The town of Winchester doesn't have many restaurants, and the ones it does have tend to be concentrated in the center of this quiet northern suburb of Boston, along with a few other spots scattered along Route 38 north, heading toward Woburn. But there is another eatery that is located on a relatively little-traveled cross street north of the town center, and one that seems to be nearly completely under the radar. This is a shame, as the Swanton Street Diner is a unique place that has a lot more variety on its menu than you might expect.
The Swanton Street Diner, which resides in a combination commercial/residential structure between Washington Street and a commuter rail bridge, is very easy to miss, as the sign out front doesn't stand out all that much (especially during the day). And from the outside, it doesn't really have the look of a diner in the true sense of the word, as it could be easily mistaken for a takeout place or perhaps a store of some sort. The warm and inviting interior has a couple of different sections, with a counter area with a few chairs to the left and the main dining area (including several window seats) to the right. The dining area is brightly lit, and the warm yellow walls and dark paneling add a homey feel to the room.
Breakfast, lunch, and dinner is served seven days a week at the Swanton Street Diner, and while the breakfasts include typical diner food (waffles, pancakes, French toast, omelets, etc.), the lunch menu and, especially, the dinner menu both feature a whole lot more than your classic diner fare. From appetizers to entrees, there are some real surprises here, with the cuisine offered being a mix of classic American cuisine, some New American dishes, items that lean toward pub grub, and, yes, diner food.
Each meal at the Swanton Street Diner starts with garlic bread coated with a good amount of olive oil (be careful, as the bread is filling and can easily fill you up before the appetizers even come out). Some starters at the diner include a wonderful black bean and cheese dip with slightly chalky but delicious homemade tortilla chips and freshly made salsa; a hearty--and very cheesy--French onion soup; a thick and creamy clam chowder; a marvelous chicken noodle soup and an equally good chicken and asparagus soup; a rich-tasting beef vegetable soup that is also only on special; and a filet mignon salad with tomatoes, mixed greens, goat cheese, and a balsamic vinaigrette. Entrees include moderately lean and perfectly tender steak tips with a zesty marinade; beef wellington with spinach and mushrooms in a bleu cheese sauce; a not-too-sticky and not-too-watery vegetable risotto that includes an abundance of tender artichoke hearts; excellent grilled thin-crust pizzas that have lots of cheese and include several red and white options; lean Australian lamb chops with crunchy walnuts and creamy goat cheese served over a Mediterranean risotto; ear-shaped wild mushroom ravioli that come with an array of options, including chicken or veal and romano, picatta, or marsala sauce; grilled center-cup pork chops that are tender and have a ton of flavor; a huge plate of chicken parmigiana with big pieces of crispy breaded chicken lying on top of pasta mixed with a deep-tasting red sauce; a tremendous rib-eye steak that is thinly cut and extremely tender; and a belly-busting turkey dinner that comes with stuffing, mashed potatoes, vegetables, cranberry sauce, and gravy. If you're looking for slightly lighter fare, the Swanton Street Diner does has sandwiches such as a turkey club, burgers, and a fish sandwich. Beer and wine are served, and a few desserts are also offered, including a completely sinful chocolate peanut butter pie, a similarly decadent Oreo cookie pie, and an absolutely enormous chocolate layer cake from a local bakery that is best shared with a second person (unless you're really hungry).
It may not be your typical old-school diner that resides in a structure with lots of stainless steel and porcelain, but the Swanton Street Diner is a place not to be missed. As a slightly higher-end diner that has almost upscale touches, this local favorite in the northern section of Winchester is indeed tough to categorize, but that's all right with us; quite simply, the sheer uniqueness of the place makes it a place certainly worth seeking out.
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