Counter Intelligence


The Blue Benn Diner is a restaurant in Bennington, Vermont, and is a landmark in the Bennington community. The train car diner was shipped to Bennington in 1948 and assembled on the very spot on which it still stands. In 1973, however, the Blue Benn Diner was purchased by Sonny Monroe and his wife Marylou, who shaped the Blue Benn into what it is today.

As a Bennington local, I’ve enjoyed many a meal at the Blue Benn and always look forward to having breakfast there when I head home for weekends or breaks in the semester. Most recently, I stopped for breakfast with my mom and sister on a Saturday morning at 9:00am.

From the moment you step inside the Blue Benn’s doors, you are transported into another world. The “silk city” dining car has booths along one side and a counter along the other, from which you can see into the kitchen and watch the cook working hard to put together each orders they receive. The sizzling of the grill and the scents wafting from the kitchen are received by everyone inside, and are enough to make anyone’s mouth water. There is never a moment of complete quiet within the Blue Benn’s walls; there is a steady chatter amongst the patrons, a consistent clacking of utensils against plates, and the sound of servers calling out orders to the kitchen. Then, of course, there is the music. On the wall beside each booth are small jukeboxes. For 25¢ a song, patrons can choose between “oldies” like Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline” and newer songs like Ed Sheeran’s “Shivers.” Simply slip a quarter into the slot at the top, punch in the letter and number corresponding to your chosen song, and wait for it to make its way to the top of the list, listening to other patron’s selections as you wait, and enjoying your food all the while.

The Blue Benn’s menu is impressively long, with choices for both breakfast (served all day) and lunch. The breakfast menu has all of the basics, from pancakes to oatmeal, and is just what you would expect from a “classic” diner. The lunch menu includes just about any sandwich you can think of, as well as hamburgers, salads, and a host of vegetarian and vegan options, such as veggie and nut burgers, falafel, stir-fry, and additional alternatives to many animal-based menu items.

When I last went for breakfast, I ordered the sourdough french toast ($7.25), and sprung for the real Vermont maple syrup to go with it (an additional $1.50; the fake stuff is free). I also ordered a homemade donut, and asked for it to be grilled when given the choice. The donut came to the table first, and even just looking at it made me salivate. It had been sliced in half, and the cut side faced up, golden brown from its time on the grill. After sliding one half towards my sister, I cut into the other with my fork, and the resulting, albeit quiet, crunch made me grin in anticipation. Bringing the bite to my mouth, I was immediately grateful that I’d decided to have my donut grilled. It was delightfully warm, with the perfect balance of a crisp outside and a soft, cakey inside, I couldn’t help but close my eyes and smile as I chewed. The flavor was plain only in that it was intended to be a plain donut. Still, the cinnamon coating the outside and the butter used to fry the cut side added a new layer of complexity, and I couldn’t wait to enjoy the next bite.

Several minutes after being delivered the warm homemade donut, our three entrees all arrived at once. When my french toast was placed before me on the table, I almost regretted getting the donut – almost. A single order of sourdough french toast includes four slices of bread, dusted with confectioner’s sugar, and – if you splurged on the real thing – a small metal pitcher of Vermont maple syrup. I first took a bite of the toast without any syrup, and if I didn’t love maple syrup so much I might have eaten the rest of it that way. It wasn’t crisp on the outside as I had expected, though it certainly looked that way with its golden-brown appearance, but was instead delightfully soft throughout, and the slightest bit chewy around the edges. The sourdough from which the toast was made certainly lived up to its name, and the way in which its flavor bit back with every chew was the perfect contrast to the sweetness of the sugar and syrup.

My mom ordered from the “Eggs and Scrambles” portion of the menu and selected the “Two eggs w/home fries, toast, & choice of ham, bacon, or sausage,” as listed on the menu ($7.95). She ordered her eggs over-easy and, upon being asked what kind of bread she’d like for her toast, requested wheat. The eggs came as she ordered them, and the toast, buttered, was cooked well and with no sign of burnt edges. The slices were delightfully crisp on each side, with slightly chewy crusts and a soft texture within. My mom dipped the toast into the runny yolks of the eggs, starting with one corner and biting her way towards the other. The home fries didn’t boast crisp outsides as some do, but were instead soft and tender all the way through, a texture similar to that of a baked potato. They were perfectly seasoned, quite warm, and overall more than satisfactory. The patty sausage was local, and it was clear from the texture and flavor that they had not been frozen or otherwise reheated. The sausage was lean and not greasy, and went well with the rest of the meal, the firm texture contrasting well with the rather soft eggs and homefries and the crisp toast.

My sister ordered an omelette, and chose the Western with diced ham, peppers, and onion ($9.95). Additionally, she opted for a side order of ham ($3.95). The eggs of the omelette were soft, with the bottom being just slightly firm. The peppers and onion within were just slightly undercooked so that, rather than being soft, they were somewhat crisp, contrasting the texture of the eggs and of the ham, which was a bit chewy. The ham was also a little salty, which helped to further develop the flavor beyond that of the small amounts of salt and pepper mixed into the egg. In contrast to the ham within the omelette, however, the side order of ham that she received was not quite so great. The side order was substantial in size, and more than enough for one person. While it didn’t look or smell out of the ordinary, its taste was just a little off-putting and did not encourage another bite beyond the first.

As for beverages, both my mom and my sister ordered brewed, fresh-ground coffee ($1.75, which includes refills) and I ordered a hot chocolate with whipped cream ($2.50). The coffee was very good, with strong flavor and deep color. It is served black, with bowls of creamer pods and various kinds of sweeteners, such as sugar and Stevia. The hot chocolate wasn’t bad, but it was clearly made from a powder. This was evidenced not only by the flavor, but also by the dusting of hot chocolate mix resting on top of the mug’s handle and the edge of the dish on which the mug sat. There was a generous amount of mix used, however, as the flavor of the chocolate managed to shine through rather than be watered down by, well, hot water.

Overall, my experience at the Blue Benn Diner was a positive one. The wait to be seated and served was a short one, especially considering how busy meal times usually are during peak tourist seasons, such as mid-October tends to be. The ambience was pleasant; it feels like you are joining a community as soon as you sit down, even if you don’t know any of the people surrounding you. The waitress who served us was friendly, personable, and ready to make recommendations for anybody overwhelmed by the length of the menu and list of specials hung along the wall. The food, for the most part, was very good, and we were largely only disappointed because our appetites weren’t large enough to finish eating the warm food in front of us.

The Blue Benn Diner is an important and iconic part of the Bennington community, and many of us locals took a collective breath of relief when John Getchell rescued the restaurant from permanent closure following Sonny Monroe’s death in 2019 and subsequent problems resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic after Marylou and their daughter took over. It gives each of its customers a nostalgic experience, a feeling as though they have been transported back to the 1940s simply by stepping inside the doors of a small, yellow and blue dining car and breathing deeply.