THE DINER ON WHEELS BEGAN IN PROVIDENCE, RI
Providence, Rhode Island is sacred ground to diner lovers because this where it all began in 1872, when Walter Scott parked a converted horse wagon around various Providence businesses to sell prepared food to busy shift workers. A living, breathing descendant of that pioneer diner era exists today at Haven Bros., one of the oldest restaurants on wheels in the country and an Ocean State icon that's been in business since the late 1800s.
In 1888 Anne Philomena Haven (1842-1912), a widowed immigrant, founded the diner business with the proceeds from her husband Patrick's life insurance policy. The "lunch cart" (as the family called it) was purchased in Worchester, Massachusetts. It was originally a horse-drawn wagon. Anne's daughter, Catherine Gannon, and her husband Dennis continued to run the diner with the help of their young sons William and John.
Dennis continued to run the business until he sold it to his daughters, Catherine, Anne, Tibertus and Marian. The Haven family finally sold the business in 1953 to the Millicone family who ran it until they sold it to Jack Ferry and currently, the Giusti family.
Every evening at 4:30 p.m., the proprietor wheels the 1949 Fred W. Morse diner car (the third wagon in the diner's history) comes to the comer of Dorrance and Fulton streets next to the Providence City Hall and Kennedy Plaza. After it cloes, the diner is wheeled away to Federal Hill.
Originally a horse-drawn cart, today's Haven Bros., a 1949 Fred W. Morse silver dining car pulled by a Ford F650 truck, sits next to Providence City Hall in a reserved spot from 4:30pm to 5:00am, serving good grub to everyone from well-dressed politicians to after hours night clubbers, college students, and sanity-optional denizens of the wee hours (it sits open for business in another Providence location the rest of the day).
Inside, it's decked out in gleaming stainless steel over 8 x 14 feet, with ample seating if there aren't four people in there already (reservations are not accepted, casual attire, no waiter service). They've got good diner fare including hot dogs, hamburgers, lobster rolls and steak and cheese sandwiches, and to drink, there's the quirky regional favorite coffee milk (like chocolate milk but flavored with coffee instead). And if you really want to fit in with the natives, order a "coffee cabinet" -- Rhode Islandese for a coffee-flavored milkshake.
The Haven Bros. diner made a one time only out of town appearance in 2008 in New York City on NBC's Today Show, when Matt Lauer and Meredith Vieira, who both coincidentally worked in Providence early in their careers, named Haven Bros. as their favorite "Taste of our Past." So if you're ever in Providence, treat yourself to a little slice of Haven -- your cabinet awaits.
Information courtesy of http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haven_Brothers_Diner
HAVEN BROS. MEMORIES:
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