Waitress Deana Quadros happily delivers a tray of food to customers. SUN/CHRIS LISINSKI
Waitress Deana Quadros happily delivers a tray of food to customers. SUN/CHRIS LISINSKI

A Sun Staff Report

What's not to love about breakfast?

Forget all that talk about it being the most important meal. It's the best meal.

Eggs over easy, sunny-side up, scrambled or poached. Sausage, either links or patties. A juicy slab of ham. Homemade hash and home fries. French toast, pancakes, waffles, covered with confectioner's sugar and drenched in syrup.

And bacon? Fahgeddaboudit.

Eat a good, hearty breakfast, and you could be set for the day.

And there are plenty of places in Greater Lowell to get a good, hearty breakfast. Trust us. We know.

So where to go? We assigned a bunch of reporters to scope out the local breakfast scene. And while the diners on these pages all have something to recommend them, the list is by no means all-inclusive.

Cameo owner Scott Conant at work. SUN/CHRIS LISINSKI
Cameo owner Scott Conant at work. SUN/CHRIS LISINSKI
So we recommend that you try these, but we also urge breakfast lovers to try other diners until they find their favorite.

For the sake of comparison, we asked our ravenous reporters to note the price of each diner's eggs Benedict and full stack of pancakes.

Let us know what you think of these selections and others you may find in the Lowell area by emailing the reporters or dphelps@lowellsun.com.

Let's not waste any more time. Breakfast bacons ... er, beckons.

Belly Buster

Address: 306 Boston Road, #10, Billerica

Owners: Luiza Qirici and Armando Nushi

Signature Breakfast Dish: Belly Buster Special -- three eggs any style with bacon and sausage, home fries, toast and a choice of two pancakes or slices of French toast, all for $8.


Advertisement

The Bacon Waffle Benny at Chelmsford Diner.
The Bacon Waffle Benny at Chelmsford Diner. (SUN/ALANA MELANSON)
75.

Eggs Benedict: $7.99

Tall stack of pancakes: $5.99

Three eggs. Sausage. Home fries. Toast. Oh, and your choice of two pancakes or slices of French toast.

The signature dish earns this North Billerica diner's name. "They're, like, 'It's so much,'" owner Armando Nushi said. "You're at the Belly Buster."

Nushi has owned Belly Buster Diner with his mother-in-law, Luiza Qirici, since 2006, though the diner on 306 Boston Road has been in operation for nearly three decades.

The name took its thematic cue from Lowell's Big Belly Deli, as the deli and the diner were once owned by the same family.

Nushi said the diner continues the tradition with generous portions.

"We don't really count how many we put on the plate here," said Nushi talking about the tall stack of pancakes.

Nushi said his family owns restaurants across the state. He was pursuing a degree in business administration at UMass Lowell when he started running Belly Buster.

The diner has about 10 part-time and full-time employees. Some are family and some aren't, but most have worked at the Belly Buster for years, he said.

The customers keep coming back, too, Nushi said. Most mornings, a group of construction workers eat at a table in the rear of the restaurant. Nushi said he has watched some diners grow from kids to college students.

"It's that, like, home feeling, you know," he said. "And we try to put out the best breakfast."

Elizabeth Dobbins, edobbins@lowellsun.com

Bradford Lantern Café

Address: 853 Main St., Tewksbury

Owner: Joan Toscano

Signature Breakfast Dish: Eggs Benedict

Eggs Benedict: $8 to $11.95

Tall stack of pancakes: $6

The Bradford Lantern Café is a homey, family-run business in Tewksbury. Joan Toscano bought the business 31 years ago, and has kept it going with her son and daughter, Dario and Deana Toscano.

With about a dozen varieties to choose from, the eggs Benedict is definitely a favorite among customers, according to the owner. The Irish Benedict includes hash, the Florentine Benedict is made with spinach and tomato, there is a bacon-avocado variation -- and the list goes on. Some aren't even on the menu but might be a special on any given day.

Some of Bradford Lantern Café's other popular items include waffles, coffee rolls and their poached eggs. This fall, customers can also expect pumpkin-spice pancakes and waffles.

Toscano takes pride in the fact that it's a family business that is warm and inviting. Over the years, she has had many longtime, loyal customers. The Bradford Lantern is busy most days, but especially so on the weekends.

"I love the people," Toscano said. "I have wonderful customers, and I'm very fortunate. I've made a lot of wonderful friendships, and I guess you might say we're people pleasers. We want to keep our customers happy."

