The Miss Wiscasset Diner has been a part of Wiscasset’s landscape since it was built in 1960. Over the years it has changed management several times, always serving local people, truck drivers, and travelers with a place to stop, have a cup of coffee, and eat during the four seasons of Maine.
Two enthusiastic Southern gentlemen, Robert Harris and Mark Suarez, are planning to continue that tradition. They took over the management of Miss Wiscasset Diner last month after a successful season of managing the Light House Lobster Shack at the Heritage Village from May to late September.
Suarez had no experience in the food service business before moving to Maine from Pensacola, Fla. 11 years ago. Harris moved to Maine seven years ago from Pascagoula, Miss. He did have some food service experience working with his mother in Mississippi.
Harris and Suarez met while working at Washburn & Doughty in East Boothbay, and became good friends. After a few years of pipe fitting, they decided they needed a change and opted to pursue a career in the restaurant business, which began with the Light House Lobster Shack.
Harris learned to cook from his mother, who ran the Longfellow House, a five-star hotel, in Pascagoula for several years and later a catering service. Harris said he has a lot of her old recipes. “I knew when I was a kid, cooking was something I wanted to do,” Harris said.
Harris said he has traveled over the years throughout the country, and when he traveled he always enjoyed diner food, where the food was cooked in the diner, not cooked someplace else and shipped to the restaurant.
“There is a certain standard for diner food. When you’re on the road, you want a meal like Mama would cook for you at home. That is what we want to offer our customers,” Harris said, “Mama’s home cooking.”
“We are always open for suggestions from our customers to make things better for them,” Suarez said. “We are not looking to get rich, we just want to make a living.”
“We were really encouraged by our customers at the Lighthouse Lobster Shack to open a year-round restaurant. They told us they would be there if we opened a restaurant, and they have kept their word,” Harris said.
The diner will serve breakfast and lunch from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. seven days a week.
“We will serve breakfast and luncheon meals beginning at 6 a.m.,” Harris said. “If someone comes in at 6 a.m. and wants a fried haddock, chicken basket, or anything else on the menu, they can have it, or they can have breakfast at 2 p.m.”
“People’s schedules are different,” Harris said. “We want to accommodate the needs of all those schedules.”
“We are going to focus on what the local people want. They are the ones that will make or break us. We want to provide them with a good meal at reasonable prices, with old-fashioned service, and a comfortable, friendly atmosphere to enjoy the food,” Suarez said.
The menu includes a variety of breakfast choices as well as sandwiches, luncheon meals, and chowders. The meals are served with homemade breads, rolls, and giant English muffins.
Harris and his wife, Lane, live in Round Pond. Suarez lives in Boothbay and is engaged to Kelley Cody.
The diner was recently operated by Heather Pitcher, the wife of Robert Rogers, who bought the diner from Ray Duckling in November 1973.
Duckling owned and operated the restaurant as Ray’s Place until Rogers purchased the building and changed the name to Miss Wiscasset Diner 43 years ago.
Pitcher said she gave up the diner to refocus on her antique business and to help her husband in the canoe business next to the diner. She thanks her customers and friends for their support during her management of the diner.
Harris and Suarez are often in the dining room welcoming their guests and ensuring their customers are pleased with the food and service they are receiving.
If what a person is looking for is not on the menu, “We will cook it for them. Even people from the North enjoy some Southern food once in a while,” Harris said with a chuckle.