191 Main Street
Northborough, MA 01532-1623
During the week, it’s always rush-rush-rush out the door. Regular readers know my regular weekday breakfast is at a drive-thru. On the weekends, I want to slow down, enjoy a breakfast, maybe read the paper (on my BlackBerry – I’m sure everyone thinks I’m playing a game.)
My preference is a good diner; the kind of place where they greet everyone when you come in, and you can sit at the counter and watch the action.
For me, a trip over to Northborough fills the bill…at a place on Rt 20 called Chet’s Diner.
I sat with Jessica Fidrych, the high energy 24 year old who is marking the end of her 1st year of Chet’s Diner ownership as the restaurant enters its 81st year of operation.
Why would someone from Westborough come all the way over to Northborough on a Saturday morning for bacon and eggs? Without hesitation, Jess gestured around the restaurant and said, “It’s the Chet’s experience, and that’s hard to describe. It’s a show and a family. You’ll be part of the family when you walk in.”
I can vouch for that. During the 15 minutes of our conversation sitting at a table, Jessica acknowledged customers entering the restaurant 8 times….and gracefully dealt with 6 additional customer interruptions.
The restaurant was opened by Chet Warren in 1931, and some short time later was sold to Paul Strassero. On October 10, 1960 the business was purchased by her grandparents, James and Nancy Pantazis. Jess took over ownership last year, making her the third generation.
What’s been your biggest surprise? “How much work running a business is; I’m an amazing multi-tasker and there’s a lot to do cooking and cleaning. Even though I have been in the restaurant business my entire life, I never saw the other side…payroll, quarterly tax filings, keeping the books (and keeping funds available for the inevitable surprises.) My mom (Ann Pantazis) is a big help with the books and cooking on Saturdays.”
The most popular items on the menu are the hash & eggs and the blueberry pancakes.
Jessica is a boisterous personality, one of those people where their personality fills the room. When I first tried Chet’s Diner, I asked what a “one time” visitor simply had to have. “The hashish…,” was Jess’ conspiratorial stage whispered reply. “I’ll cook it a little longer just for you, so you’ll have crisp hashish.”
I was a little scared, but what the heck, right? Well, the corned beef hash was really quite excellent, complimented with eggs of my choice (dropped) and toast. Jess tends to call things a little differently, and you’ll come to love Pumpersnickel over the more traditional Pumpernickel.
Chet’s Diner really is a diner, from the Worcester Lunch Cart Company, "The longest one built on site,” beams Jessica. Jessica is quick to point out there is a conception all diners had to be on tracks. As with many diners, the original shell has been augmented many times with additions. Yet, there’s no mistaking the diner feel. Knowing a good thing, Jess doesn’t plan to do any major changes beyond a fresh coat of paint, new tables, and a flat screen television (in the full bar.)
Chet’s hours have a decidedly breakfast feel to them:
Mon-Fri 5:30 am - 11:00 am
Fri 4:30 pm - 8:00 pm (Battered Fish: FishFry & bar)
Sat 6:00 am - 11:00 am
Bring cash, as no credit cards are accepted.
With fiancé David back safely from Afghanistan, they are looking at opening on Saturday nights, and Sundays for breakfast. They are training additional staff for the extra hours.
Jess’ late dad, hometown baseball star Mark “The Bird” Fidrych, pitched his entire professional career for the Detroit Tigers (1976–1980). The “Chet’s Family” continues his memory with events like the recently held first annual “Make Your Mark” softball tournament benefiting The Mark Fidrych Children's Fund and The Genesis Fund. You’ll see a number of mementos around the restaurant from the whole family.
At this point, I’ve been back to Chet’s Diner many times, and always find the place welcoming. There’s a healthy banter between the staff and customers, always bringing a smile to everyone’s face.
The hash is very good, and Saturdays bring special menu items (like a Caprese Omelet). I especially like the breakfast potatoes, prepared freshly on the grill in small batches. You will have to watch your coffee intake, the staff at Chet’s chafes if a cup goes empty.
What more could you ask for from a breakfast place?
Chet’s Diner gets a:
Green Light – Go and enjoy
About the RAG scale:
Green Light – Go and enjoy
Amber Light – Use caution
Red Light – Save your time and money