The Fairlee Diner (Fairlee, VT)

(Update: On April 3, 2022, the Fairlee Diner closed for good. The owners had been looking to sell the place, and decided to finally close. Hopefully someone else can buy the place, it’s a splendid diner).

Every once in a while, I’ll revisit a favorite place around the Upper Valley and realize that I’ve never actually reviewed it here. Indeed, since moving to the Upper Valley in 2001, I think I’ve been to the Fairlee Diner at least two dozen times, and I was prepared to do one of my “health check” reviews where I check in on an old favorite that I’ve review before, only to find that I’ve not reviewed it (actually, looking at notes, that’s not completely true: I did review the Fairlee Diner for one of my Diner Day reviews for the long-defunct UVScene website… anyone remember that?). But it’s time to remedy that.

This time, the reason for my visit was hiking; my friend Alex was driving up from Connecticut and we were going to hike up Mount Cube. Looking for a good place to rendezvous for breakfast, we settled on the Fairlee Diner, since it’s conveniently located on Main Street in Fairlee Vermont, a brief 200 foot detour from the route over the Samuel Morey Memorial Bridge crossing over into Orford, NH.

While a lot of the diners around New Hampshire and Vermont are actually historic diner cars, the Fairlee Diner is just a diner-shaped building, but once inside, it is pretty much a true diner: a long counter facing the short order grill stacked with cooking orders and a giant pile of home fries crisping up, and the opposite wall lined with booths, and large whiteboards at each end of the restaurant elaborating that day’s various breakfast and lunch specials. The menu (and especially the specials) at the Fairlee Diner run towards “traditional New England Diner fare”: pancakes, omelets, and breakfast combos for breakfast, burgers and sandwiches for lunch, and the occasional seafood special. And of course, most everything comes with at least the option for baked beans as a side.

Looking over the menu, I decided I was in the mood for a Benedict, and here the Fairlee Diner offers one of the more rare variations on that theme, the Kielbasa Benedict. Adding a nicely-seared layer of sliced-down-the-middle sausages with some nice smoke and garlic notes to the nicely-poached eggs and tangy Hollandaise sauce, this makes for one of the areas better Benedicts.

But the true attraction here is the home fries. While I generally prefer shredded hash browns to home fries, there are a handful of places in New England that truly know how to do good home fries; while a lot of places will just toss some cubed potatoes on the griddle or into the deep fat fryer, here, they take parcooked potatoes and sear them on the griddle to get a seriously well-crisped potato; during breakfast hours they pretty much always have about a quarter of the griddle taken up with a mountain of home fries just crisping away. Served up with a bit of fried onion, and dredged through some of my excess Hollandaise sauce as I eat, and it’s one of the area’s treats.

So, I’m glad I got to finally review the Fairlee Diner: it was one of my favorites when I moved to the area, and aside from a few modest increases in prices, it’s pretty much the same experience in 2021 as it was 20 years ago, and definitely one of the area’s more enjoyable diners.

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