Bradford Lantern Café is open from 6:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. daily, except weekends, when they close at 1 p.m.

Kori Tuitt, ktuitt@lowellsun.com

Breen's Diner

Address: 170 Main St., Pepperell

Owners: Jeff and Nancy Breen

Signature Breakfast Dish: The Big Bopper -- two pancakes or slices of French toast and two eggs with choice of sausage, bacon or ham. Served with home fries and toast, for $10.50

Eggs Benedict for $9.75

Stack of three pancakes for $6.99

When Jeff and Nancy Breen opened Breen's Diner just shy of four years ago, they already had a name in the community.

In the 1990s, the Breens owned and operated The Evergreen in Ashby. Though the restaurant closed in 2000, its patrons still remember.

"That was the greatest little place on a Sunday morning," said Dottie Farmer, a Pepperell resident. "My God, you couldn't get in sometimes. You had to wait. That was all right. You waited, because you knew it was going to be good."

On a recent weekday morning in Pepperell, Farmer dined at the Breens' current venture, their eponymous, 1950s-themed diner at the heart of Pepperell. Does the food make the cut?

"You better believe it," Farmer said. "You couldn't get anything better."

Jeff Breen said the location draws diners from around the region, many hungry after biking on the nearby Nashua River Rail Trail. Children come in before school, and a group of about dozen people come in every day, often staying for two meals, he said.

About a year ago, the restaurant tweaked its menu to add some popular requests, including chicken and waffles. Their muffins are homemade and, in addition to typical breakfast fair, Breen's serves ice cream.

A waitress in a 1950s-style pink dress, a jukebox, long counter and bright red booths contribute to the midcentury theme.

Breen said the restaurant is a family effort spanning three generations. His son, Daniel, works there, as does Breen's father, stepfather, stepuncle and, occasionally, his wife.

"Everybody helps out," he said. "It's really a family thing."

Elizabeth Dobbins, edobbins@lowellsun.com

Cameo Diner

Address: 715 Lakeview Ave., Lowell

Owners: Scott and Jenn Conant

Signature Breakfast Dish: Anything. No, really: that's what the Conants say is their signature. They cook each item on their classic menu to order, from bacon and eggs to blueberry pancakes.

Eggs Benedict: $8.75

Tall stack of pancakes: $4.95

Top to bottom, the Cameo Diner feels like a throwback. In the best way.

It's a tiny little place tucked into Centralville, just a handful of booths along one wall and stools lining a counter on the other. The menu features everything you would expect from a breakfast-only diner, such as made-to-order bacon and eggs and stacks of blueberry or chocolate-chip pancakes.

Since 1980, the Cameo has been a family business. Current owners Scott and Jenn Conant took it over a decade ago from Scott's parents, and they continue to run it every day, with Scott usually manning the griddle.

"I think everything is good," he says when asked about the menu's best item, "but I'm the cook, so it has to be good."

Like any good classic diner, the Cameo has a robust group of regulars, invited back by a large message over the exit: "We'll do this again tomorrow."

Wait staff frequently sit down at the booths to chat with patrons while taking their orders, something Jenn said is part of the diner's goal to connect with customers on a personal level.

"We get to know people -- how's your family, what's going on?" Jenn said. "We try to keep it that way."

Chelmsford Diner

7 Summer St. #25, Chelmsford

Owner: Terry Langone

Signature Breakfast Dish: Irish Eggs Benedict with corned beef hash, tomatoes and Hollandaise; Bacon Waffle Benny with Belgian-style waffles filled and topped with bacon.

Price of Eggs Benedict: $7.99

Price of tall stack of regular pancakes: $9.99

Bruce Berger of Chelmsford has been coming to the Chelmsford Diner two to five days a week since it opened five years ago.

"The food's good, the prices are reasonable, the food and the kitchen staff are consistent," Berger said. "If I order something, I know what it's going to look like."

Berger said he usually gets two eggs over medium with toast and bacon, but he likes to experiment with new dishes, like eggs Benedict.

"The homemade hash is to die for," he said.

Berger said he works from home, so the diner is a great place for him to come and socialize in the morning. He enjoys the friendly banter he has with waitress Kathy Wood, whom he has known since she worked at the old Skip's in town.

Wood said the diner strives for a relaxed, laid-back atmosphere.

Among customer favorites are the breakfast sandwiches and wraps, pancakes with fresh blueberries and the Sausage Bomb omelet, with Italian sausage, bell pepper, onion and provolone.

