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[Cheap Eats]

Wheelhouse Diner
Tradition, tradition
BY DORIE CLARK

on the cheap
Veggie Planet Anchovies Yummy Hut Sabra Grill

It doesnít get more old-timey than the Wheelhouse Diner, a North Quincy landmark just beyond the Dorchester line that dates back to the 1940s. Diners closer to Boston have been gentrifying, frying up veggie burgers and tofu breakfast scrambles. But the Wheelhouse still serves things that once pleased workers at the cityís now-defunct shipyard, which was especially active during World War II. (A " wheelhouse " is nautical jargon for the small area at the front of a boat, where the captain steers.) Check out the Irish breakfast, which includes bangers and blood pudding, or the kielbasa omelet, each $6.95. But mostly, the Wheelhouse sticks to what diners do best: burgers, sandwiches, and massive breakfasts. The waffle with bananas and cream ($5.95) comes with a small bowl overflowing with banana slices; you handle the aesthetics and put them on yourself. The egg-and-cheese sandwiches are hearty, salty slabs on a bagel ($2.95). The chili-and-cheddar omelets ($5.95) are packed with meat and an overload of carbs, served with a heaping mound of home fries and several slices of bread.

With only five booths and 13 stools, the Wheelhouse can get packed on weekends, and presentation can suffer as a result. The Mickey Mouse pancakes ($2.50), for example, could use some chocolate-chip eyes or a smiley face so kids could distinguish between face and ear blobs. Still, they taste great.

With its pre-cholesterol-conscious mindset, the Wheelhouse might not be for everyone. But with a menu ranging from tuna salad ($3.95) to grilled knockwurst ($6.95), itís Americana at its finest ó with all the immigrant touches.

The Wheelhouse Diner, located at 453 Hancock Street, in North Quincy, is open Monday through Friday from 5 a.m. to 3 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday from 5 a.m. to 2 p.m. Call (617) 328-3666.

Issue Date: November 1-8, 2001