The Breakfast Serial

photo/Naomi Zarin
photo/Naomi Zarin

Heart Stones Diner
424 Walnut Hill Rd., North Yarmouth

It’s great when you hear about a restaurant that’s described as a “hidden gem” or “off the beaten path.” You get to feel special, like you’ve found something no one else knows about. But, of course, if you owned a place like that, you’d probably prefer your gem to be not-­so-­hidden. It’s hard to stay in business if your tables are empty.

Heart Stones Diner, located at the intersection of Routes 9 and 115 in North Yarmouth, falls squarely into this category. Though only about 20 minutes from Portland, it feels like it’s in the middle of nowhere. And in the 12 years I’ve lived in Maine, it has changed owners — and names — at least three times, maybe four. The food has always been decent but unremarkable, and if you weren’t already in the neighborhood there was little reason to make a special trip.

With any luck, all that’s about to change, thanks to the new owners who took the helm last fall.

I made an impromptu stop for lunch a few weeks ago and was pleasantly surprised. The next logical step was trying out their breakfast, so I returned the following Sunday morning with my wife and daughter. We parked ourselves in one of several open booths and ordered two mugs of freshly brewed coffee ($1.89) while we looked over the menu.

My wife chose the roast-pork breakfast quesadilla ($9.99) from the specials board. Packed with shredded pork, scrambled eggs, cheddar cheese, onions and green peppers, it was hearty and satisfying, if slightly under­seasoned. The red-­potato home fries were excellent — for no additional charge, the cook tossed them in an addictive “molasses bacon” seasoning.

Despite a warning from our server that the buttermilk pancakes were enormous, my daughter decided to go with the full stack of three ($5.99). Even topped with real maple syrup ($1.99), the thick, fluffy monsters proved too much for her. She cried uncle after a cake and a half.

I opted for a corned beef-and-Swiss omelette ($8.99). The flavorful, finely shredded, diner-­style hash was crisped on the griddle first, and the resulting dish was by far the best of the morning. I ordered Montreal seasoning on my home fries, which turned out to be a good choice, though not as good as my wife’s.

This quiet spot north of Portland has finally earned “hidden gem” status. Now all the owners have to do is parlay that into lasting success. The service is small-town friendly, the menu has plenty of variety and the prices are reasonable. It’s definitely worth leaving the beaten path for this one.

— Dan Zarin

Heart Stones Diner is open Tuesday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m., Saturday and Sunday from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. Breakfast is served all day, as it should be.

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