Classics at Buddy’s Diner – Cambridge Day

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An omelet with signature toppings at Buddy’s Diner in Somerville. (Photo: Jason Y. via Flickr)

Buddy’s, that old-school oddity on Washington Street across the McGrath and O’Brien freeways as you head toward Sullivan Square, is a former truck stop turned classic diner with revolving bar stools, a long counter and people who know how to do one thing and do it well: serve you breakfast. It’s hard to imagine a truck stop in the ultra-dense town of Somerville these days, but Buddy’s has been here since before the Great One. It has a new owner, but the interior still feels worthy of an Edward Hopper rendering, perhaps without some of the neon vibrancy.

I wonder how many people in Greater Boston these days have ever had a real truck stop experience. I’m not talking about the commercial rest stops along the ‘Pike, but the institutions that look like they were made a generation ago. When I was a child, I grew up outside of New Haven in rural Oxford, which has a population of 3,000. Some of the best one foot burgers and hot dogs I’ve ever had were at Fritz’s, a truck stop along Route 67. It was the only major road through town, and parking was a giant gravel pit full of tractor-trailers. Later we moved to Newtown, where just off Route 84 you had the Blue Colony Diner, open 24 hours and kind of a family restaurant as well as a stop for weary truckers. He’s still a soldier (it’s also Fritz’s); Here in Watertown, there is the Deluxe Town Diner, run by the same family for over 70 years. Places like Deluxe, Fritz’s, Blue Colony and Buddy’s make me smile thinking about their persistence, tradition and focus on quality, and their connection to customers. No offense, I dig the Rosebud in Davis Square, but it was a whole different experience when it was mostly no-frills brunch; it’s now an upscale restaurant, part of the area’s restaurant portfolio that includes Posto and the Painted Burro.

Buddy’s Diner in Somerville. (Photo: Tom Meek)

Back at Buddy’s: the menu is handwritten and hung above the hot plate. You sip your coffee and watch the griddle master whip, pour and fold your omelet on the steel griddle a few feet away. It’s much more intimate than the “open kitchen” concept you see in more upscale restaurants these days. What you can get are eggs any way you like, as well as basic burgers and sandwiches. I had the no frills Buddy omelet made with mushrooms, tomatoes, bacon and cheese with a side of hash browns; it was a quick and meticulous process to make the flat, neatly folded omelet, which came out evenly cooked, moist, and hot (overcooked eggs are the worst). In a pleasantly surprising move, not only was the omelette stuffed, but it was topped off with pan-fried tomatoes and mushrooms. It’s a different preparation from most gastropubs or Irish pubs, which serve brunch with big, puffy omelets; Andy’s Diner and the Half Shell on Massachusetts Avenue, each on opposite sides of Porter Square, are other places that do great flat omelets.

When I last visited Buddy’s, during last month’s heat wave, the air conditioning had gone off, which made me wonder if that was why I was the only one dining. (It was also close to 2pm closing time.) But with the windows open, it wasn’t so bad, and I’m happy to go back, AC or no AC. I hear the sausage and egg sandwich is a must, and when asked for your choice of bread with the omelette, the thing to do is get a buttered, toasted English muffin on the griddle . Talk about something sublime and heavenly, warm, buttery, and soft – where most other muffins or toast are warm, and the butter you put on it stays clumped, it just makes it feel like it’s fake. That’s another reason to go to Buddy’s, where the food comes straight off the griddle and delivered straight to you, no sitting down, no waiting, fresh and hot.

buddy dinner (113 Washington StreetEast Somerville)


Cambridge writer Tom Meek’s reviews, essays, short stories and articles have appeared in WBUR’s literary journals The ARTery, The Boston Phoenix, The Boston Globe, The Rumpus, The Charleston City Paper and SLAB. Tom is also a member of the Boston Society of Film Critics and bikes everywhere.

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