The Iconic Blue Benn Diner in Bennington Makes a Comeback (and other good food news)
March 21, 2021
The Blue Benn Diner on North Street in Bennington is getting a new lease on life.
When the diner went on the market last summer, John Getchell jumped at the chance to purchase the iconic establishment.
Getchell, a Bennington College alumnus, enjoyed his first meal at The Blue Benn in 1981 when he was a prospective student. He ate there regularly during his college years and ever since held the Blue Benn in high regard.
In December, he purchased the 1940s-era diner car, which has been a Bennington fixture since 1948. On Valentine’s Day, the diner reopened 11 months after the pandemic forced the previous owner, Mary Lou Monroe, to close its doors. She eventually decided to retire and sell the business.
“The Blue Benn was a completely known quantity to me, and it needed to be resurrected,” says Getchell, who recently relocated from Maine to Bennington. “It means so much to people, and it’s been an institution for more than 50 years. It was kind of a no-brainer for me.”
The diner looks the same as it did a year ago, as does the menu. Some long-time employees are still there as well, including Brian Carpenter, the cook who learned under the helm of the diner’s previous co-owner and chef, Sonny Monroe, who died in 2019.
Sonny and Mary Lou Monroe purchased the diner on Christmas Eve in 1973. For decades, Sonny Monroe cooked traditional and eclectic fare, from cheeseburgers and fried haddock to gyro sandwiches and falafel.
Before Getchell decided to purchase the diner in 2020, he contacted Carpenter and waitstaff to see if they would be interested in returning to the diner once it reopened.
“Brian Carpenter was Sonny’s protégé, and he’s the only person on the planet who can execute that menu,” Getchell says. “We have four waitresses, and two have been here for 25 years. I wanted to have familiar faces because that’s who the town expects to see here.”
-Photo courtesy of The Blue Benn. Top photo by Shutterstock.
‘If It Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix It’
Customers won’t notice many changes at The Blue Benn. The diner now accepts credit cards and has a new website. One personal touch Getchell has made to the business is a new temporary sign out front, which offers a bit of humor.
“I don’t advertise the diner on the sign, and it’s not a soapbox. It’s just for grins,” Getchell says. “There’s no shortage of material.”
On a recent Sunday, for instance, the sign read: “Spring Daylight Savings Should Happen at 4 p.m. on a Friday.”
For now, Getchell says breakfast and lunch are available at the diner, with take-out and dine-in options. This spring, Getchell hopes to offer dinner and outdoor seating as well.
The diner’s motto is, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” And that’s exactly how Getchell plans to move forward.
“It’s an every-man’s eating establishment. It belongs to the town,” he says. “This is not my diner. I’m a steward taking it into the 21st century and giving it a new breath of life.”
The Blue Benn Diner is located at 314 North Street, Bennington. Visit www.bluebenn.com or call 802-442-5140.
More Vermont Restaurants, Breweries, and Cheesemakers Opening and Re-Opening
In recent months, various Vermont restaurants and café’s opened—or reopened—their doors. Here are a few that have grabbed my attention:
Oakes & Evelyn in Montpelier
Oakes & Evelyn opened in February in the former Kismet restaurant location on State Street. The restaurant describes itself as a modern farm-to-table restaurant, with menu offerings such as pork belly steam bun, Island Creek oysters, crispy octopus, and slow-roasted duck breast. Dine-in and take-out available. (52 State Street, Montpelier; www.oakesandevelyn.com; 802-347-9100)
The Silver Fork in Manchester
The Silver Fork, formerly a tiny restaurant with six tables and six barstools on Route 7A, reopened in a renovated, much larger space in the old Mark Skinner Library in Manchester. The restaurant is owned by Melody French and her husband, chef Mark French. After living in Puerto Rico for 20 years, the couple opened the Silver Fork in Manchester in 2011. The menu still features an eclectic mix of Mark French’s rich international culinary background with Caribbean and European influences. (48 West Road, Manchester Village; https://thesilverforkvt.com; 802-768-8444)
This beloved Vergennes Laundry café is back. Montreal native and experienced chef Nadia Dole reopened the wood-fired bakery and café—a former laundromat transformed a decade ago into a bakery—earlier this year after it closed in 2018. Dole offers a range of espresso and coffee drinks, fresh bread, and more. (247 Main Street, Vergennes; www.vergenneslaundry.co; 802-870-7257)
Thai Hut in Brattleboro
Varee Sankgasoot was born in Bangkok, Thailand, and has lived in Brattleboro for more than a decade. Thai Hut’s take-out menu features ginger tofu, chicken dumplings, roast pork noodle soup, and more. Sankgasoot’s food, which can also be found seasonally at the Brattleboro and Putney farmers’ markets, recently found a physical location, sharing its entrance with Hermit Thrush Brewery. Thai Hut accepts cash only. Open Fridays and Saturdays. (29 High Street, Suite 201, Brattleboro; www.thaihutvermont.com; 802-451-9831)
A shout-out to beer and cheese
Mount Holly Brewery
New brewery Mount Holly Beer released its first batch in December. The Rutland County company is contract-brewing at Whetsone Station in Brattleboro, and co-owners Dan Tilly and Dave Mango are enthusiastic about the future. Mount Holly is also one of many breweries participating in the new Vermont Hop Project, a collaborative brewing experiment spearheaded by Champlain Valley Hops. You can find Mount Holly Beer at stores around the state or visit https://mounthollybeer.com.
Consider Bardwell Farm
Award-winning Consider Bardwell Farm has restarted its Vermont-based cheesemaking operations. Now operating on a smaller scale by limiting production uniquely to cow’s milk cheese, Consider Bardwell Farm cheese is made solely from fresh Jersey cow’s milk from a neighboring farm’s single herd. Consider Bardwell is available at retail outlets and farmer’s markets, as well as online at www.considerbardwellfarm.com.