For being one of the oldest diners in town, it maintains a low profile. Even owner David Rice concedes many locals have never heard of The Finest Kind. But his regulars swear by the Friday haddock special, the pot roast dinner swimming in gravy, and the greasy air of old-school Newburyport.
Tucked halfway between Cashman Park and the Towle Office Building at 228 Merrimac St., the one-story, gray cinder block building blends into the surroundings. Until recently, Rice did not even have a sidewalk sign. But for close to 23 years, he has shuffled between the grill behind the counter in the small dining area and the cramped kitchen out back.
“Time went by, that’s for sure,” Rice said as another lunch shift came to an end.
Not one to promote himself, Rice, 58, is tall and thin with the hunched posture of someone who has spent half his life toiling over hot stoves. He works seven days a week, serving breakfast and lunch Monday through Friday and breakfast on the weekend. A one-man operation, he has not had a vacation in five years. A trip to Disney World in 2000 with his two daughters is one of few breaks that he can recall.
“It’s hard work and you don’t have much to show for it,” said Kayla Frost, 22, his oldest daughter, who like her sister, Kelsey Rice, 20, has helped out since her early teens, doing dishes and serving customers.
Said Kelsey Rice, “I can’t even picture my life without it being here...I don’t see it going anywhere.”
His cooking skills have earned The Finest Kind a loyal following. Rice puts out a classic selection of blue-collar fare that appeals to construction crews and fishermen, who often are the first to arrive in the mornings.