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The Red Arrow Diner: A Tale of Two Diners with the Same Name ... In the Same State ... In Different Towns!

Exterior of the Red Arrow Diner at 61 Lowell Street in Manchester, New Hampshire.Ever since she went to her first AAC event (Another AnimeConvention) in Manchester, New Hampshire my oldest daughter has been raving about the Red ArrowDiner on Lowell Street where she and some of her fellow convention-goers went for a bite to eat at least a time or two.  Matter of fact, every time I would take her to another diner, she’d compare it to the Red Arrow so I figured it was probably high-time I wandered up to New Hampshire and checked things out for myself. After all, what’s a mere 260-mile jaunt up and back if it’s going to be for some good diner-style home-cookin’?

Knowing that it’s never a good idea to arrive at a popular but tiny diner during their busy breakfast and lunch hours unless you want to wait a bit for a booth or couple of stools to open up, we walked into the cozy Red Arrow around 3:30 on a Saturday afternoon and were easily able to slide into one of the five booths where – according to the little name plate behind me – Ty Pennington of “Extreme Home Makeover” once sat too.  Pennington is only one “celebrity” in a long line of many who have visited the popular New Hampshire eatery over the years and along with his name plate on the booth, his name is also among those stenciled on the front door – some I recognize, some I don’t.


Exterior of the Red Arrow Diner at 61 Lowell Street in Manchester, New Hampshire.Exterior of the Red Arrow Diner at 61 Lowell Street in Manchester, New Hampshire.Truthfully though, I don’t honestly care who else ate at the place as I've learned that there’s never any accounting for taste so it didn’t really matter to me what Hillary Clinton may have eaten during her visit to the diner while stumping for the Presidential nomination in 2008, whether hometown boy Adam Sandler has a burger named for him (topped with lettuce, tomato, raw onion and mayo), or whether Guy Fieri of “Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives” thinks the American Chop Suey or Fried French Toast is “money!”  I prefer to rely on my own taste buds before declaring a diner’s food as “delicious!” but with an extremely extensive menu of 6+ pages of listings in my hands along with the day’s specials on the wall in front of me, it was going to be hard-going to decide what to test those taste buds out on!

The menu of The Red Arrow 24-Hour Diner in Manchester & Milford, New Hampshire

Without batting an eye, Oldest Daughter settled on “The Arrow’s Famous Beans, Toast, and a Cup ‘O Moe” for $3.99 which she’d had before and declared to be the best ever so was worth repeating. The family friend we had with us (who was given 20% off when he showed his active-duty military ID) opted for the Sausage Gravy Over Biscuits W/2 Eggs for $7.25.  That left me still thumbing through the menu mulling over the myriad of choices until our friendly waitress pointed out the Blue Plate Special Pot Roast with Roasted Vegetables and Potatoes for $9.99 that another diner a booth over was digging into while taking a moment to give it a big thumbs up, a recommendation which sealed the deal.  “With gravy, honey?”  But of course! And of course simply because what bacon lover in their right mind could resist such a thing, I ordered the Mug O’ Bacon which is 20 slices of Red Arrow’s crispy maple-cured bacon served in a coffee mug for $13.99.  If you want to keep the mug, tack on another $6.00 which isn’t a bad deal if you look at the cost of the mugs on the Memorabilia page of their menu.

Speaking of the menu, while you’re waiting for your food to arrive you can peruse the back page which gives you “A Little Red Arrow History” which in a nutshell tells you that David Lamontagne, the diner’s original founder and owner, first opened the diner’s doors back in October of 1922 and at one time there were a total of 6 locations throughout Manchester and Nashua.  In 1985 the Red Arrow closed for the first time since 1922 but two years later – in October of 1987 - it opened under new after Carol Sheehan embarked on a journey along with her father George Lawrence and another business partner to resurrect the popular local eatery.

The diner went “smoke-free” back in 1998 before such a thing was very often heard of but in spite of the picketing of the diner in the wee hours by most likely chain-smoking  folks on the day of the ban, Carol & Company obviously must have done something right as Adam Sandler managed to work the diner into two of his films, the Barenaked Ladies wrote and performed a song about the diner when they came to town, and Matt Farley - another local boy who as part of the recording duo “Moe’s Haven” -  recorded a song about the diner which appears on the 2006 CD “September: In Manchvegas.”  Aptly titled “The Red Arrow Diner,” the song tells of Farley’s love of “Johnny’s chicken tenders” and mentions the photos of Al Gore and Adam Sandler on the walls.  In 2007 Guy Fieri and his film crew made an appearance and introduced the rest of the world to the Red Arrow on Food Network’s “Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives” and of course CNN has shown up there numerous times during political primary seasons to find out what the candidates might be ordering while taking a break from - or simply making another stop along - the campaign trail.

