A slice of true Americana
March 28, 2008 11:08 AM   Subscribe

The Diner: A true American hallmark, that first appeared on the horizon in the early 70's (the 1870's that is), and has remained a fixture on the American psyche since. If you've never been to one, why not go ahead and have your next meal there? There maybe one right around the corner from where you live. If not, well, like me, you can sit back and look at the glorious images that are available and hope that one day your dream comes true. But until then: remember to adhere to the Ten Commandments, and yeah--if you can--get a copy of Diner (youtube) and watch it. It might not be "strictly" about Diners, but it's fun all the same. [previously]
posted by hadjiboy (69 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
looking forward to diggin in to this post. (har har)

some of the best food i've ever eaten was at a coupla scary diners in NJ. really amazing stuff.

here, the closest thing we get to diners are the food shacks attached to the critter lodges (moose lodge, eagle's lodge, etc) we DID have one fabulous diner, but then corporate muthafukahs bought the building and forced 'em out with untenable rent increases.

RIP ladymans cafe.
posted by CitizenD at 11:21 AM on March 28, 2008

some of the best food i've ever eaten was at a coupla scary diners in NJ.

New Jersey is clearly the home of the diner. Whenever I was out of state with the Army, I'd often suggest a diner, and everyone was at best confused, and when we found one, well, it just seemed to miss the whole point.

God bless the diner. It's how I know I'm home.
posted by John Kenneth Fisher at 11:38 AM on March 28, 2008

Agreed with the NJ diners. Some of the worst food I've ever had was eaten at nice looking diners in NYC
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 11:41 AM on March 28, 2008

Used to stop by the Salt & Pepper diner on Lincoln for Sloppy Joes, all that. Pretty good scrambled egg and peppers sangwich. I can’t eat at fast food places. Growing up all we did was go to regular resturants and diners. I like the feel of those places a lot more. Spread out and sort of lazy comfortable. The space in fast food joints feels compressed.
(Btw - you gonna eat that? I mean, I know you ordered it, but...)
posted by Smedleyman at 11:43 AM on March 28, 2008

I love Diners, especially the old streetcar types. I have eaten at many over the years and the sheer enormity of food choices is amazing.

I watch the Food Network show Diners, Drive Ins, and Dives every week, and never fail to get hungry. And also a little bit jealous of local patrons when I see that I am so far away from some that they highlight on the show. Good stuff.

Are you going to finish those fries?
posted by genefinder at 11:44 AM on March 28, 2008

posted by genefinder at 11:46 AM on March 28, 2008

X. Thou Shalt Not Hang Out And Order Nothing But Coffee

What?! Then how exactly is Our Hero going to find out What's Wrong In Town when he blows in? You have to stop by The Diner and ask Those Old Guys In The Corner!
posted by DU at 11:48 AM on March 28, 2008 [1 favorite]

Here's a great book on the history and the historical significance of roadside architecture:

Main Street to Miracle Mile
posted by Rock Steady at 11:49 AM on March 28, 2008

An article in the NY Times last week or so noted that many diners, formerly owned by Greeks, now being bought up by Koreans, Indians etc as times change.
Diners: decent but hardly great food. lots of it. cheap. Open in many instances veryh long hours, and 7 days per week. Best thing: endless coffee refills and ice in the water.
posted by Postroad at 11:51 AM on March 28, 2008

I could go for a chicken soup, then a shrimp salad, then a choclate malted from the Greek owned, amazing, always crowded Double TT Diner on Rt. 40 and Rolling Road, Baltimore. The menu is 10 pages long, single spaced text, printed in three rows on both sides of all pages- and everything is pretty good. You don't even need to look at it, really. Just think about whatever it is you might want. They have it or something really close.

Say what you will about Baltimore- we still have a family owned diner or three within 5 minutes of anywhere.
posted by Patapsco Mike at 12:00 PM on March 28, 2008

I grew up in New Jersey, and people from out of state just don't know what they're missing. I have some fond (and not-so-fond) memories of diners.

