Modern Diner hits the Food Network

Modern Diner hits the Food Network

Modern Diner owner Nick Demou, right, with cooking staff members, from left, Frank Aguiar, Cristian Torres, Victor Claudio, and Juan Velez. The popular diner will be featured on the Food Network's "Top 5." (Valley Breeze photos by Ethan Shorey)
Pawtucket's popular eatery lands a spot on 'Top 5' show

PAWTUCKET - Nick Demou opened his Modern Diner 30 years ago, nearly a decade before the Food Network began airing shows.

Demou and his team at Pawtucket's landmark diner plan to host staff from the popular cable channel on Wednesday for one of its biggest honors in three decades, he said, a spot on the "Top 5" show.

The show, which features Sunny Anderson and Geoffrey Zakarian counting down the top five restaurants in each episode, will feature the man known for putting love and care into every bite served in the diner at 364 East Ave. The owner said he has no idea how he was selected.

Demou, who's approaching 60, said he's never tired of cooking up great meals, and he has no plans to retire. He said he's won plenty of "Best in Rhode Island" awards from Rhode Island Monthly, and won a positive review in The New York Times, but his satisfaction comes from knowing that the customers are happy.

Demou and his father moved the Modern Diner after buying land on East Avenue for $10,000 from the city. The diner itself cost him $17,000 to buy and then many thousands to fix up.

As Demou sees it, he's been able to thrive while other diners have closed in part because he trusts his great staff to do what they do best.

"I may make this stuff up, but I can't do anything without them," he said. "I can't run this place without my help."

Staff at the Modern Diner have an "unbelievable life," he said, enjoying a job that allows them to get out of work by 2 p.m. The restaurant is open at 6 a.m.

Demou said he also doesn't have the luxury of a chain restaurant to have a "captive audience" due to widespread name recognition through marketing. Because of that, he has to treat every customer like they could be his last, he said.

A graduate of Johnston & Wales University, Demou is famous for his wall of tacked menu items. If he decides he wants to stop serving something, he simply pulls it off the wall. If he wants to serve something new, it goes up with the rest.

Some favorites here include Kasey's omelet, custard French toast, waffles, and crepes. The Modern Diner also serves a mean lobster Mozambique, said Demou.

Jim Douglas, 81 and a lifelong Pawtucket resident, said he comes to the Modern Diner six days a week and is always getting something different. One of his favorites is the French toast, he said.

"The people here are always nice, the food is wonderful and everyone's on the ball," said Douglas. The people who run the diner and guests who frequent it tend to be the type to "know what's going on in the world" and enjoy discussing it, he added.

The Modern Diner on East Avenue will be featured on the Food Network's "Top 5."
Pawtucket resident Jim Douglas says he eats at the Modern Diner on East Avenue six days a week.
Nick Demou cooks up an assortment of egg dishes in his kitchen at the Modern Diner. The diner will be featured on the Food Network's "Top 5."

Comments

It's kind of a shame that the new pet food company downtown decided to build its own cafeteria in the building rather than frequent local eating establishments like this diner which could probably use the business.

I love Modern Diner, me and my family members go every Sunday, sometimes Saturdays too. Nick is great and runs the place with care and always has a smile...same with the rest of the staff as well. Love you guys!
vanda and family

Keep up the great work Nick and team!

I'm the proud owner of Pet Food Experts on 175 Main Street and wanted to clarify that we have built a beautiful lunch room for our team but it is not a functional kitchen. In fact, we eliminated 3 large vending machines planned for the room after I met Frankie and Bobby Tavares across the street from us on High St and new they could more than accommodate us with snacks and drinks including frozen lemonade.
Additionally, my team and me celebrated our first week in Downtown Pawtucket with delicious takeout every day from a different local restaurant (a comprehensive list was provided to us by Mayor Grebien) and can't wait to visit Nick at the Modern Diner soon!

The best is yet to come for the historic city of Pawtucket and we are thrilled to be a member of the community.

My godfather Joe Zuromski, together with his brother Stanley started the original Modern Dinner in downtown Pawtucket right after WW2. I remember going there in the 50s with my mom for french toast and seeing my wonderful godfather Joe there. My godfather Joe would be proud of the 21st century Modern Dinner, keep up the good work