Further reading will advise you that Carol and father George opened another Red Arrow Diner in Milford, New Hampshire (the former Milford Diner that was owned by Gordon “Sput” Maynard and Debbie Fierra until Maynard tragically died from injuries sustained in a motor vehicle accident in July of 2008) in October of 2008 and that a third Red Arrow will soon be opening in late fall of 2014 right off of Exit 5 on Route 293 in Londonderry.  As they’re franchising I would suspect you can expect more Red Arrows to be targeting other neighborhoods in the future and bringing along their array of original recipes including Grandma’s pork pie and Carol’s meatloaf that doesn’t have peppers as she hates meatloaf with peppers - something she and I can totally agree on!

It wasn’t long before our server delivered our Mug O’ Bacon to the table which was definitely picture-perfect and downright tasty! Not at all greasy or limp, the bacon did have a nice maple taste to it but not so overpowering that it took away from the delicious baconiness of this very non-calorie conscience treat.  It didn’t dawn on me until afterward that I forgot to order it with the mug to take home but considering the amount of coffee mugs I already have residing in my cupboard, that probably wasn’t a bad thing!

20 slices of maple-cured bacon served up in a Moe mug at The Red Arrow 24-Hour Diner in New Hampshire.

As it had stated to do so on the menu, I let Elaine know that it was first time for two of us to dine at the Red Arrow which meant that we each received a sticker pronouncing our “de-virginization” along with an announcement and formal welcome after Elaine rang a bell and got the attention of the rest of the afternoon’s clientele.  Turns out the other “virgins” were a couple sitting in the booth behind us who – it’s a small world after all – were also visiting from Connecticut and had also ordered a Mug O’ Bacon.  Hmm, must be a Connecticut thing??

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A few minutes later our cheery waitress was back with our entrees along with coffee refills. After taking the requisite food photos (except for Family Friend who had never had the chance to go with us on one of our explorations and wasn’t familiar with the “Photo before Food” rule!) the eating commenced.  Oldest Daughter happily chowed down on her beans and toast along with a side of corned beef hash, Family Friend slathered his scrambled eggs with ketchup before declaring them the best he’d ever had, and I tried to get my steaming plate of gravy-covered pot roast and fixin’s to cool down at least a little so I could get a taste.  While I waited I munched on more bacon.

Oldest Daughter's Meal Choice at The Red Arrow Diner in Manchester, New Hampshire
Fork tender pot roast served with roasted potatoes and carrots then drowned in homemade gravy at The Red Arrow Diner

Finally able to get a bite that didn’t resemble molten lava, I found the pot roast to be fork-tender and tasty, in need of just a little bit of salt and pepper; the potatoes and carrots though were a bit indistinguishable underneath all of the gravy and tasted about the same but that could be because they were still pretty darned hot.  It’s not that they weren’t good but I just kind of felt like there was something missing like maybe a side of green beans or something just to add a little variety - and color – to the dish.

Having consumed vast quantities of bacon beforehand, I opted to package up half of my meal to take home with me (as an aside, let me just say that the leftovers were most delicious the following day and I wished I had more!) so when our server came around to ask about dessert, I told her that we were going to have that at “the other place.”  “What other place?”  “The Red Arrow over in Milford, of course, I can’t give a full review if I haven’t been to both places, can I?”  Besides, it gave me time to make some room in my rather full stomach in order to even think about having dessert!

Interior of the Red Arrow Diner at 61 Lowell Street in Manchester, New Hampshire. Interior of the Red Arrow Diner at 61 Lowell Street in Manchester, New Hampshire.
Interior of the Red Arrow Diner at 61 Lowell Street in Manchester, New Hampshire. Exterior of the Red Arrow Diner at 61 Lowell Street in Manchester, New Hampshire.

