A quintessential part of the New England dining experience is the Worcester Diner Car, and quite a few New England towns have at least one Worcester Diner Car-based diner, typically with a long service counter, stools, tables, and lots of chrome. And, despite being designed on a wagon and/or train car style chassis, they typically don’t move.
What a lot of people don’t realize is that the earliest Worcester Diner Cars weren’t this way. Early Worcesters had the stovetop, food prep, and service counter in the end of the car, with seating at the other end. And the cart was mobile, typically stored during the day and pulled out at night to serve factory workers. However, it’s extremely rare to find examples of these early Worcester Diners.
Gilley’s PM Lunch in Portsmouth, NH is, however, a good example, in reasonably good condition, and still serving lunches. Manufactured in 1940, until the early 70s Gilley’s was a mobile burger cart, but it is now permanently installed in the shadow of Portsmouth’s main parking garage.
Gilley’s serves a modest menu of burgers and hot dogs and fries. I decided to get a bit of each, ordering a cheeserburger, a kraut dog, and some fries.
The burger was a basic cheeseburger. Nothing terribly special, but decently prepared, with a good enough fat content in the meat to make it juicy but not greasy, and a decent sear to the meat.. I’d give it a 7/10. If I go back, I’ll follow the advice of George Motz in Hamburger America and try a double cheeseburger with bacon.
The hot dog, however, was quite good. Featuring a substantial natural casing dog from Shields. Designed to mimic the once-loved Schultz hot dogs of the area, it’s a tasty, meaty hot dog with a good snap and excellent seasoning. Served on a steamed bun with some mustard and kraut, and this was a seriously good hot dog, for the princely sum of $1.85.
All-in-all, Gilley’s is nice, as both a source of a light, inexpensive lunch, and as a trip into history (both for the diner car itself, and the attempts to bring back the Schultz dog).