Dine back in time at Main Street Diner in Edgartown

Vintage soda signs, train sets, and collectables dot the walls, flanked by aqua banquets, red vinyl seats, and a black-and-white checkered floor at the Main Street Diner. — Photo by Ralph Stewart

When you open the door to the Main Street Diner in Edgartown you are immediately transported back in time.

This hidden gem located in Old Post Office Square, behind the courthouse and under Entertainment Cinemas, provides a glimpse into the past. You can’t help but crane your neck as you take in the floor-to-ceiling memorabilia from the 1950s and 1960s while listening to crooners such as Franki Valli and the Four Seasons.

“I’ve been collecting antiques for 40 years,” said owner Glenn Ward. One of his prized possessions, a tribute to Gene Autry made by Mr. Ward, is hung in the alcove of the restaurant. “We try to have things that people can relate to,” he says, identifying the Grand Concourse sign. “New Yorkers love it, and are constantly trying to buy it.” Vintage soda signs, train sets, and collectables dot the walls, flanked by aqua banquets, red vinyl seats, and a black-and-white checkered floor.

The diner has been around for as long as anyone can remember, but this is the 11th season for the Wards, who keep the restaurant open from the end of March to the beginning of January. Open seven days a week from 8 am until close (serving usually until 10 pm), the family-friendly eatery serves diner classics with a twist.

“My grandmother owned a diner back in the 50s, and I have fond memories of being there. My grandfather also owned an upscale restaurant,” said Mr. Ward. The Main Street Diner combines these two family legacies offering a diner atmosphere with an array of sophisticated dishes. This innovation comes from Ralston Francis, a graduate of Southern New Hampshire University’s Culinary Arts program, who is in his second season as head chef at the restaurant.

“Working alongside top chefs I learned a lot,” Mr. Francis said. “I’m trying to do something new with diner food.” This is evident in his daily specials including sweet potato pancakes for breakfast and short ribs and shrimp scampi pizza for dinner. “Ralston brings a new element. It’s a great collaboration,” Mr. Ward said.

Breakfast is served daily until 12 noon, and until 1 pm on Sundays. Mr. Francis recommends the veggie omelette with onions, peppers, tomatoes, broccoli, and mushrooms; or the Vermont omelette, a combination of Cheddar cheese, apples, and sausage. Other house specialties include stuffed French toast, croissants stuffed with ricotta cheese and a topping of your choice, and the breakfast pizza. For the little ones, try the funny face pancake, which is shaped like Mickey Mouse, with fruit for the eyes, nose, and mouth.

For lunch, served 11:30 am to 5 pm, try one of the blue plate specials, such as the daily roasted turkey, slow-roasted overnight and served with mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, stuffing, and gravy. “This is something that we never change. It’s one of my favorite dishes,” Mr. Ward said. “People come in two to three times a week for it.” Or try the signature lobster roll, made with grilled lobster, grilled bun, and butter.

In addition to the extensive sandwich and burger list and wide variety of daily soups, the diner offers an extensive array of Italian-American classics. “I’m from Jamaica, but I like to cook Italian food,” Mr. Francis elaborated, evident in the pizza burger, Italian meatball sub, spaghetti and meatballs, and baked spaghetti pie: a mix of provolone, ricotta, romano, and parmesan cheeses baked with spaghetti and topped with homemade marinara sauce. “The first thing that we changed was the spaghetti sauce,” said Mr. Ward in reference to when he took over the diner. “We starting using my wife’s recipe, given to her by a little old Italian lady.”

Italian specialties carry over into dinner, starting at 5 pm, ranging from chicken cacciatore and eggplant parmesan to homemade Neopolitan style pizza. House favorites include the pineapple wedge shrimp cocktail. “The first time I had it was 40 years ago at Dorado Beach in Puerto Rico,” Mr. Ward recalled. Other favorites include the grilled or blackened salmon, served with mashed potatoes and topped with asparagus and béarnaise sauce, and the crispy fish and chips, served with French fries, coleslaw, and corn on the cob.

The diner, oriented to family dining during the day and early evening, has a Cinderella makeover during dinner service. Starting at 8 pm, “Diner after Dark” offers a refined atmosphere with table cloths, flowers, and candles. Appetizer and entrée specials vary nightly and have included summer watermelon salad with blueberries, feta, walnuts, and arugula; and lobster macaroni and cheese. Bottled beer and a selection of wines are also available.

The pie case functions as the piece de résistance, featuring daily desserts such as tiramisu, cheesecake, fruit pies, carrot cake, and triple-layered chocolate cake. Or try a soda fountain classic including ice cream sundaes, frappes, malts, and floats.

Set back only steps from Main Street, the diner is fun for all ages. Play “I spy” with the collectables, or test your knowledge with the Trivial Pursuit cards on each table. Kids can look forward to receiving Pez during the day, and Pez dispensers at night. The restaurant blends diner classics with Italian flair, the Ward’s family recipes, and Mr. Francis’s creativity. “If we can make it, we will,” said Mr. Ward. Stop by for a quick breakfast at the counter, lounge around for lunch, bring the family for dinner, or catch dinner and movie and experience Diner after Dark.

The Main Street Diner is located at 65 Main St. in Edgartown, directly behind Alchemy and inside the Entertainment Cinemas building. For take-out, or reservations for parties of six or more, call 508-627-9337.