Boston's Hidden Restaurants

Agawam Diner

166 Newburyport Turnpike (Route 1), Rowley, MA 01969
(978) 948-7780 Find location!

Photo of the Agawam Diner, Rowley, MA A few things to mention before talking about the Agawam Diner: First, the Agawam Diner is not actually in the Southwestern Massachusetts town of Agawam. It is actually on the North Shore, a few miles south of Newburyport in the quiet little town of Rowley. Second, the Agawam Diner has actually resided in several locations (including in Ipswich and Peabody) as well as in four different diner cars. Third, it may be the only restaurant we have featured that is on the National Register of Historic Places. And fourth, even though it has been around since before World War II, it still doesn't seem to be all that well known. Having said all this, the bottom line is, the Agawam Diner is a rather interesting spot, and one that also happens to serve very good diner food, especially in the dessert category.

The Agawam Diner is located at the intersection of two major roads on the North Shore--Routes 1 and 133--though it feels like it is far away from it all, as much of Rowley is quiet and unspoiled. The present diner car in which the restaurant resides (Car #4, as this one is called) was built in the mid-1950s and is a real classic, with a gleaming steel exterior, bright red awning by the entrance, a rather tacky but charming sign on top of the car, and a narrow, slightly claustrophobic interior with booths along the outer edge of the car and a handful of round stools at the counter in the middle. The folks who work at the Agawam Diner are friendly and low key, and seem to know many, if not most of the people who come here for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.

Unlike more than a few diners in the Boston area, the Agawam Diner features simple and straightforward American comfort food classics, and it does so at refreshingly cheap prices. Breakfast includes familiar items such as pancakes, omelets, and French toast, while much of the lunch and dinner menu features specials that are available on certain days or at certain times of the year, including starters such as chili and soup. One of the soups available on some days--the chicken rice soup--is perfect for a chilly afternoon or evening, with a particularly rich broth and an abundance of rice soaking up much of the broth. Lunch and dinner meals run the gamut from a basic but tasty hot dog on a grilled bun to a juicy griddled burger on a sesame seed bun to a decadent country-fried steak sandwich with loads of gravy to a savory chicken pot pie to a classic old-fashioned baked macaroni and cheese (which is sadly only available one day a week at the time of this writing). As implied earlier, it is a very good idea to save room for dessert, as the house-made pies at the Agawam Diner are simply outstanding. Much like some of the other dishes here, pie options change daily; one of the best pies (when available) is the pumpkin cream pie, which includes a good amount of fresh whipped cream mixing nicely with the hearty pumpkin and the flaky, moist pie crust. Other cream pies include coconut cream and chocolate cream, while fruit pies such as blueberry and apple are also available depending on the day and the time of year.

Massachusetts isn't exactly true diner country--for that, you might want to go to New Jersey or Connecticut--but there are some classic old-school diners in the area if you look hard enough for them. And the Agawam Diner in Agawam, er, sorry, Rowley, is certainly one of them; from its historic digs to its ultra-friendly staff to its tasty (and dirt-cheap) food, this is one of a handful of diners in the eastern part of the state that is a must for people who enjoy the feel of stepping back in time when they go out to eat.