Whenever there was cause to drive north, especially in to New York City, my parents would make a point of leaving especially early so we could stop at one of the best diners in the state, Mastori's, on Rte. 206. These days were the rare exceptions when I willingly woke up early. I can still remember where we would sit, because invariably it was in the same room each time. When I was in college, my parents moved near Princeton so it turned into a late-night place to hang out with my friends who agreed to drive up from South Jersey to visit.

Speaking of that, the diners were really the only spots we as under-21s could hang out. They were all open 24 hours, or at least later than we cared to be up, so they quickly became the places to go when we were all back from college. Unfortunately, it started to get a little depressing when we would see people there that we knew from high school, people who simply never left town. The same thing happened after we all turned 21, actually - summer breaks we would end up at the one good bar in town, and those same people would still be stuck in town.
posted by backseatpilot at 12:01 PM on March 28, 2008

Oh yeah the Double T in Baltimore is awesome. Although the paragon of Baltimore diners is the Sip & Bite in Canton. Their hot open roast beef sandwich is a thing of beauty.
posted by gaspode at 12:05 PM on March 28, 2008

From 4th grade until 8th or so, I spent almost every saturday, and possibly once or twice during the weeks, at Than's Diner. It was a small, train car setup, with maybe 3 two person booths, but you pretty much had to sit at the counter. It was run by Than, a small south vietnamese woman who had immigrated here in the 80s and still had family back in Vietnam. She was one of the nicest person I had ever met, and made some of the best diner food to this day.

It was around this time my dad started his own business and was working in town, so weekends were still somewhat work days, but if I were to go help him at the warehouse or in the office, we would stop off at Than's for breakfast. Almost always a sausage egg and cheese on a kaiser roll, with some of Than's amazing meat chili. The trick was to get it on saturday, as she made the batch fresh on Sunday night, and it spent the week simmering on the burner, slowly transmuting into this amazing elixir of spice, asian peppers, ground beef and red greasy oil. For lunch I would have the Stewart Special, which was a grilled cheese sandwich, white american cheese on sourdough with tomatoes and more chili inside it.

In 6th grade I started going to a private school, which I hated, but one thing that was bearable about it was that we got out of school at 12:45 every friday, because that was when the older students would be doing their varsity athletic events, etc. Since the buses didn't run that early for the area, my dad would pick me up from school and off to Than's we went for lunch and a stewart special.

Eventually, the owner of the property decided he could make more money running his own diner, instead of leasing it to Than, so he raised the rent and she had to close the shop. Of course, he got wrapped up the renovation of the place, and without Than to bring in customers the place never took off. I don't know if they still are open, but it still sits there with no signs up, and a random truck parked out front.

Since we came in so regularly, my parents became friends with Than, and after she had to close up the diner, we kept in touch. Of course, we ended up finally convincing her to let us have a copy of her chili recipe, but non of us have dared to recreate it. Than got a job working at a Jewelers, but we had some surprising news a few years back. She had won a few million dollars in the Lottery, and was able to finally bring over the rest of her family from Vietnam. I think a few of us secretly wish she would decide that being a millionaire is boring and open up a small weekend diner to keep herself busy.
posted by mrzarquon at 12:07 PM on March 28, 2008 [10 favorites]

Great story, mrzarquon.

This whole thread is making me hungry...
posted by Dr-Baa at 12:21 PM on March 28, 2008

Here is a great love letter to the all-night diner: 24 Hours at the Golden Apple (This American Life).
posted by mattbucher at 12:23 PM on March 28, 2008

Here's my local diner, and some pictures of the interior. About once a month I order "Two all-'round, chips and a Pepsi."
posted by bondcliff at 12:23 PM on March 28, 2008

Best thing at NJ diners is the Taylor Ham. People roll their eyes at the possibility of a breakfast ham that is so superior, until they try it. Amazing!
posted by LittleLisi at 12:30 PM on March 28, 2008

There's a diner in Bellingham, WA that serves the most amazing breakfast. It's the usual eggs, bacon, sausage, flapjacks and stuff, but it's a riot of flavour rather than the typical greasy blandness. Everything is fresh and thick-cut. My arteries start crackling when I just think about the place, and at the same time my mouth waters uncontrollably. I'm Canadian, but I love American diners.
posted by illiad at 12:33 PM on March 28, 2008

Becky's is the best! There's a chowdah recipe there too.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 12:40 PM on March 28, 2008 [2 favorites]

True story: bistro is French for diner.
posted by Nelson at 12:46 PM on March 28, 2008

My hometown is five minutes from the New Jersey border, so I was always well aware of New Jersey's status as the diner state. I think any proud New Yorker would scoff at the notion that their city's diners aren't superior, but it's true. They're not bad, they just try too hard.

