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|Out to Lunch
by Brian J. Lowney
The Lighthouse Diner is Providence’s answer to Cheers – minus the alcohol. The small, postage sized eatery – well known for its great breakfast and luncheon specials – is a friendly spot where no one is a stranger. With just a few barstools situated at a small counter, diners are quickly invited to chat with the eatery’s friendly wait staff and cook, as well as with fellow diners, all of whom are on a similar mission to enjoy a wonderful, satisfying meal – which is always served at an affordable price.
The Lighthouse Diner is a Mecca for local politicians, businessmen and doctors from nearby Rhode Island Hospital, so diners are always guaranteed to have a stimulating and interesting discussion, whether they choose to visit the colorful downtown restaurant for breakfast or lunch.
This restaurant offers simple yet hearty fare - nothing unusual or nouvelle. Don’t visit The Lighthouse expecting gourmet cuisine. Do expect an enjoyable meal, made from the freshest ingredients and prepared by a cook who you might think was lovingly fixing breakfast or lunch for a family member. He is – because once you eat at The Lighthouse, you become a member of the restaurant’s large extended (and constantly growing) family and legion of fans.
Breakfast is served all day – another reason why I love this small downtown diner. I recently enjoyed a steaming cup of coffee ($1.25 for a bottomless cup); while I watched the cook, a native of New Orleans with a long family heritage in the restaurant business, create a bacon and American cheese omelet ($3.99), that was served with a heaping mound of delicious home fries and white toast (wheat is also available). My omelet was delicious; chock full of pieces of smoky bacon and mild American cheese. The serving was so generous that I didn’t have to eat dinner.
While I enjoyed my omelet, my friend and dining companion enjoyed a light breakfast of two eggs over easy ($3.50), served with a heaping mound of nicely seasoned home fries and wheat toast.
"This is just right," Ben emphasized, breaking into a broad smile. "I am not usually a breakfast kind-of-guy. It’s only 8 a.m.: I’m usually just rolling over at this hour, but I must admit that this breakfast is delicious. I could eat this every – well, almost every day."
On another day, I enjoyed a hearty sandwich – the steak bomb ($6.50), a large, freshly-baked roll filled with an appetizing combination of sautéed shaved steak, peppers, onions, mushrooms and cheese. What an interesting amalgamation of flavors – the fiery peppers and onions being offset by the milder yet still flavorful mushrooms and cheese. Again, the portion was generous but this time, I was wise enough to take half of the sandwich home to enjoy for lunch the following day.
That day I had invited my friend Raquel to experience this delightful little dining spot. "It’s so cute," she exclaimed, jumping from the car. "Just look at that pretty sign. This is going to be fun!"
Adding that the restaurant’s nautical theme and name put her in the mood for something "fishy," Raquel selected the classic tuna salad sandwich ($3.50), which she proclaimed to "taste fresh from the sea, nicely seasoned with just the right amount of mayonnaise."
My friend generously shared her seasoned fries ($2.05; $1.25 when added to a sandwich) and also was kind enough to let me sample the macaroni salad that accompanied her luncheon choice.
"When are you bringing me here for breakfast?" Raquel coyly inquired, surveying the menu. "I want to try the French toast with sausages ($3.99). Doesn’t that sound like a wonderful way to start a nice summer day?"
The Lighthouse Diner also offers luncheon specials such as a meatball sub ($4.50); a zesty Sloppy Joe ($3.00); omelets, pancakes, and a tempting array of sandwiches, all of which are accompanied by a side of macaroni or potato salad or a bag of chips. With all menu items being available for takeout, Raquel suggested that we stop at The Lighthouse on one of our treks to the beach and fill our picnic hamper with some grilled cheese sandwiches ($1.50, $2.00 for two).
"I just love eating cold grilled cheese sandwiches while I watch the lapping waves," she remarked as I winced.
"Not me," I shot back. "I’ll take a sausage and cheese grinder $4.50). Just give me a side of potato salad and a bottle of ice cold lemonade and I’ll be all set."
The Lighthouse Diner is located at 377 Richmond Street, Providence, and is open Monday-Saturday, 6 a.m.-2 p.m. For more information or to place an order, call 272-6333.
Brian J. Lowney is a reporter for the Providence Visitor and the pet columnist for the Herald News (Fall River). He enjoys the wonderful Rhode Island restaurant scene and writing about the cornucopia of outstanding dining and retail food establishments we have been blessed with throughout the region.