Wednesday, December 11, 2013
By Paul Koenig email@example.com
(Continued from page 1)
A1 Diner owners Mike Giberson, left, and Neil Anderson are celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Gardiner landmark. The men took a break from preparing food Wednesday to discuss their restaurant.
Staff photo by Andy Molloy
"People are way more food-savvy," he said. "They expect more, which is fine. It keeps us more on our game or in touch with what's going on, food-wise."
Boards above the counter still advertise the soups, dinner special and desserts, like homemade chocolate buttermilk pie, posted up with individual letters slightly askew and faded to varying shades of orange and pink.
Andersen and Giberson attribute their success to the food, made from scratch and from local sources when possible, and the atmosphere of the 1946 diner car.
Looking back and forward
Diners evolved from horse-drawn wagons selling food to workers in the 1800s. Improvements to the lunch carts allowed customers to inside or sit on stools, according to the American Diner Museum, and night wagons became popular in New England towns in the late-1800s.
Eventually the horse-drawn wagons were replaced with dining cars with electricity and then by the railroad-car look of diners like A1.
By 1960, many dining car companies, like the Worcester Lunch Car Company, had stopped producing diners. Of the 651 diners the Worcester company produced, less than 100 are still in operation, according to the 2004 book, "The Worcester Lunch Car Company."
Maine is home to at least two other Worcester diner cars -- Palace Diner in Biddeford and Miss Portland Diner.
Andersen said he sees the endangered diner car as a jewel. He thinks A1 and other diners have stayed popular because people want a place to gather in the community for good food and traditional, Americana atmosphere.
The broad spectrum of people who like A1 is another reason for their success, Giberson said. A hitchhiker can feel as comfortable as a businessman on a lunch break or a single person grabbing a stool at the counter, he said.
"I think everybody feels comfortable here, and that's one of the appeals of the contemporary diner," Giberson said.
Andersen and Giberson said they don't have a plan to get rid of their restaurant, but when they do, they'll likely sell to someone looking to continue operating the diner.
So A1 Diner will continue, for the time being, to serve breakfast, lunch and dinner six days a week and brunch on Sundays.
Waitresses will continue to slide plates across the worn pink marble countertop, families will continue squeezing into the blue vinyl-padded booths, babies will continue sitting in highchairs and the solo diners will continue to sit on stools, taking bites out of homemade slices of Americana.
Paul Koenig -- 621-5663