One thing I'll note, though, is that I haven't been disappointed in moving to St. Louis. It's a distinctly more American feel (diners in my part of the Northeast feel non-American in the same way that New York City does), but with just as much personality as back home. I'm looking at you, Tiffany's Diner.
posted by invitapriore at 12:47 PM on March 28, 2008

For a year or two, I'd spend an hour every day, right before I went in to teach, at a nearby diner. Tim, the owner's brother and a purveyor of pyramid schemes, was on Thursdays; Tom on Wednesdays, but, mondays, tuesdays, and Fridays, it was Rosie. She'd been there since my parents were kids, pushing eighty, surviving holdups, junkies, and three changes tot he diner's name. One ashtray was always full of her hardly-smoked unfiltered Pall Malls - she'd barely get to smudge her lipstick on a cigarette before she'd have to check up on someone's coffee. Five husbands, five great-grandkids. I took my grandparents in one time, right before my grandma had her knee replaced, and Rose gave her an angel pin to wear into the hospital.

My schedule changed, and I went on a health kick and stopped going very much, and then when we stopped in on a Friday about a year ago and the girl behind the counter (unfiltered Camels, incidentally) said Rosie had retired, and died about two weeks after. We've not been back - the place just isn't the same.

RIP, Rosie.
posted by notsnot at 12:54 PM on March 28, 2008 [4 favorites]

I used to bike out to a little place called the Bread Basket in New Castle, VA. Typical, literal greasy spoon. Also greasy windows, greasy plate, greasy food. In other words, it was perfect, a little slice of heaven on earth, but pity the poor couple sitting beside me trying so desperately to order something healthy: "That's fried. No, hon, that's fried, too. No, hon, we don't have anything like that. No, the beans got bacon in 'em too. You want it... [horrified pause] without butter? I don't know if they can do that." And so on.

I just about died trying to keep from laughing out loud and ended up tipping extra.
posted by Wolfdog at 12:56 PM on March 28, 2008

I lived for about a year in northern New Jersey after college. Most of the memories have faded, except for the glorious late night/early morning feasts at the Tick-Tock Diner.
posted by scody at 1:18 PM on March 28, 2008

Becky's is the best! There's a chowdah recipe there too.

WCVB's Chronicle highlighted Becky's the other day.

[Bit of trivia I learned from the episode: "Ted Reinstein heads north to New England’s hottest food city, Portland, Maine, where there are more restaurants per capita than anywhere in the US but San Francisco."]
posted by ericb at 1:31 PM on March 28, 2008

I miss the Sip N' Bite so much. The Double T is okay, but the Sip N' Bite! Ah, the Sip N' Bite is nirvana in a crab cake sub with fries and gravy on the side. For years the worlds' skinniest waitress worked there and always knew my kids by name. We have diners here in NC too and I love them, especially the Silver Dollar, where the food is kind of scary sometimes (the ambiance, however, is unbeatable) but it's just not the same as the Baltimore diners.

