“We’re going to, uh, you know, that famous diner in Vermont?” It doesn’t matter how vague I am. When I say the magic words, eyes light up.
“Oh, the Blue Benn? Yeah, it’s great.”
Though it is tiny, the Blue Benn has a big reputation. When first-time customers pull up to the blue and chrome diner, dwarfed by its own crowded parking lot, they know they’re onto something.
“Next booth!” calls the waitress, and the groups waiting in the foyer all eye each other competitively. Other customers breeze in, seating themselves along the bar, but we decide to wait for one of the few booth seats. The diner apparently holds only 44 people, but the turnover is quick and even during the busiest, pre-church Sunday morning, the wait is short. No one lingers at the Blue Benn; pancakes grow cold.
Once inside, we are overwhelmed with choices. Apart from the thick menu, which boasts everything from foot-long hot dogs to eggplant almond enchiladas to grilled liver and onions with bacon, the walls are plastered with additional options.
Do I want the quiche of the day or an apple cheddar omelet? The sign for a black bean and chicken quesadilla tempts me from the wall, but I finally decide on the Blue Benn wrap with spinach, red peppers and mozzarella ($5.95). Anything containing the restaurant’s name must be special, right? Actually, the Blue Benn’s namesake (or perhaps one of its many namesakes – I couldn’t really keep track) was rather undistinguishable. The tortilla was fried and crispy, but that was about all it had going for it.
“That is the most spinach I have ever seen in my life,” said my companion, peering at the sandwich’s very thick and green diameter. Don’t get me wrong – I love spinach. But in great quantities and with no distractions (the mozzarella was nowhere to be found), the leafiness becomes a bit, well, too healthy-tasting even for me.
A garden scramble omelet ($6.25) handles its vegetables more skillfully. Broccoli, spinach, tomatoes, onions, mushrooms and peppers are all thrown together with eggs and cheddar. The accompanying toast was deliciously hot and buttery, but the potatoes were surprisingly disappointing. Most diners specialize in some form of potato hash, filled with oniony, greasy goodness, but these were barely salted and looked like they had been boiled, not fried.
The Blue Benn offers breakfast all day, and the sweet part of the menu is equally as extensive as the sandwich page. Pancakes come in all varieties, from pumpkin pecan (very heavy and not that sweet) to whole-wheat harvest pancakes (also rather hearty) dotted with plump berries. A homemade donut, with or without powdered sugar, is cakey and dense and perfect to crumble into your tea. The Indian pudding ($2.00) is so good that we are each only allowed a few spoonfuls of molasses and vanilla ice cream heaven, before its overprotective owner finishes it off. The homemade raspberry pie, on the other hand, could have come straight from the supermarket with its jam-like filling and chewy crust.
My recommendation for navigating the menu? Head straight for the muffins. My corn muffin was a warm, fluffy yellow on the inside and crunchy and salty on its grilled outside. Yes, they will grill your muffin. They also make cornbread muffin French toast ($4.00), which is one delightful, battered step forward for mankind.
After two visits to the famed Blue Benn, I feel like I’ve just touched the tip of the iceberg. After all, there is an infinite variety of untried muffins, and I spotted a sign for pumpkin bread pudding that is still calling my name.