Used to Be There: Castle Luncheonette

Used to Be There: Castle Luncheonette

Dynamites, Dynadogs, Dynaburgers!

Castle Luncheonette sign, 2005
(Tim Lehnert, November 2005).

This business is permanently closed.

420 Social Street, Woonsocket
(401) 762-xxxx

The Castle has been around since the 1950s and is one of the few Rhode Island restaurants we've found that regularly serves dynamites. They dish up a mild version of dynamite sauce, liberally flavored with green peppers, and served traditionally on a torpedo roll, or as an oozy condiment on a hamburger, a Saugy hot dog, or over pasta. Mild or not, it may still cause your nose to run.

The Castle began as a food cart towed behind owner George Laferti's car. He called it the Rolling Castle, and served dynamites and French fries with vinegar. Later, Laferti opted for a stationary, but tiny restaurant. According to an historical placard that was formerly on display at the Culinary Arts Museum, the place "was so small that the cooks used to prepare the food in the same room that the guests would eat in!"

Newspaper blurb, 1988
A ringing endorsement from our Paper of Record. (Providence Journal-Bulletin, September 23, 1988).

Castle Luncheonette exterior, 2005
(July 30, 2005).

Small but mighty, The Castle survived the devastating flood of August 1955, when heavy rains weakened an earthen dam, sending the contents of Harris Pond and the Blackstone River into downtown Woonsocket. The entire Social Flatlands area was subsequently redeveloped, and The Castle survived that, too. The current owner, Diane Frenette, took over the business around 1986, after having worked there eleven years in her late teens and twenties.

Take-out window, 2010
Take-out window. (May 28, 2010).

The Castle was forced to close following a grease fire on June 17, 2006. It re-opened in April of the following year, with a completely renovated kitchen and a remodeled dining area. The improved kitchen allowed for an expansion of the menu—steaks, chops, shrimp skewers, etc.

Dynamite and fries, 2008
A classic dynamite with fries. (May 13, 2008).

But the main draw still seems to be that dynamite sauce. People have been known to order just that, as one might order a bowl of chili. There's also Grape Nuts pudding; clam cakes and chowder; jumbo stuffed quahogs; Italian grinders; fish and chips; homemade baked beans; frappes (chocolate, strawberry, coffee, vanilla); and coffee milk.

Dynamite sauce and fries, 2017
A plate of dynamite sauce and fries. (July 31, 2017).

Yvette of Sarasota, Florida, advises "If you go to The Castle, order their French fries, too. They're real potatoes fried in real grease, and they're real good; just don't make the mistake of ordering their extra large order—you'll have enough French fries to fill the trunk of your car." She's right about the fries—they are really good. You can get them plain or drowned in cheese or dynamite sauce.

Menu, 2017
Menu. (July 31, 2017).

Update, July 14, 2021: The Valley Breeze reported that the Castle Luncheonette was sold to restauranteur Jin Xiang Lin, the owner of Pacific Asian Cuisine on Cumberland Street. Diane Frenette, eyeing retirement, put the building on the market in 2017, with an asking price of (as of February 2021), $225,000.

As was the case for countless restaurants during the Covid-19 pandemic era, the Castle struggled to stay open after March 2020, and Frenette finally decided to close for good in December 2020.

Lin's original plan for the property was to relocate Pacific Asian Cuisine there, but knowing the Castle's popularity, she told the Breeze she had decided to reopen it as a second business, retaining the name and menu. "People in Woonsocket grew up with The Castle," she said. "I don't want The Castle to be changed to something else and make them sad. I want The Castle to be the same, even better than before, but the same type of food and running everything better," she said. Lin hopes to reopen the Castle in only a couple of months.

Update, February 2022: The location reopened as Laguna Taqueria and Pizzeria. Online records show the business was incorporated on September 18, 2021.

Exterior, 2005
(August 5, 2005).

Exterior, 2005
(August 5, 2005).

Stuffie, 2017
Stuffie. (July 31, 2017).

Grapenut pudding, 2017
Grapenut pudding for dessert. (July 31, 2017).

Museum exhibit, 2011
Exhibit on The Castle Luncheonette at the defunct Culinary Arts Museum and Archives, Providence. (February 27, 2011).

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