I always wondered why diners were mostly run by Greeks. So a friend and I imagined, once, a small village on some Greek island, hidden away from tourists, where every building was a diner and every villager a fry cook, flipping eggs all day long: the ancestral home of the diner, the Platonic ideal, the source of all our diners past, present and future. I want to go there.
posted by mygothlaundry at 1:34 PM on March 28, 2008 [2 favorites]

Sadly, the Market Diner on 11th Avenue (pictured on the Forgotten NY page) is closed now too, so I guess we can't call it Diner Avenue any more.
posted by JaredSeth at 1:38 PM on March 28, 2008

(Btw - you gonna eat that? I mean, I know you ordered it, but...)
"Yeah, I'm gonna eat it. I paid for it, I'm not gonna give it to you....You want the roast beef sandwich say the words "I want the roast beef sandwich." Say the words and I'll give you a bite..."
Best. Movie. Evar.
posted by Listener_T at 1:53 PM on March 28, 2008

I live in Worcester, Mass., the town that first started producing diners commercially, and we've got 'em chockablock.
Come on by and see them sometime!
posted by Dizzy at 2:06 PM on March 28, 2008

I miss Cody's in New Haven. This thread is really making me want a tomato and feta omelet with a giant glass of ice water and some coffee.

My uncle Milton, for years, was the head cook at various diners. Yes, he's Greek. Yes, the food he would make at home was AMAZING. Spanikopita will forever be my Thanksgiving and Xmas staple because of him.
posted by jtron at 2:16 PM on March 28, 2008 [1 favorite]

OK, diner story. Realizing that there was a bottle of wine in the car, we asked if we could bring it in. "Sure," says the waiter, a burly macho Greek. However, once we brought it in, there was no corkscrew. The waiter says, "give to me, I open." He's gone to the back for a few minutes, and returns with the bottle open, but the cork is inside. His white shirt bears a huge red explosion on the front, and that's how he served the rest of our meal.
posted by StickyCarpet at 2:17 PM on March 28, 2008 [1 favorite]

I always wondered why diners were mostly run by Greeks.

Me too. (And they still are in B-more.) So I asked a friend who is Greek-Baltimorean and she didn't know either. Apparently, the New York Times does.
posted by weebil at 2:18 PM on March 28, 2008 [1 favorite]

When I moved to Pittsburgh (where the mid-century immigrants had been mostly Polish, Irish and Italian) from the Detroit area (which had gotten, among other things, a good number of Greeks) I was astonished that you couldn't get a gyro meat omelette at most of the diners. I'd grown up thinking of them as a basic menu item.

On the other hand, Ritters has pickled eggs, a delight which I'd been totally unfamiliar with in Michigan. On the other other hand, it's Ritters, so you never really want to go there.
posted by nebulawindphone at 2:39 PM on March 28, 2008

Ah, I was just lunching at the local diner today. I had the meatloaf, and my pal had the exquisite salmon patties platter. And when she had the temerity to say, "Yes, I'm done; you can take that," in reply to the server's query, I said, "Oh, no, you don't. I'll be finishing all those green beans." Here in the Midwest, we are charter members of the clean plate club.
posted by FelliniBlank at 2:40 PM on March 28, 2008 [1 favorite]

Cool post.
I just moved into a new place, further into the city and the kitchen has little room off of it with a black and white checkered parquet floor. It was begging to be turned into a diner kitchen, and we even found a booth with the formica tabletop and the hardcore-1950s couple that sold it to us even threw in some mouth-watering retro wallpaper. It's really coming together, and thankfully without any Coca-Cola nostalgia (gross.) I'm trying to find a silver napkin dispenser that takes regular-sized napkins so I don't have to buy bulk from blowoutrestarauntsupply.com or something.
In conclusion, I wanna invite Tom Waits over for coffee, pie, and cigarettes.
posted by thebellafonte at 2:46 PM on March 28, 2008

35 comments in a diner thread, and not one concerning a bag of popcorn with a prize inside?

I don't know whether to be impressed or disappointed.
posted by stinkycheese at 2:53 PM on March 28, 2008

A long, long time ago, my parents got thrown out of a diner on Route 1 in Massachusetts for asking for ketchup--the chef was incensed that his food might need something extra. Dunno what was up with that! Since then, I always make sure not to ask for ketchup when in a diner.
posted by not_on_display at 2:57 PM on March 28, 2008

thebellafonte: I'm trying to find a silver napkin dispenser that takes regular-sized napkins so I don't have to buy bulk from blowoutrestarauntsupply.com or something.

