The route from Amherst to Northampton is one frequently trodden by Five College students, in treasured automobiles or on the trusty B43 bus. Despite the routine of this voyage, there lays an all-American pearl waiting to be discovered beyond CVS and the Big Y. The Route 9 Diner, situated at 458 Russell St. in Hadley, is like a tin-can time machine. It’s like heading back to the 1950s; a snapshot of old Americana glamor.
Re-opened in 2003 by owners Chris Karabetsos and Archie Sidires, the diner displays examples of their mutual Greek heritage with a “Greek Specialties” section of the menu. Working behind the kitchen line or out on the dining room floor, they provide the backbone to the establishment. If you don’t fancy spaghetti, you can always have souvlaki, which is a Greek dish consisting of skewered meat or veggies.
The Route 9 Diner is extremely benevolent to the students of the University of Massachusetts. With free refills of coffee, and a consistently buzzing atmosphere, it’s a great place to plan papers with the help of some home fries, or to kick back, take a break and converse with friends. Moreover, while most UMass dining halls are only open until around midnight, the diner stays open 24/7, proving itself as a stomping ground for truckers, workers and students alike, feeding and watering the Pioneer Valley at any time of day.
Voted best in late night dining in the Valley Advocate’s “Best of the Valley” readers poll for 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012, somewhat outshining Antonio’s, the Route 9 Diner is definitely a must-see, if not just for the novelty of its appearance. Posters of Hollywood greats hang on the walls alongside blue and silver old-school chairs, and metallic tables, ample for a large group or for more intimate milkshake-slurping.
Stepping inside the silver walls of this foodie fortress, finals stress and paper woes seem to melt away. It serves as a delightful way for those on campus to leave the monotony of the dining halls and try something new. While customers won’t receive the same buffet-style, all-you-can eat freedom of Berkshire, Franklin or Worcester dining halls, the diner’s portions are extremely generous, often leaving the consumer clutching their bloated stomach from overindulgence. They certainly don’t do things by halves.
With appetizers spanning from crispy fried calamari to nachos to fried cheeseburger ravioli, the diner provides an extensive selection of cuisines, which while fantastic, make it frankly impossible to choose. The entrées range from salads, wraps, club sandwiches, burgers, pasta and full breakfast platters. The Route 9 special breakfast deserves special mention for its cheap deliverance of everything anyone could ever want in a breakfast, even at 10 at night. After all, breakfast is the new dinner of champions.
The food is delectable, setting itself apart from the usual preconceived notions of cruddy tasting diner food. From the sometimes overwhelming platters of breakfast foods, to the more traditional Greek items on the menu, each bite of food distinguishes itself from the generic bland-tasting stereotype that many all-night diverse eateries are unfairly pinned with. All day and night, the breakfast food tastes hearty and fulfilling while the burgers and fries never feel stale. Debatably the most important menu item of them all, the coffee isn’t half bad – it’s actually rather good.
As with most classic American diners, the jukebox is the epicenter of the action. Route 9 doesn’t fail to deliver. Embedded on most of the tables in the restaurant, the jukebox offers old, modern and everything in between songs to suit the musical tastes of all patrons. Customers will find themselves united with others in their row in their appreciation of the iconic tunes blasting from the speakers. Elvis Presley always goes down a treat.
So as the end of the year approaches, and the sun begins to shine on the grand old state of Massachusetts, why not amuse yourself with a slice of vintage America? With an extremely friendly and helpful staff, the Route 9 Diner is a restaurant for any occasion, providing a melting pot of cuisines for a melting pot of customers. Furthermore, for those over 21, the diner is the perfect hotspot for a post-bars snackathon, or a fabulous way to wallow with a hangover, surrounded by unlimited Coca-Cola and classic fried chicken.
Next time you’re cruising down to Noho, or visiting Hampshire Mall, make sure you check out the jewel of Pioneer Valley dining. After all, it’s always open.
Jenny Rae can be reached at [email protected]