While the diner can't guarantee strict gluten-free conditions, such items, including pancakes, waffles, toast and English muffins, are available and popular among customers.

Club Diner

Address: 145 Dutton St., Lowell

Owner: David Levasseur

Signature Breakfast Dish: Breakfast sandwiches -- notably, The 67 (two eggs, bacon, sausage, cheese and home fries on a bulkie roll).

Eggs Benedict: $8.50

Tall stack of pancakes: $4.95

Eighty years later, the longest-operating diner in Lowell continues to serve up its classic breakfast sandwiches, omelets pancakes and more.

Club Diner owner David Levasseur was cracking eggs and cooking strips of bacon in the back of his eatery Monday morning.

"We have some great signature sandwiches," said Levasseur, cooking up The 67.

He has been at the Dutton Street diner for about 30 years. His grandfather established The Club in 1938, his father took it over, and now David is the third-generation owner.

The diner was constructed by the Worcester Diner Company and placed on the Lowell site in 1933, then sold to Emile Levasseur in 1938.

Situated near the downtown streets filled with bars, the Club Diner attracts a late-night crowd after 11 p.m.

"We're in a good location, getting the college students and everybody else after the bar scene," Levasseur said. "They can fill up before they go home."

A hungry customer walked in Monday morning.

"Grand slam for me. Grand slam's my go-to now," he said, and eagerly awaited his order of one egg, one pancake, two strips of bacon, two sausage links, home fries/beans -- all for $6.95.

Rick Sobey, rsobey@lowellsun.com

Dream Diner

384 Middlesex Road, Tyngsboro

Owner: Marybeth Shanahan

Signature breakfast dish: According to Marybeth Shanahan, the Dream has four signature breakfast dishes: ham and eggs; ham eggs Benedict (the Dream has 14 variations of eggs Benedict); homemade cinnamon-roll French toast; and sweet-potato pancakes.

Eggs Benedict: $12.99 (includes a thick piece of ham carved off the bone)

Tall stack of pancakes: $6.99

On a recent Thursday in late August, Abigail Golden stopped by the Dream Diner with her sister, Lillian, and their friends, Molly and Mya Shanahan, for breakfast before school. The air inside the eatery felt warm and smelled of fresh coffee and eggs frying, as cook Alex Olivera juggled breakfast orders from behind the long counter.

Golden, a Lowell resident, choose the homemade cinnamon-roll French toast for the first time. She said she had always wanted to try it after seeing samples of it at the diner. The sweet dish earned the 14-year-old's approval.

"It tasted like a cinnamon roll, and it tasted like a French toast, so I think it was a great combination of both, and if you add the syrup, it just tastes amazing," she said. "I love it."

Marybeth Shanahan, owner of the Dream Diner, said the homemade cinnamon-roll French toast is one of the diner's four signature dishes.

"We bake the cinnamon rolls, we frost them with the frosting, and then we slice them in half, we dip them in the French toast batter, and we grill them," Shanahan said.

Shanahan said that some will, or course, add butter or syrup. "But they're even good without," she added with a smile.

Amaris Castillo, acastillo@lowellsun.com

Laudi's Breakfast House

34 Broadway Road, Dracut

Owner: Glen Perry

Signature breakfast dish: According to Aubrey Leigh Perry, the owner's daughter and acting manager, Laudi's has two signature breakfast dishes: homemade corned-beef hash, and lamb and eggs, the latter of which Perry said "you won't find anywhere else in the area."

Standard eggs benedict with a side: $8.50 (half portion for $6.99)

Tall stack of pancakes: $5.50

Bea Daigle sat alone at a booth at Laudi's Breakfast House on a recent Thursday morning in early September. The 89-year-old Dracut resident had an egg, a cherry muffin and a cup of coffee. Daigle said she used to come to the diner every other day, but diabetes forced her to cut back a bit.

"It's always clean," she said. "It's very clean in here. There's some diners you go to, and everything seems to be greasy. I call that a greasy spoon. This is not a greasy spoon. That's what I like about it."

Daigle said she enjoys the friendliness of the people in the Dracut diner. As for her breakfast on this particular morning, she noted that "everything was delicious." Especially the cherry muffin. "Oh, my God, it was great," Daigle said.

Aubrey Leigh Perry, the owner's daughter and acting manager, said local families are among the diner's most frequent patrons.

"We do have quite a few seniors who stop in, and we're their only stop of the day or we're their only social outing of the day, and that's huge," Perry said. "It's really kind of cool to see somebody who will sit here for two hours and talk and really engage."