After snapping a few interior and exterior photos, we popped the new address into the TomTom and made the half-hour drive a bit southwest to the quaint little town of Milford where we found the second Red Arrow Diner overlooking the Souhegan River.  As a matter of fact, the diner doesn’t just overlook the river; it hangs over the river as when the original diner (a vintage 1931 Ward & Dickinson dining car that was enclosed by previous owners) was placed next to the existing building that makes up the dining room area of the current diner, it was too long for that particular piece of property so part of it extends over the retaining wall by the bridge.

Exterior of the Red Arrow Diner at 63 Union Square in Milford, New Hampshire.

Interior of the Red Arrow Diner at 63 Union Square in Milford, New Hampshire.As we were only stopping in for dessert we perched on swivel stools in front of the counter and perused the dessert offerings on the write-on/wipe-off board across the room before I got up and took a look at the dessert case which more closely resembled a soda case but was filled with dessert offerings.  The ├ęclairs looked quite tasty, the Funny Bone cake sounded really good, a Whoopie Pie might have been nice but I believe the true test of a diner is in its pie.  Unfortunately the Milford Red Arrow didn’t have coconut cream pie (Manchester did as the diner who gave me the big thumbs up on the pot roast had ordered just that for his own dessert) but they had cocoa-nut cream pie which was simply chocolate cream pie with coconut and that was just going to have to do.  Oldest Daughter ordered chocolate cream pie and when they were sitting side-by-side on the counter, it was hard to tell the difference between the two except that you could see a bit of coconut sticking out of the pie filling if you looked closely.

To the left - cocoa-nut cream pie; to the right - chocolate cream pie.

So how did it taste?  Well … the crust was good and not at all soggy, the filling was tasty and very chocolaty but the cream that made up over 50% of the pie was a little overwhelming for me.  Quite dense and able to stand up all on its own regardless of what was or wasn’t around it, it was hard to make a dent in it even after poking it with a fork.  In all honesty, I was a bit disappointed in the pie but not at all in the diner itself as it was small and cute and about as retro-looking as you can get with its napkin art and sign featuring Ted Williams imploring folks to “Drink Moxie” on the wall behind the counter.

Interior of the Red Arrow Diner at 63 Union Square in Milford, New Hampshire. Interior of the Red Arrow Diner at 63 Union Square in Milford, New Hampshire.
Interior of the Red Arrow Diner at 63 Union Square in Milford, New Hampshire.Interior of the Red Arrow Diner at 63 Union Square in Milford, New Hampshire.

Exterior of the Red Arrow Diner at 63 Union Square in Milford, New Hampshire.Milford itself seemed like a quaint little New England town and from what I’ve read, they’re very happy to have a Red Arrow Diner in town open 24 hours a day (yes, 24 hours in a row!) and providing a place for shift workers to grab a bite of something tasty to eat or drink.  I’m sure that Oldest Daughter would think I was being too picky about my pie but honestly, it’s pretty unheard of for me to not finish – as well as practically lick clean the plate – but that’s exactly what happened at the Milford Red Arrow Diner.  Perhaps it was a matter of still digesting my part of the Mug O’ Bacon I’d partaken of back in Manchester or the fact that it wasn’t coconut cream pie but cocoa-nut cream pie instead however, the pie disappointment certainly wouldn’t be enough to keep me from wandering back up to try a basket of fried pickles one of these days or perhaps sample some of Carol’s green pepper-less meatloaf or maybe even a Dinah Finger as I totally forgot about the Dinah Fingers until I was too far down the road to turn back around!

Exterior of the Red Arrow Diner at 63 Union Square in Milford, New Hampshire.
Exterior of the Red Arrow Diner at 63 Union Square in Milford, New Hampshire.

Open 24 hours a day with the exception of 16 hours during Christmas,  you can find Manchester's Red Arrow Diner at 61 Lowell Street and the Milford Red Arrow Diner at 63 Union Square.  Oh and good news for those of you don’t carry around a lot of cash like myself – both locations take Visa and MasterCard assuring that you can "have a diner day" even if you didn't stop at an ATM beforehand!

Exterior of the Red Arrow Diner at 61 Lowell Street in Manchester, New Hampshire.


Comments

  1. They sound and look like such inviting and fun places. You really made me want to go visit them someday! Love the way you wrote this, Linda.

    ReplyDelete
  2. P.S. I sat in the chair Robert Redford had used at an upscale restaurant in Westport..ah to be that close to celebrity. (just kidding!)

    ReplyDelete
  3. I'd take a cup of coffee and a cup of bacon right now! Wish they delivered to PA. :)

    ReplyDelete

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