greg Mitchell. The two added a door as part of the requirements for a liquor license, but otherwise have left the classic interior as they found it. "The first time we walked through the door, we fell in love with the dining room," Conley says. "There was no need to do anything. It's a perfect space. We just cleaned it up."
Mitchell says the menu is made up of "recognizable diner fare, made from scratch with fresh, local ingredients." The goal was to "retain the essence of a diner menu while using techniques learned over the years and still keep prices reasonable." For instance, the corned beef hash will be made from grass-fed, Maine beef that is brined and braised in house. And the P.B.L.T. elevates the traditional B.L.T. by using in-house slow-roasted pork belly in place of bacon. The bacon, egg and cheese deluxe sandwich adds jalapenos. The challah bread french toast comes with Maine maple syrup. There's a Croque Madame. Other diner staples like mac and cheese and pie are also on the menu, plus there will be daily specials. And diner coffee is getting elevated with bottomless cups of drip coffee from Tandem Coffee Roasters in Portland.
The Palace Diner will be open from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Wednesday through Friday and 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. Breakfast will be served all day. The weekends will see more specials with a brunch focus. There will be a small beer, wine and cocktail menu (think Bloody Caesars for brunch) with a plan to add dinner on Friday and Saturday nights later in the spring.
Conley says the process of working with the city to open "has been great." That's something one doesn't hear from those opening places in Portland, where Conley and Mitchell looked before settling on Biddeford.
"The city has been really helpful," Mitchell says. "I've been telling people that we made more progress here in a couple hours than we did in a couple months in Portland."
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