Born from a humble lunch cart purchased in 1917, Jigger’s Diner is one of the few remaining Worcester Lunch Car Company diners in the US. Six years ago, North Kingstown native Karie Myers took the East Greenwich classic out of foreclosure and into the 21st century with her inspired take on diner fare, leading Yankee Magazine to anoint it “one of the 15 best diners in New England.” Myers talks to us about reimagining classic diner food, her go-to breakfast-for-dinner staple, and the thrill of owning a piece of Rhode Island history.
Your path to Jigger’s was circuitous. How did you end up here?
I owned a restaurant for 10 years but went back into physical therapy after I sold it. I am an entrepreneur at heart and I missed working in the kitchen. I heard from a former restaurant contact that the bank was selling a diner in East Greenwich. As soon as I saw that was an original Worcester Lunch Car diner, I was sold.
I feel such a responsibility towards this place. In the basement, we found a treasure trove of original pieces of the diner, from the original menu that now hangs on the wall. Next to that is a photo of the original owner Vilgot “Jigger” Lindberg.
The menu has solid diner cred but there are a lot of twists.
When I bought the place I thought, okay classic diner. I have to do eggs, bacon, burgers. But as I got to know my customer base, I learned that they are pretty health conscious. I kept the traditional items for the purists, but I’ve added tons of healthy options. For example, I go through almost 5,000 avocados a week. Just about every dish comes out with an avocado. We also make a black bean sweet potato hash as a healthier option.
Do you change up the specials?
Yes, seasonally. For fall, we have an apple pie French toast, which is stuffed with a sweet cream, Fuji apples, and cinnamon. Winter is all about the pulled pork. We slow roast the pork, shred it, add some barbecue sauce. That will go in an omelet with cheddar cheese. We’ll also do a pulled pork eggs benedict as well as a lunch special.
What is the most popular item on the menu?
Johnny Cakes. We get our corn meal from Kenyon Grist Mill, which has been around longer than the diner. Our corned beef hash is a close second. We boil the brisket every morning. Same with the potatoes. Nothing is out of a can or a bag. We have a lot of labor-intensive prep to make sure everything is made fresh.
What makes the quintessential diner experience?
When I see customers come in and enjoy a piece of history. They take pictures, sometimes they want your autograph. Customers who have grown up here are coming back and thanking me for the good food, for keeping Jigger’s open. That’s what drives me. I love this business. I love this town. My staff is amazing. I’m proud of what we built. It’s gratifying.
What’s your favorite thing to cook?
I’m partial to breakfast, but non-traditional. I think that’s reflected in our food, especially our benedicts. There are nine on the menu and that’s not counting the specials.
Does this mean you’re a breakfast-for-dinner person?
Can’t go wrong with an omelet. Eggs for any meal!
145 Main Street, East Greenwich • 884-6060