Bored with all of our regular off-campus brunch locales (Emporium, Brew Bakers, Javapalooza), Alex and I decided to see what other selections Middletown had to offer. We made up our minds to explore a little eatery called Ford News Diner. Have you seen this place? You probably have, but it is so inconspicuous, you likely didn’t notice. It’s a little storefront located at 358 Main St., almost right next to the Main Street Market (where Froyo World, New England Emporium, and It’s Only Natural Restaurant are located). If you’ve been in there, we sincerely applaud you. It isn’t a go-to restaurant for Wesleyan students and is much more frequented by Middletown residents. At 11:30 on a Sunday morning, we began to stumble down Court Street toward the diner, looking for some grub. By 11:50, we were being welcomed in and told to sit wherever we wanted. By 11:51, we already felt at home, even as newbies to an establishment that caters to regulars.
Eateries like Ford News Diner are hard to find these days. It’s very old school and neighborhood-oriented, with a fairly funky vibe that gives it charm. The space is small, with seats arranged at a counter as well as a few tables, exactly what one might expect in a typical diner. The “kitchen” is pretty much comprised of a large skillet and other assorted cooking appliances, all located directly in front of the counter. I decided to call it “American hibachi.” You’re never given a menu if you sit at the counter. Instead, the choices—eggs, bacon, home fries, pancakes, and a few other options—are listed on boards on the wall. Ford News also serves lunch, a variety of sandwiches, and some blue-plate specials.
The waitress appeared seconds into our adventure at Ford News. “Coffee?” she inquired. Alex took some, whereas I ordered an herbal tea.
Seconds later, there they were. If nothing else was good about this restaurant, at least they had impeccable service.
While talking to the friendly waitress, we learned that the diner has been open for 50 years.
“Who owns it?” I asked.
“Oh, she does!”
The waitress pointed to a lady who was casually chatting with some customers. Upon realizing that we were talking about her, she came over and plopped herself down on the stool next to us.
“Are you from Wesleyan?” she asked. “Come more often!”
She sat, quietly keeping us company until we had successfully ordered and received our food. Again, this all happened exceedingly fast. After giving us about half a minute (which is all the time you need) to peruse the sparse menu, the waitress took our order. I got the number one special: two eggs any style or egg whites with toast, coffee or tea, and home fries. Alex got the number six: an egg and cheese sandwich on a hard roll with bacon or sausage (she got sausage), served with coffee and home fries.
I watched with curiosity as the ticket with our order was immediately handed to one of the women on cooking duty—a perfect hand-off, completed in seconds. Watching them work was strangely exciting, as we rarely get an opportunity to see our food being prepared. The cooks brushed some oil onto the skillet, cracked the eggs, practically threw Alex’s sausage onto the hot surface, tossed the bread into the toaster, swiftly buttered the hard roll, and put it on the grill to warm. I was so engrossed in watching the show I didn’t even notice the time passing. Then our heaping piles of breakfast deliciousness were sitting in front of us.
The whole experience of watching your food being made is probably one of the best reasons to go to Ford News. It’s the kind of hearty, simple breakfast you always try to make yourself at home but that never turns out as good as it would’ve been if you went out. Why? Because those ladies working behind the counter are professionals, working faster and better than you ever could. With a menu that small, everyone ends up ordering more or less the same thing, so the cooks can probably extract the whites from an eggshell in their sleep. They know exactly how long it takes to cook the sausage, and the perfect amount of butter to spread on a roll. And, as proven by what Alex and I titled “the bread tossing game” that they seemed to be playing with everybody’s toast, their aim isn’t so bad either.
So we got breakfast and a show. The show was great, but how was the food?
It was pretty delicious. The home fries were incredibly well-seasoned and tender. Alex loved her sandwich, which was perfectly proportioned—a rarity in other over-the-top brunch eateries—and buttered to perfection. I have absolutely no complaints about my egg whites. And for $5.25? It was a deal!
Nothing at Ford News Diner is spectacular—although watching the ladies cook is a spectacle. Don’t come in expecting a unique or artisanally prepared meal; you won’t find a root vegetable hash with béarnaise sauce. If that’s what you’re looking for, go to O’Rourke’s. It’s also not a good option if you’re craving a crazy omelet with every ingredient under the sun. If that’s what you’re looking for, Athenian is your best bet. No, come to Ford News Diner for a quick, cheap, and typical American breakfast. You’re sure to find friendly service, good company, and a darn good meal.