Unfortunately, the problem with the napkin dispenser design, and specifically the bulk ones from restaurant supply places, is that the napkins are actually inter-folded onto each other, so when you pull one out, it pulls out the next behind it, like kleenex is in its box. Most napkins you buy for the house are just 4up folded pieces of soft paper towels it seems.

Also, the bulk napkins are cheaper, and could last you forever.

And really, to bridge the gap for young and old, you need this.

Or really, this but bonus points if you find a used, older one, that still adds a hint of ozone to the flavor of the milkshake.
posted by mrzarquon at 3:00 PM on March 28, 2008

If you're ever in Albuquerque near UNM or downtown, there's a diner between the two on Central called Milton's. Their green chile is excellent. IIRC, they have a great Croque Monsieur as well as a decent Reuben, and of course all their breakfast items are outstanding. That was my favorite after-hours place for many years, and they did (maybe still do) get a post-bar rush at 2am on the weekends. The Frontier next to UNM is also great, but no table service. It's the best place to go if you're a student and you want to eat and study. It's not unusual for college students to spend more time at The Frontier than on campus or at their home or apartment. Try the western style hash browns, and top it with the green chile stew they have sitting out in a cast iron pot, as a condiment.
posted by krinklyfig at 3:02 PM on March 28, 2008

Send pix of your kitchen, thebellafonte!
And apropos of absolutely nothing, I always wondered if Mr. Waits has had it with diner food and now spends his evenings at Le Cirque or other temples of haute cuisine...
posted by Dizzy at 3:04 PM on March 28, 2008

Diners were total fixture of my teens and 20s. Lots of memories associated with them. Like smoking and drinking coffee at the Eagle Diner across from my high school with my metalhead boyfriend.

Or staggering to the Athenian II Diner during college when I lived in CT. Other than Dunkin Donuts, it was the only 24 hour food place around. It wasn't super great food but it was food that was available at 4AM. I remember eating at O'Rourke's and Hall's, both on the town's Main Street, as well, but they weren't 24 hour joints.

When I lived in Philly, the South Street Diner was a frequent, convenient stop halfway on the walk (ok, stagger!) home from throwing back too many pints at the Khyber. Also trekked down to the Oregon Diner quite frequently for early afternoon Sunday breakfast.

Speaking of Oregon, Portland does not have any places that really qualify as diners. I miss them big time!
posted by medeine at 3:08 PM on March 28, 2008

medeine: the Athenian was the diner my uncle cooked at. And I've been to the Eagle, too :) There's a pretty good diner not five minutes walk away here in Chicago called the Cozy Corner, but they're not 24 hours. In fact, they close at 4 or 5, which is unfortunate.
posted by jtron at 3:17 PM on March 28, 2008

Here in the Midwest, we are charter members of the clean plate club.
I am also a member of that club, and many a waitress has been interrupted in attempted plate-removal by the urgent "mff!" sounds of a wolfdog seeing carefully-managed gravy reserves attempt to escape their destiny. These sounds are usually followed by a more coherently-phrased request for more biscuits.
posted by Wolfdog at 3:19 PM on March 28, 2008

I just got off the plane moving to San Francisco from Chicago and I'll greatly miss Stellas (Broadway/Barry), Melrose (Broadway/Melrose) and Nookies (Halsted/Buckingham).
posted by ao4047 at 3:32 PM on March 28, 2008

The one great advantage that the Baltimore area diners have is scrapple - greasy, green-gray rectangles of goodness.
posted by 445supermag at 4:04 PM on March 28, 2008

I miss Cody's in New Haven...

A long, long time ago, my parents got thrown out of a diner on Route 1 in Massachusetts for asking for ketchup...

