Housed in an authentic Worcester lunch car (the original food truck) and set on pilings over a gully, the A-1 Diner in Gardiner remains a classic. There are no additions or extensions, no up-to-date decor. It’s a stainless steel box with a couple of neon signs, 16 round stools at the counter and a row of six wooden booths that barely fit four each.

The small joint is clean to almost gleaming, but nothing fancy. You might expect to find teenagers toting milkshakes or truckers digging into meatloaf and mashed. But look again.

There’s a nice wine and beer list, and a roster of internationally inspired specials on the board above the counter — dishes made with shallots, turmeric, coconut milk, star anise. Not exactly the ingredients you’d find at a typical tin-can module.

The food at A-1 is where the resemblance to a traditional diner ends. And unless you want the usual fare, you can pretty much ignore the menu in front of you or online. Order from that board.

Soups? You have a Hungarian mushroom, a semi-pureed bean Tarascan tomato with a touch of heat, and a rugged, ale-infused beef chili, hot as heck (all $3.99/cup). Grilled shrimp on bamboo skewers over fresh greens with a mango salsa was a lighter, sweeter appetizer ($6.95).

Leek fritters were the centerpiece on the night’s Mediterranean mezze platter. Our good luck. These were bulbous and golden pancakes filled with the onion-y vegetable. And they were blissfully good, especially when topped with a cilantro yogurt sauce.

Large sides of roasted parsnips and sweet potatoes with a caper vinaigrette, plus a Moroccan carrot salad with more cilantro, made a platter of rousing flavors ($12.95).

And, oh, those fish tacos. Chunks of deep-fried haddock nestled atop a homemade salsa of fresh tomatoes, cukes, cilantro, lime and jalapenos in soft tortillas with a swirl of lime crema on top ($13.95). I only wish the cook had had time to bring the ice-box-cold salsa to room temperature to make the tacos closer to perfect.

Malaysian Beef Rendang over basmati rice ($14.95) was a tender, aromatic beef stew cooked in coconut milk and seasoned with lemongrass and chilis, among other spices. The cider-braised pork ($15.95), also tender, lacked the punch of the advertised ginger or enough apricots to add much of a fruity character. This was the only dish that didn’t shine with flavor, and perhaps it was because it was the last portion in the pot.

All these plates passed through a 2-by-2-foot opening that eclipsed the magician in the kitchen. Watching dishes emerge from that hole in the wall was like a stream of colorful scarves coming out of a top hat without the ta-da. There’s no fancy digital stuff here, either. “Ding” goes the hotel bell at the window. Food’s up.

Equally remarkable was how one waitress served the entire place. Somehow she managed to take orders from all corners, welcome new customers, close out the old, box up leftovers, pour coffee refills, bus the tables, correct the cook when he erred, change the specials sign when something ran out, slice pie, and patiently explain to customers the nuances of the more complicated specials by pulling out a cheat sheet and rattling off every ingredient. She performed it all with a friendly aplomb. (Having worked two summers at a diner in New Jersey, I can appreciate how hard this juggling is. I was terrible at it.)

Yes, you can get the usual stuff : Hamburgers (12 kinds), fries (handcut), franks and beans, meatloaf and eggs, as well as an excellent cole slaw ($2.99 for a side dish, big and fresh). But why would you? Go for the dishes with flair. Go for the board.

As for dessert, a thick and dense toffee brownie baked with bits of Heath Bar ($3.95) was a little too dry. The pear and cranberry crostada ($4.95) was served too cold, and fibers from the pear were still apparent. Warm homemade biscuits, which come with every meal, were heavenly.

The A-1 is not undiscovered. It’s been featured in media outlets such as Yankee magazine and The Food Network. Mike Giberson and Neil Anderson, co-owners since the 1980s, have been serving a menu that goes beyond burgers and fries for a long time.

A writing assignment about Maine diners inspired me to stop in for lunch circa 2006. Back then, the hype was justified. I returned recently to find out if it still is.

Yes. Resoundingly.

Of course, we didn’t try everything on this revisit. I don’t know what the Crying Woman Shrimp Curry was all about, but if it bears any resemblance to its companions on the board, it just might make one weep with gratitude at rediscovering the inspired, comforting and full-flavored food at this humble spot.

Nancy Heiser is a freelance writer.