195 Danielson Pike, Foster
(401) 647-9951

Update, February 6, 2015: Cherri's State Line Diner was severely damaged by a fire that began around midnight. No word on whether it will be able to reopen.

Update, December 4, 2015: The diner was listed for sale on Craig's List for $50,000 (negotiable). The listing stipulates that the diner must be separated from its addition and moved away.

The State Line Diner, a handsome Worcester Lunch Car (#846), has done a bit of traveling. Manufactured in Worcester, Massachusetts, in 1955, it was first sold to a Mr. and Mrs. Bonthilier in Southbridge, Massachusetts. Whether they ran it as a diner in that location is currently unknown. The next we hear of it, it's in Gales Ferry, Connecticut, possibly under the name Big D's. It wasn't until sometime in the 1970s that the diner was moved forty miles northeast to Foster, Rhode Island, where it was known for a time as Ricky's Kitchen. Robert Palmer, posting on Facebook, recalls it as Philbo's in his childhood. It's not known when the diner's State Line moniker was adopted.

Diner aficionado Glenn Wells calls the State Line "one of a kind... The small, narrow design just wide enough for the counter and four tables at one end," he says, "recalls earlier diners such as Ward and Dickinson, but the modern, stainless steel with vertical flutes exterior looks like it could have been built by Kullman."

The name comes from the fact that the diner is only about 1,900 feet from the state border. A large rear addition containing a separate kitchen, storeroom, and bathrooms was added prior to 1994, according to Scott and Gayle Kopka, who began leasing the diner in that year. Conversely, Robert Palmer remembers that the building predated the diner: "Take away the diner and the building that is behind was a Texaco gas station when I was a little boy." By February 1999 the Kopkas decided to plonk down the $50,000 to buy the diner. At that time business was booming, with truckers lined up out the door waiting for a seat. That was not so much the case by 2007, when we spoke with the Kopkas, but they still had a steady clientele of mostly Connecticut drivers.

Scott Kopka told us the diner has been used in a couple of mid-1990s movies and TV shows, although he couldn't remember their names. One was a horror film that was made around 1996, he thought.

Gayle told us the diner is a community unto itself. She watched children grow up from babies to teenagers, she said, as they and their parents returned year after year. To explain the difference between a chain fast food place and a diner, she related how a man came in one day in the middle of a torrential downpour and sat by himself at the end of the counter. Gayle asked him if he'd like coffee and he replied he had no money, he had only come in to get out of the rain. So Gayle looked at him and said, "Okay, so what would you like to eat?"

The menu at the State Line is composed of basic, stick-to-your-ribs diner food. Gayle emphasizes that everything is made fresh, and seasonal vegetables are bought locally. The Kopkas boast that their fish and chips is second to none. The secret, says Gayle, is the dry batter. The dish comes with chips made from fresh potatoes, and homemade coleslaw. While we were there a customer came in and, hearing we were writing about the State Line, independently confirmed that the fish and chips was a must-try.

The State Line came under new management in December 2010, and the name was changed to Cherri's State Line Diner. As such, until we can revisit and re-evaluate, the above info about the character of the management and the composition of the menu should be taken in an historical light.

Cherri's State Line Diner is open Monday to Saturday, 6am-8pm; and Sunday, 7am-2pm.

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