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New England Dining Reviews >>> Don's Diner, Plainville, MA, dining review

Brilliant Idea: Don's Diner in Plainville, Mass., and Norm's Seafood Merge Their Businesses
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Article and photo by Eric H.

Don's Diner, Plainville, MA

The landmark Don's Diner in Plainville, Mass., and Norm's Seafood -- a staple in North Attleboro, Mass., for the past 30 years -- recently came up with a brilliant idea that should help both businesses tremendously.

They merged, both occupying the Don's Diner building.

Let's face it, rising food and transportation costs and an overall lousy economy have not been kind to mom and pop diners. Regarding affordable seafood restaurants in landlocked Boston suburbs, there aren't a lot of fish in the sea. So, bringing together two high quality established restaurants with dedicated customer bases has proven that the sum has worked better than the previous "parts" of operating two separate eateries. I recently ate at the new Don's Diner/Norm's Seafood for an excellent New England clam chowder and tuna melt, and the place was packed.

Basically, Don's Diner continues for breakfast and lunch and Norm's Seafood overlaps with lunch and dinner. What's more, the extended businesses hours (open until 8 p.m.) is something I always wanted to see at Don's Diner -- there's something so nice about eating at a warm, cozy, friendly diner for dinner. The dinner selections include New England seafood staple dishes including New England clam chowder, clam cakes, fried seafood platters, lobster rolls, fish and chips (OK, maybe that's more British), and grilled salmon, shrimp, scallop and haddock. Norm's also offers an astonishingly generous deal for $30: four clam cakes and two cups of chowder (or onion rings and a half dozen clam cakes), two seafood entrees, and two drinks (beer or wine). Norms' also serves non-seafood items for dinner, including burgers, sandwiches, chicken pie and chicken tenders.

With all the changes, Don's Diner, thankfully, still looks like Don's Diner -- and with its beloved diner comfort foods intact. Don's Diner embodies many of the classic elements that make this fourth- generation Plainville, MA, business the "real deal": chrome, booths and formica tables, a counter with stools, the smell of coffee permeating the small building, friendly quick service and delicious food. What separates Don's Diner from the pack, however, is that this landmark sticks to the basics without succumbing to new diner trends.  In other words, you won't see organic foods and teas from all over the world.  If its calorie-busting chocolate chip pancakes and delicious blueberry-packed muffins that you seek, then Don's Diner does the job wonderfully. Additionally, the omlettes are fresh and filling, the coffee smells great (Don's did enter the 21st century by offering New England Coffee), and the conversations give Don's a full-bodied diner ambiance.  Staff and customers all seem to know each other, an earmark of a revered local diner.

Don's, dating back to 1936, had actually closed a few years back. It was sad to see a vacant diner, the antithesis of  the welcoming characteristics of a bustling diner.  Fortunately, Don's re-opened in late 2006 and now gathers a robust crowd --especially with the addition of Norm's Seafood. 

Plainville is the perfect location for Don's Diner: it's a real American town with its ups and downs, one of the last independetly-owned pharmacies in the area, a small town hall that could fit well in Mayberry RFD, and a friendly population that, in many instances, lays down its roots here and proudly calls the town a great place to live.

A diner like Don's complements that loyal fabric by serving as an unofficial meeting place for locals to eat delicious comfort foods, drink coffee, read the paper, chat with the waitresses and meet thy neighbor.  What more could you ask for in a diner that, happily, looks like a diner -- and now with a much-needed local seafood restaurant located in the very same building? Kudos to these two local businesses for having the vision to merge!?

Don's Diner Inc. and Norm's Seafood, 121 South St., Plainville, MA, Tel. (508) 695-7036

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