Brings to mind Louis' Lunch in New Haven. It's credited with "inventing" the hamburger. Their burgers are made the same way they were since the beginning (1900) -- toasted bread instead of a hamburger bun and no condiments; the only permitted garnishes are cheese, tomato, and onion. [Library of Congress | New York Times | WCVB/Chronicle -- video].
posted by ericb at 4:34 PM on March 28, 2008

Martin Sexton's love song to the Diner is a fantastic bouncy jingle.
posted by jonson at 4:41 PM on March 28, 2008 [1 favorite]

OMG ao4047

i used to live on buckingham! i ate at nookies all the time!

it was only when i was not too...er...impacted from the previous evening's festivities that we ventured down to the melrose.

soooooooooooooooooooo awesome. thanks for the stumble down memory lane!!
posted by CitizenD at 5:21 PM on March 28, 2008

Every time my wife and I drive to Joshua Tree we stop off at the Wheel Inn in Cabazon. It's the diner featured in PeeWee's Big Adventure--it even has the giant dinosaurs out back, though sadly they have been bought by creationists, not that that should stop you.

When I was a young tough on the mean streets of San Jose, CA, we'd hang out at Denny's mostly. Then a spot called Diner 88 which has been gone for years but featured a jalapeno burger called the Mambo Burger.

Probably my all-time favorite, though, is the Mini Gourmet on the corner of Moorpark and Bascom in San Jose. It has a menu a mile long, but I always ordered the Brother Ed's Burger and french fries with gravy (probably gleaned from the aforementioned Diner movie).

We'd hang out at the Mini til the wee hours, smoking cigarettes and hoping for something interesting to happen. Sometimes it would.

Final Diner thoughts: Tom Waits' Nighthawks at the Diner is a classic faux-live album, all about diner life in southern California in the seventies. Sample banter:

"Yeah, I've had strange looking patty melts at Norms. I've had dangerous veal cutlets at the Copper Penny. Well what you get is a breaded salisbury steak in a shake-n-bake and topped with a provocative sauce of Velveeta and uh, half-n-half. Smothered with Campbell's tomato soup. See I have kinda of a uh...well I order my veal cutlet, Christ it left the plate and it walked down to the end of the counter. Waitress, she's wearing those rhinestone glasses with the little pearl thing clipped on the sweater. My veal cutlet come down, tried to beat the shit out of my cup of coffee. Coffee just wasn't strong enough to defend itself."

Another classic on that album is The Ballad of Big Joe and Phantom 309, on which the story of Large Marge in Pee-Wee's Big Adventure is based, just to bring it all full circle.
posted by Kafkaesque at 5:50 PM on March 28, 2008 [1 favorite]

Dizzy, they still got George's Green Island diner there in Worcester?
posted by Snyder at 6:08 PM on March 28, 2008

"Speaking of Oregon, Portland does not have any places that really qualify as diners. I miss them big time!"

Sweet jesus, what's with that? I moved here from Jersey four years ago and I still can't get over it. Dots, the hotcake house, The Roxy, etc are not diners.

Portland doesn't have much of a 24-hour culture, it's one of my biggest gripes about this place.

Sidenote: My college friend from Hawaii came to visit me my first summer back in NJ. I took her to a diner and she took nearly a half an hour to get through the menu. She was agog.
posted by Betty_effn_White at 7:01 PM on March 28, 2008

In case anyone was wondering what Thanh's (the correct spelling i've since learned) chili recipe is, it isn't so fantastic sounding, but I am sure part of it is based solely on it cooking for so long:

*Thanh's Chili*
15 lbs. lean ground beef
large can tomato puree (probably #4 can -- about a 1/2 gallon size?)
2 T. salt
3 T. black pepper
2 t. cumin
3 T. chili powder
1 crushed (whole) red pepper (those long skinny red ones)
3-4 bay leaves

Brown meat, drain fat. Add remaining ingredients and cook slowly.

I am guessing the "long skinny red one" is an asian red chile or arbol.

My mom says she made about one with 8lbs of ground beef and it fed their entire church pancake dinner (since it is a side chili to go on eggs, etc.). I think the 'magic' would really come if you slow cooked it for a while.
posted by mrzarquon at 7:32 PM on March 28, 2008

Thanks for the fun post, hadjiboy!

Marie Mon Dieu, thanks for the memories - I haven't been to Becky's in forever. And ericb, it's true, it's a stellar dining city, there are some really fine eateries in Portland - at least there always were when I lived there.