Amaris Castillo, acastillo@lowellsun.com

Owl Diner

Address: 244 Appleton St., Lowell

Owner: Tom Shanahan

Signature Breakfast Dish: Eggs Benedict with the Owl's famous baked ham, and the Famous House Sandwich -- baked ham topped with melted cheese and served on a roll with lettuce, tomato, mayonnaise and home fries

Eggs Benedict: $9.99

Tall stack of pancakes: $5.99

The landmark eatery is impossible to miss as you drive down Appleton Street.

There's the massive owl perched over the Lowell staple, above the tagline: "Where Friends & Family Meet!"

The historic Owl Diner, also known as the Four Sisters Diner, is still packed with friends, family and politicos -- all these decades later. Even Lori Trahan, who declared victory in the congressional race last week (there is a recount pending, but we digress from berakfast), was spotted there Sunday morning with her family. She used to be a server there and filmed inside the diner during her campaign.

Owner Tom Shanahan was carving up the famous baked ham in the kitchen. He said they go through about 800 pounds of ham each week.

"That's the best seller," Shanahan said. The sign outside the diner reads: "Best Eggs Benny In Town." It's serve with the baked ham.

"We have quality food here," the owner said. "Everything is fresh. Everything is done daily."

Servers are frequently topping off a customer's coffee, making sure it never gets cold.

There's no shortage of omelet choices on the menu -- more than 30, all named after notable Lowell streets. (The Middlesex Street has kielbasa, onions and cheese.

Rick Sobey, rsobey@lowellsun.com

Paul's Diner

Address: 6 Carlisle Road, Westford

Owner: Sal Buonacore

Signature Breakfast Dish: Any one of the 31 omelets, most of which are named for a family member of the former owners or for an employee of the restaurant

Eggs Benedict: $11.49

Tall stack of pancakes: $7.29

Sal Buonacore had been a frequent patron of Paul's Diner for more than a decade, and he was working in the Westford establishment when its longtime owner, Paul Doty, asked him if he would like to take over.

Buonacore jumped at the opportunity -- owning a restaurant "has always been a dream" -- but he kept almost everything the same. A large mural of Fenway Park still adorns one wall, with dozens of framed photographs on another. One recent morning, patrons dined on plates of French toast and eggs while chatting with longtime employees.

Why mess with something that works so well?

The most popular items remain the many omelets. Paul's offers 31 different combinations on the menu, all with unique names. Some are classic, such as The Kathy, with onions, peppers, ham and cheese, while some are more creative for breakfast fare, such as The Jean, which combines eggs with pastrami, spicy mustard, onions and Swiss cheese.

"Everyone seems to have their own fan favorite," Buonacore said.

Customers can enjoy classic breakfast fare in well-worn booths, and the many regulars reap benefits: a VIP punchcard offers $5 off a meal once someone purchases 10 breakfasts or lunches. The restaurant also has a function room available free of charge.

Chris Lisinski, clisinski@lowellsun.com

Rosie's Diner

27 Vinal Square, Chelmsford

Owner: Rosie Gauthier

Signature Breakfast Dish: Eggs Benedict with ham steak, homemade Hollandaise sauce and spinach or sliced tomato. Or the Wilson Street omelet with all fresh vegetables. And, of course, Rosie's beans

Eggs Benedict: $9.99

Tall stack of regular pancakes: $6.25

As he has done weekly for about a decade, Kevin Dumais ate at Rosie's Diner last Thursday morning.

The "awesome breakfast" and family atmosphere have kept him returning, he said.

"This place is amazing," the Hudson, N.H., resident said. "Everybody is so friendly, including the owner. She knows everybody by name."

Dumais said he usually gets the Little Sister Special -- two eggs scrambled with diced ham and cheese. That or two eggs over easy with ham steak.

The thick cut of baked ham is a favorite among customers because it's specially carved so there's no fat -- and it's not salty, either, said waitress Kerry McPhillips of Lowell.

"You don't even feel guilty eating it," she said.

McPhillips recommends the eggs Benny with the ham and spinach added. You can choose Hollandaise or a cheddar sauce, but the traditional lemony Hollandaise is definitely the best choice, she said.

"Hollandaise is like the candy of breakfast," said Gauthier's daughter, Bridget Dowling. "That's what I tell the kids."

It's great on the hand-cut home fries, too, she added.

You can't forget a side of the homemade beans -- they include chunks of bacon, onions and peppers, and are flavored with Worcestershire sauce and other spices.

Alana Melanson, amelanson@lowellsun.com