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Hidden Jewel

Date Reviewed 12/1/2001

Getting a parking ticket is an occasional hassle we all have to deal with. But at Gilley's in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, it was a way of business for decades.

Stephen Kennedy - Owner, Gilley's: We've been at this location here since 1974, prior to that, we were in the square where we'd get a parking ticket everyday. That's how we got into the Guinness Book of World Records for the most number of consecutive parking tickets."

The mobile diner became so popular, that a simple parking ticket was a small price to pay for setting up shop on such prime real estate.

Since 1912, Gilley's mobile Worcester Dining cart was drawn through the city by horse, then by this old truck, until it finally took up permanent residence here at 175 Fleet Street.

The diner is named for long-time employee Ralph "Gilley" Gilbert. Gilley never owned the diner, but he became a local legend serving up their burgers and dogs for over five decades.

Mike White - Elliot, ME: "I'd stand at the window out here, and that guy, Gilley, would be serving this window, all the people inside, and the other window over there all at the same time, and keeping everybody happy and the food going out the window."

And to this day, if you like burgers and dogs, Gilley's is it.

Stephen Kennedy - Owner, Gilley's: "Hot dogs, Kraut dogs, chili dogs, cheese dogs, our chili dog probably being our best seller... We have cheeseburgers, chiliburgers, hamburgers, beans and burgers -- which is a beans and burger platter that the burger gets put on top of it with a side of bread."

In true diner tradition, the prices are as low as they can go. Burgers are just two bucks, and dogs are a buck-and-a-quarter. If you don't want to look like a first-timer, make sure you know how to order.

Stephen Kennedy - Owner, Gilley's: "The Works is mustard, relish and onion. Loaded is the Works, plus ketchup. And if you want pickles and mayonnaise you have to be specific. So if you want everything in the house, you say loaded with pickles and mayo."

The other trick to looking like a Gilley's regular, is knowing how to open the door.

Stephen Kennedy - Owner, Gilley's: "It says 'slide' on the front of it. It's kind of funny at night when you hear the guy that's looking at the sign... pushing. The door's been that way forever."

On a good day, the 10 seat restaurant can serve up to 700 people. But night-time is the right time for the true Gilley's experience. They're open late, til 2:30 AM, making everyone feel like family.

Stephen Kennedy - Owner, Gilley's: "It's someplace like grandma's, you know. You can always go there and feel like, ah, I can put my feet up on the counter here because it's home."

Home is where heart, and the hamburger, and hot dog is. Yeah... that's the ticket... at Gilley's, a Phantom Gourmet, Hidden Jewel.

                                                                 

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