Dizzy, you are Worcester? Hey homie, slap me five. Do you know my friend rollbiz? I no longer live there, but I was spawned in Wormtown and lived there many years. Lived in the diners, particularly the ones on Shrewsbury Street late Friday and Saturday nights after my bartending shifts were over.

Here is a great gallery of Massachusetts diner photos. I will have to find a new diner this weekend now.
posted by madamjujujive at 7:32 PM on March 28, 2008 [1 favorite]

There probably could be a FPP on Quebec diners. There are lots of bizarre little places, some seemingly straight out of the 50s. I live near a place called "Elegant Hot Dog", which is across the street from "Beaubien Nouveau Système".

The hot dog features prominently in Quebec fast food.
posted by loiseau at 7:52 PM on March 28, 2008

medeine. if you haven't kept up, O'Rourke's burned a year and a half ago, but the community has basically pulled it up from the ashes...

Andy Ihnatko's passion for diners is contagious - check out 'The New England Ironman Diner Decathalon' (I appear in a couple of these photos, just for full disclosure, but the man's pure Diner Love is just beautiful), and many more diners in his other photo collections.
posted by pupdog at 8:06 PM on March 28, 2008

Ahhhh, Diners in New Jersey. Mmmmm. My favorite was Olga's on the Rt 70 & 73 traffic circle. (I think I remember the locations correctly). Coffee to die for and fresh Bagels & Bialys.
posted by pjern at 9:06 PM on March 28, 2008

The one great advantage that the Baltimore area diners have is scrapple - greasy, green-gray rectangles of goodness.

445supermag: Ha! I thought scrapple was just a Pennsylvania (Philadelphia) thing! We've even had to bring some to my sister in New York state because she can't find it anywhere!
posted by Mael Oui at 12:10 AM on March 29, 2008

Great post, hadjiboy! As a former East Coaster I remember diners fondly. Jersey diners may rule but I have to stick up for a few joints in New York City. The best lemonade I ever had was at a Greek diner in Manhattan where they threw big chunks of lemon into a milkshake blender that beat the chunks around without actually puréeing them, so the intensely flavored oils from the skin were released into the liquid. It was turbo-lemon bliss on a hot humid day.

So, hadjiboy, what got you interested in American diners? (Apart from their universal stainless-steel-and-hot-grease awesomeness, that is.) If you're planning a visit to the USA be sure to stop off in San Francisco so we can hold a meetup in your honor. What is India's answer to the diner? Heck, folks outside North America, what's your local version of the diner? I'll be taking notes for my next vacation here ...

And Smedleyman, I'll trade you my buttermilk biscuit for your hashbrowns. Deal?
posted by Quietgal at 11:44 AM on March 29, 2008

Mael Oui
The eastern shore of maryland is home to a number of scrapple producers: Kirby and Holloway, Rapa, and Greensboro (and probably more).
posted by 445supermag at 1:09 PM on March 29, 2008

Helloooo Snyder!!
Hellooo madamejjj!!

Never been to Frank's, but I just googled it and it looked active.
Lotsa diner-y excellence on Shrewsbury Street to be sure---
but my fave place of all isn't really on Shrewsbury street, it's a great bar/dive/diner inside the whole shebang called "Ralph's", off by the city cemetary and the Firehouse...
Anyone been there?
posted by Dizzy at 1:31 PM on March 29, 2008

My diner recommendations:

Harbor Diner, Egg Harbor City, New Jersey - newly refurbished, very spiffy, and very good
Summit Diner - Somerset, PA - don't miss the awesome selection of pies and gob cakes
Ponzio's, Cherry Hill, NJ - a classic
Bob & Edith's, Arlington, VA - my most lingering memory of this place (the original, at 2310 Columbia Pike) was of eating breakfast there, drunk, at around 2am on the morning of 9/11/2001 ...

The Silver Diner chain in the DC metro area is good, too, but don't confuse it with a real, authentic diner.
posted by kcds at 4:34 PM on March 29, 2008

Krinklyfig, you need to try Grandma's K & I Diner on Broadway near Gibson. It is only open for breakfast and lunch. Get the quarter Travis with Green. My aunt is the K in the K & I. The family sold the restaurant several years ago after Grandma (the I) died. However, my uncle reports that the new owners have really done well with it and the food and service are still great. I'm planning on dropping in for lunch when next in town.

