Diner devotees know no diner is just a diner. There are nationals (think Denny's), regionals (Friendly's), and there are little local holes in the wall, open for breakfast and an early lunch, from the top of the state down (The Littleton Diner is a North Country standout). Some aren't much to look at, relying on a devoted clientele and word of mouth rather than traffic drawn by their fancy signs and architecture.
New ones and good ones pop up from time to time, like the DW Diner II on South Main in Manchester. Sister of the DW Diner in Merrimack, DW II is tucked into a tight little West Side neighborhood in a location lots of people can actually walk to. They can get there by car as well, taking advantage of ample parking in an adjacent lot while they take a break from tooling around west Manchester on errands.
It's a neighborly place, to be sure, and it combines many attributes of larger restaurants into its compact self and offers a spacious, comfortable, sparkling venue for breakfast and lunch, six days a week.
Is it popular? You bet. A recent weekday visit saw most of the 16-18 tables occupied, with more folks at the spacious counter. Many patrons from one table to another knew each other, stopping by to visit as they came and went. South Main's newest breakfast joint actually holds true to its motto: "Where good food and good friends come together."
We enjoyed The DW more than once for this review, and tried a few dishes to get a good idea of its worth. We came away with a very favorable impression, top to bottom.
To an America accustomed to drive-through eateries and fast-food solutions, DW Diner provides a respite — time to reflect that this is a meal here, not a mechanized fill-up, and perhaps it's a good idea to slow down and relax for it.
We paused and reflected, and that alone was worth the trip.
Also worth the trip was the Kielbasa and Eggs breakfast, a tried and true meat-eggs-and-potato meal on a plate that serves to beef up the human physiology for the day ahead: thick slices of well-grilled Polish sausage with eggs and toast, and home fries, hash browns (crispy if you want them) or baked beans.
A hearty breakfast, that, but not to be outdone by Raisin Bread French Toast, where three slices of tasty raisin bread are grilled and served with a large mound of butter and maple syrup. A simple dish, but a cut above the rest, served hot off the griddle with powdered sugar.
This was accompanied by a side of bacon that is worth noting: Five large slices of thick bacon, not overcooked and not so thin as to see through (a la doughnut shops' breakfast sandwiches). Five hearty slices. Enough for two, and a bargain at $3.49.
DW also offers the full boat of omelettes, pancakes, eggs, breakfast sandwiches and other dishes, including biscuits and sausage gravy, corned beef hash and eggs, sirloin steak tips and eggs, broccoli with spinach and egg beaters and a veggie and egg wrap.
We tried a burger (of course) and a tuna salad sandwich, and both were well-received. The sandwich and burger menu features varieties of both, with many grilled and melt sandwiches to choose from.
Burgers come in with a half-pound of certified Angus beef. The Texas BBQ Burger tops our list, featuring chipotle spread and smothered in cheddar, barbecue sauce and fried onions. It's enough for two meals for a lighter eater, but stands the test of construction and road crew workers who crowd DW for lunch.
A Classic Tuna Melt can also be a simple tuna salad sandwich. Ours was served on ungrilled sourdough bread (by request), with thick slices of tomato, pickles and Cape Cod chips on the side.
Again, a hearty entree featuring a thick helping of garden fresh tuna lightly mixed with mayonnaise and celery on very fresh and tasty sourdough. It was another half-and-half: Half the sandwich was enough for lunch, and the other half went home for the next day.
A bonus: When you don't finish your meal, the to-go containers are air-tight plastic so the food is travel-ready and fresh the next time you go for it.
Early dinner fare at DW is well presented with Broccoli Fettucini Alfredo, Macaroni and Cheese, Flat Iron Steak, American Chop Suey, Garlic Herb Pasta, Baked Haddock and, of course, Shepherd's Pie, from $7.29 to $11.99.
Also choose from soups, boneless chicken tenders, crispy wings, bruschetta, a variety of salads ($3.99 to $9.99) and a handful of desserts.
Top-of-the-line sandwiches include a Pepper Steak Sub, Hot Pastrami, Reuben, Ranch Chicken Wrap, Turkey BLT, Sante Fe Roast Beef and a TBT Melt — hot turkey with bacon, tomato and melted cheese on grilled marble rye.
On the dessert menu, there is pie, sundaes, pudding and shortcake, but we'll be back to try the Belgian Waffle Sundae, a sinful combination of a homemade Belgian waffle topped with ice cream, whipped cream and a choice of chocolate or strawberry sauce.
DW Diner II is a spacious, comfortable and sparkling clean eatery well worth a visit to the West Side, whether you're driving from across town or walking from down the block.