The grumpy face of a tough-looking bulldog shaped like a mug is the first thing that greets customers as they walk past The Ugly Mug Diner, located at 122 Washington Street in vibrant downtown Salem. But this should not be the reason to enter the establishment. No, surely it’s not just because this surly canine gave you the stink-eye. Instead, how about you sate that rumbling, early morning appetite with some of the greatest breakfast Salem has to offer?
From the moment you set foot inside The Ugly Mug, the truth is clear: you made the right choice. The American-style diner features a large chalk wall at the far wall with bright descriptions of some of their daily specials that leave you wondering whether or not you even need to look at the menu for something better. Some dishes have edgy-sounding names, which perfectly highlight their authentic and unique flavors: the Scary Uncle Sully omelet, for example, made up of bacon, jalapenos, Swiss, Cotija, and cheddar cheeses. Or perhaps the The P.E.L.T. (the Pork Explosion Lettuce & Tomato: a bacon and pork belly confit in a double decker BLT with Sriracha aioli on sourdough). Yes, you certainly struck gold in finding this place.
Need a jolt of energy? Are you still wiping the sleepies from your eyes, wondering to yourself, “I don’t know where I am, but I sure as hell hope their cuppa Joe is a solid 10,”? Then rejoice! The Ugly Mug gets its namesake from the vast array of literal “ugly mugs” it has ready to perfectly hold your beverage of choice: coffee, tea, or even a beer or mimosa if you’re feeling frisky and risky.
What sets The Ugly Mug Diner apart from the plentiful breakfast locales in Salem is not its ugly mugs or delicious food. Certainly not those things! Who cares about that stuff anyway? Unimportant! No, I personally would like some grade-A human interaction in the morning—thank you very much! I mean, everyone is usually so groggy and unalive in the morning. Therefore, having kindly and personable morning people who aren’t actually an affront to those of us who would still rather be sleeping is imperative here. And The Ugly Mug outshines its competition in this regard, like a luminous star hitting supernova and completely consuming all the other pitiful stars in the local cluster with its radiance alone. The people who make the cogs turn at The Ugly Mug are down-to-earth foodies, who do their best to make sure your dining experience is a memorable one—one that will make you come back a second, third, or even fourteenth time.
So, if you find yourself strolling along Washington Street one day and you happen to see that “ugly mug” of a pirate-looking bulldog, forever being a grump, don’t hesitate twice. If there are rumblies in your tumblies and you need to fix that, head inside anytime between 7am and 3pm and you will be treated to an unforgettable dining experience that will leave you wholly satisfied. I will add this one minor caveat: get there early on weekends particularly. This locale is so popular that the wait times can get rather high during peak business hours. Sometimes a line can be all the way out the door! Practice patience, though, and eventually you will gain that most perfect of prizes, the holiest of grails: a seat at The Ugly Mug, and an ugly mug in your hand. Cheers!