Retro is all the rage. What was old is new again. From fashion to music, film to art, current trends rehash the past, over and over and over. For proprietors and line cooks at classic prefab restaurants from a bygone era, the public’s reborn embrace of the diner is fabulous news.
Once thought to be antiquated and indeed, anti-gourmet if not -cuisine, the diner has made a stellar comeback. People, it seems, now appreciate the diner for what it was – a place to gather for honest-to-goodness, unpretentious grub. The inherent stress of the modern world has forced many to take a long, hard look at how life was a generation or two ago and as a result, the significance and impact of the diner has drawn renewed attention. From Barry Levinson’s classic film Diner to Edward Hopper’s magnum opus Nighthawks, people love to get lost in the romance that diners elicit.
Perhaps then, the revival of diner culture is as much about the rejuvenation of a simpler, less hectic time as it is about the sheer beauty of those Streamline Moderne Art Deco cars.
With that in mind, here are some classic diners in America, where the appeal is often more about atmosphere than the chow that comes out of the kitchen.
Where: New Hyde Park, New York
Long Island, New York is a notable hotbed of old-school diners. The village of New Hyde Park in Nassau County has a gem in Yesterday’s.
Where: Salem, Massachusetts
One of the few diners on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places, Salem Diner in Salem, Massachusetts is a wonderful landmark. Built in 1941, the Sterling Streamline design is classic and remarkably, the diner still serves up great grub.
Where: Ramsey, New Jersey
The diner capital of America, New Jersey has a wealth of classics to explore. Tiffany Diner is one of the best in the state.
Miss America Diner
Where: Jersey City, New Jersey
Home to almost a quarter of a million people, Jersey City is a major industrial and transportation hub just across the Hudson River from Manhattan. Though in the state of New Jersey, Jersey City is very much part of metro New York. Diner lovers who visit The Big Apple should make a special trip to Jersey City, where the Miss America Diner is just one of several old-school establishments still around.
Libby’s Blue Line Diner
Where: Colchester, Vermont
Libby’s Blue Line Diner has the classic, authentic diner look and menu that draws locals and scores of visitors from Canada.
Wright’s Dairy Rite
Where: Staunton, Virginia
Wright’s Dairy Rite is a throwback, original Drive-In restaurant in business for over half a century.
Where: New York, NewYork
A rare diner gem in Manhattan, Market Diner is a Hell’s Kitchen staple.
Where: Worcester, Massachusetts
Massachusetts has another diner on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places and a beauty in Worcester’s Boulevard Diner.
Where: Santa Monica, California
More about looks than food, Rae’s Diner is must-see kitsch for visitors to Santa Monica.
The Egg Platter Diner
Where: Paterson, New Jersey
Yet another New Jersey classic, The Egg Platter Diner is a greasy spoon fave.
Where: Turlock, California
The interior decor of Latif’s in Turlock, California is pure diner all the way, with a superb menu to boot.
Ben’s Chili Bowl
Where: Washington D.C.
Less diner than greasy spoon lunch counter, no classic list is complete without Ben’s Chili Bowl, a major Washington D.C. landmark.
Where: Red Hook, New York
Tiny Red Hook, New York, home to just over 10,000 people, is the kind of place where diners were born. The town’s Village Diner is historic, with all the classic breakfast, lunch and dinner menu staples.
White Mana Diner
Where: Jersey City, New York
Another gem in Jersey City, the original White Mana Diner still serves classic fast food in a building that dates back to the 1939 World’s Fair.
Where: Saint Paul, Minnesota
The capital of Minnesota has a classic diner car on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places as well. Mickey’s Diner has been open 24 hours a day since 1937.
Where: Portsmouth, New Hampshire
Need a reason to visit beautiful New Hampshire? Head to the pretty town of Portsmouth, where Gilley’s has kept residents well-fed since 1912.
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