The long lines that often stretch from The Dining Car food truck as it zigzags throughout Boston give it an almost legendary status in the city.
But now, co-owners David Harnik and Naomi Klein have a tall task ahead of them: Can they recreate the truck’s vibrant buzz and flavors when surrounded by brick and mortar in the Newton Highlands?
To achieve that goal, Harnik and Klein, who have owned the business for about a decade, ensured the spirit behind the food is the same, regardless of location.
“We characterize ourselves as elevated comfort food. If we make a meatball sub, you’re gonna go ‘Wow,’” Harnik said.
The COVID-19 pandemic posed a challenge to the entire food industry, but especially for the food trucks when there were fewer tourists exploring the streets on weekends and office workers looking for a quick lunch during the week, according to The Boston Globe.
Such difficulties pushed the owners to take a chance on a permanent spot, said Harnik, who served on Boston’s first Food Truck Advisory Committee in 2017.
“We always thought we might do something like this,” Harnik said about expanding the food truck into a storefront. “And certainly with the pandemic, we were forced to make some choices. We had been—before the pandemic—planning to grow.”
The Dining Car Cafe and Market has a soft ambience with a collection of cookbooks lining the walls upon entry. It’s an idyllic location to eat a savory meal on a fall day, as customers can enjoy watching leaves float to the ground through the window stretching across its facade.
The restaurant brings warmth to the heart with comfort food and quick service. There are a few tables both inside and out where customers can seat themselves.
With a slight hum of conversation in the background and sizzle of the kitchen, it’s an ideal spot for a study session or intimate meal.
On one gloomy Thursday afternoon, The Dining Car Cafe provided color through splashes of global flavors. Customers enjoyed an array of dishes from the diverse menu, which includes items like the popular Mediterranean sandwich, which features fresh hummus and greens on toasted flatbread.
Katherine Miller, MCAS ’25, tried the chicken tender sandwich.
“The bread was great, chicken super crispy, and I really liked the pickle,” she said. “The sauce is a little acidic with mustard, but it really ties everything together. I would definitely come here again—I think it’s the perfect sandwich for a fall day.”
Harnik said the two owners wanted to create variety in The Dining Car’s menu instead of letting a single category of cuisine characterize it.
“We know how to cook so many different types of things,” Harnik said. “That was the challenge—to not be limited—but we decided to make good food from all different parts of the world.”
The menu offers a little bit of everything, from great coffee and baked goods to warm and cold meals made with love. It features American classics and global elements, which make it clear: The restaurant is dedicated to each customer’s preference and mood.
From picture frames to friendly conversation with employees, The Dining Car is the epitome of comfort dining.
The Dining Car is open at 4 Hartford St. from Tuesday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Its food truck hours and locations are posted on its website.