Today started the long drive back to school, from Maryland up to Halifax, Nova Scotia, by way of Gray and Bangor Maine. We take the drive to Gray, Maine every other year or so, to stay at the old family camp, but have always timed it wrong to make the stop in Portsmouth for the legendary lunch wagon.
A vintage photo from my collection of Gilleys with owner Bill Kennedy.
If I recall correctly, the article is from 1957.
Caption states: “The Night Lunch is an old, old Portsmouth institution. For more than 75 years, the mobile diner has parked on market sq. and old timers await its arrival to buy their franks and beans. Once pulled by horses, a tractor truck now deposits it here each night and picks it up in the morning. Owner Bill Kennedy has run it for 45 years.
The current diner was built c.1940 by the Worcester Lunch Car Company, and stays true to the earlier style lunch wagon floorplan, with the small kitchen on one side, and a couple of stools on the other. It was originally brought to the square and left. Later, it was mounted on a truck, upon which it still rests, although its traveling days are over. A complimentary barrel roofed addition was attached to the right hand side of the car in 1996. The diner is in remarkably good shape, retaining it’s original wood and enameled panels inside. The beautiful original vent hood still gleams.
As it has for nearly a century, the diner still turns out good food, inexpensively, and is open late.
The menu is limited, as it should be, to what can be cooked behind the counter at the grill. Hamburgers, dogs, grilled cheese, fries, etc. I ordered the chili cheese dog. Excellent natural casing dog, with a nice crisp to it when bit, on a squishy bun, covered in chili. It was almost impossible to eat without wearing it, but oh so delicious.
Friendly place, great food, served in a rare and well preserved lunch wagon. What more could I ask for?