Prior to the sale of the restaurant, my aunt was serving the breakfast crowd. One regular, a pig farmer, asked how fresh the morning's ham was. She lit into him, reminding him that he provided her hams so he knew how fresh it was. He reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out a runt piglet, asking "Is it this fresh?" He'd checked on his sows early in the morning. One had a litter and he had removed the runt. He'd done his chores and forgotten the runt was in his pocket until he dropped his keys in at the restaurant. My aunt snatched the piglet from the farmer and raised it. She was a good pig who was a well loved family pet.

More locally, we regularly hit Amphora's Diner Deluxe in Herndon, VA. It is owned by the folks who own a restaurant and bakery of the same name. While the bakery does have its own location, it supplies the diner with bread and desserts. Oh the desserts!

When we drive to New England, there's a diner on the side of the road and I think it is called the Clinton Station Diner in Clinton, NJ. Part of the restaurant is an old train car. Huge menu. Great food. Awesome fries! We make a point of stopping there on each trip North.
posted by onhazier at 7:20 PM on March 29, 2008

Dizzy, Ralph Moberly - the original visionary and founder of Ralph's just passed away this week and I raise my glass to the man - it was my favorite spot in Worcester for many a year. Apparently, his services were today. R.I.P., Ralph, my man.
posted by madamjujujive at 7:31 PM on March 29, 2008

Did not know this.
Haven't been there since Valentine's Day.
Thanks for the heads up.
If you're ever in town, I'm buying...
posted by Dizzy at 7:40 PM on March 29, 2008

sorry to be the bearer of bad tidings.
If you're ever in town, I'm buying... - deal.
posted by madamjujujive at 8:18 PM on March 29, 2008

Hey Quietgal, or should I be calling you Dinergirl from now on!

I've kind of had a soft spot for diners ever since I saw Midnight Run, in which our hero, De Niro (after he's finally been defeated, or so it looks), enters a diner on the highway and orders a cup of coffee to console himself; he was trying to deliver a guy for a certain amount of cash that he then planned to use to open up a little diner for himself. (The diner seemed like the perfect place for him to go into to relieve some of that stress, which is what I found so appealing about the place, other than the Stainless Steel Counter Tops, the High Chairs and the Wonderful Ambiance).

Over here in India, I suppose a Tiffin Centre (where you can buy stuff like Idlis, and Dosas and Wadas) would be our alternative to the diner. And perhaps Dhabas as well?

posted by hadjiboy at 8:42 PM on March 29, 2008

hadjiboy we were discussing this last night at the meetup. We were amazed at how it took someone from another country to give a great post on the rundown of diner culture in the US.

I have to say, while not technically a 24/7 diner, Mike's Chili Parlor does carry with it some level of awesomeness that is rarely found in the pacific northwest. The thing is I think instead of diners, we have dive bars here. 13 coins, 5 points cafe, hurricane, twillight exit, 9lb hammer, etc. Some are open 24 hours, some have cheap booze, all of them are dingy enough to keep most of the tourists out.

Also, Mike's comes with Abuse for free!
posted by mrzarquon at 10:53 AM on March 30, 2008

Well, hadjiboy, you need to start planning your trip to the USA to check out some classic diners. Unfortunately that means you'll be stuck in New Jersey a lot *ducks and cheerfully flips the bird right back at MeFi's Jersey contingent* but at least you'll be well fed. And when you can actually start to hear your arteries clogging, head on out to SF, where we don't have decent diners, for a nice healthy salad.

Just kidding. We've got lusciously greasy dim sum joints and taquerias taking up the slack here.

Mmm. Tiffin and dhabas - I could eat dosas and idlis and sambar every day! Makes me want to go back to India right now. Yum!

posted by Quietgal at 8:54 PM on March 30, 2008

*slips penis into popcorn box*
posted by Smedleyman at 10:13 PM on March 30, 2008

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