It's not the hot wienies they serve, even if regulars swear they're the best in town. Nor the chourico and peppers, even if Joe comes first thing in the morning for them. It's not the homemade soup, even if Pops comes in every day for a bowl. Or the fish and chips that Connie and Frank order on Fridays.
It's the M&Ms – everywhere. There's the M&M telephone. There's the M&M clock, the M&M lunchboxes, cookies jars, vintage car models, full miniature sports teams, the statue of liberty, all of them M&M candy memorabilia. More you than ever thought existed, on the walls, the counters, and, of course, the stools.
"They are all here as a gift from clients," explains Bob Medeiros, who opened this family diner with Paul Mello.
Medeiros and Mello have known each other since they were eleven years old. Medeiros' grandparents come from the island of San Miguel in the Azores and mainland Portugal. Mello is half-Irish, half -Portuguese. They used to play high-low-jack in Medeiros' cellar and talk about the restaurant they would run together, one day. Then life happened. Medeiros started working at Gregg's on Pawtucket Avenue; they got married, had kids, moved on, until nine years ago. The old Eats wiener joint came up for sale after some 40 years in business. It used be across from Bovi's Tavern but ended up here on 361 Waterman Avenue.
"The licensing said it had be called something else besides Eats. So we just called it M&M Family Restaurant," recalls Medeiros.
And that was that.
One customer brought in one of those little M&M candy characters, and then another, and then someone else gave the clock, and somebody found that working M&M telephone. And before you knew it, M&Ms were everywhere. A sign of brand loyalty -- not so much to the candy but to the neighborhood restaurant.
Then Tony, a regular, had an idea. They were talking about counter stools, and he wanted to make M&M seat covers – stitched by hand in leather.
"He did it himself for free. We gave him food, but after the third or fourth time, he said, 'You give me any more, and I won't come in here no more.' That's how much class he's got,' explains Medeiros.
The multi-colored stools really pull the place together and ground the theme, so to speak. Of course, the kids love it when they come for fries and a soda. Or when Medeiros and Mello invite them in from the bus stop for a free drink on a freezing morning.
As for the adults, they come for the food – and an atmosphere that has nothing to do with big brand names. Everybody here usually goes by first name anyway.