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Favorite Diners in North America


Ellen Shapiro
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The Bendix Diner in East Rutherford, NJ. Yes, its a hellhole. But its got a blind waiter.

The Silver Moon Diner on Union Turpike in Flushing, Queens. One of the oldest, I beleive. (EDIT, I think its out of business. :sad: )

The Georgia Diner in Elmhurst, Queens. A true landmark, and they know how to do breakfast better than anyplace I know.

The Scobee Diner on Northern Blvd in Little Neck, NY. Nothing distinguishing about it other than the fact its the diner I have been to more than any other diner in my life.

Jason Perlow

Co-Founder, The Society for Culinary Arts & Letters

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The Miss Florence in Florence MA. There's only one thing to order-- corned beef hash. They grind it, which is very old-style, slap a great big plate-sized circle of it on the griddle with some red onions smooshed into it, crisp it on both sides and serve it with poached eggs on top. Almost surreally good, the combination of crisp outside and creamy, meaty, potatoe-y inside is splendid, with the velvety egg smeared on the top. I miss it so. Snif.

And damn, when I was in Chicago, we stayed right around the corner from the Salonica!! My wife and I laughed because they proclaimed themselves to be "pan-cake specialists." We wanted to go and challenge them to prove this wild assertion to us, but we were always too full from the night before to think about breakfast. Wah. Next time.

The Miss Florence has a sister diner named the Miss Worcester, under the highway on Southbridge Street in Worcester MA. The food wasn't good, but it was a great place to eat homefries and drink coffee in the wee hours, eavesdropping on the drunken conversations and trying to sober up enough to drive home. The good old days ...

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The Bendix Diner in East Rutherford, NJ. Yes, its a hellhole. But its got a blind waiter.

Aside from the novelty of the blind waiter (and yeah... I know its politically incorrect to say this... but its kind of creepy--he doesn't wear glasses and he knows the inside of the diner so well that he never lets on that he's blind, except for the fact that his eyes don't track), the Bendix is also famous 'cause its been in tons of movies.

Oh... here's a link about the blind waiter, Johnny D., as well as an outside picture of the Bendix at night.

BTW: the food isn't great, but lets not linger on that for once. There are SO many diners in North America that we can let a few slip onto the list just for atmosphere, I assume.

The best "greasy spoon" (in my parlance, that means cheap, ugly but still good--mainly for 3AM breakfasts) I've ever been to was a place in Arlington, VA called "Bob & Edith's". I lived in that area many years ago, though, so I've got no idea how well its held up.

Edited by jhlurie (log)

Jon Lurie, aka "jhlurie"

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Aside from the novelty of the blind waiter (and yeah... I know its politically incorrect to say this... but its kind of creepy--he doesn't wear glasses and he knows the inside of the diner so well that he never lets on that he's blind, except for the fact that his eyes don't track

Message drift, maybe. But back when I was working New Products for McDonalds in the Chicago Loop we used to head north a few blocks to a joint called Hobson's. An Irish bar downstairs and a dining room upstairs. The dining room was famous for two reasons. Incredibly good Dungeness Crabs and that the two lunch waiters were disbarred lawyers. To say the least lunch was table versus server, definitely an adversary relationship and definitely great fun.

Wonder if Hobsons is still around / has changed over the years? Wonder what happened to the servers, esq.?

Holly Moore

"I eat, therefore I am."

HollyEats.Com

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Do truckstops count in your diner definition?

The restaurant at the truckstop at Johnson's Corner on I-25 near Loveland, Colorado (between Denver and Ft. Collins) has "world famous" cinnamon rolls, boasts of never having closed its doors since it opened in 1952. Everything is made on the premises, classic truckstop food, waitresses, atmosphere.

clickhere

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The A-1 Diner in Gardiner, ME is quite an interesting eating experience. It is a real diner, with sort of an upscale menu. You will find all the usual diner standards, but usually with a twist. The lamb burger with cilantro and goat cheese is a delicious example.

Jim

Edited by jmcgrath (log)
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The Heritage Diner in Hackensack, NJ was the site of many late night meals when I was growing up in that neck of the woods. The baked goods were (are?? I haven't been in ages) all freshly made on the premises and the California Pie was my all time favorite. Sort of a high custard cream pie with fresh glazed fruits on top like a tart. Lots of berries, apricots, kiwis, etc. YUM! Good grief I have to get up that way and have a slice... :smile:

Growing up in Northern NJ it's easy to take diners for granted. There had to be at least a dozen of them within a 20 minute radius of my house, and they were ALL good, all open late or 24/7 and almost all baked their own baked goods. It's not quite the same here in Philadelphia, but if I'm really jonesing, I can go to the Mayfair Diner in NE Philly, or cross the bridge to South Jersey and hit Olga's or Ponzio's. Those are all very good diners too.

Katie M. Loeb
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Author: Shake, Stir, Pour:Fresh Homegrown Cocktails

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Bartendrix,Intoxicologist, Beverage Consultant, Philadelphia, PA
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The Bendix Diner in East Rutherford, NJ. Yes, its a hellhole. But its got a blind waiter.

There is a Bendix Diner on Rte 17 in Hasbrouck Heights, the diner in E Rutherford has another name;

My favorite, and it goes back about 60 years, is the Egg Platter on Crooks Avenue in Paterson/Clifton. (Right on the border) This place actually CLOSES from 3PM to 10PM and then is open all night until the next afternoon!! Best eggs & home fries ever. Old railroad car look.

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my theory is that your favorite diner is generally very close to where you spent the most time getting drunk.

that said, one of my favorites is the Spa, in hoboken, NJ.

the previously mentioned Bendix is another. their burger is a step or two up from the usual.

the Tic Tock in Clifton, NJ, is a classic.

NJ, i think, is the undisputed king of Diners, and traffic circles.

Edited by tommy (log)
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NJ, i think, is the undisputed king of Diners, and traffic circles.

Where are all these traffic circles in NJ? I've seen the numerous "jug handles", but very few traffic circles. The most traffic circles I've seen are in France, where there are thousands of "ronds points", most planted with gorgeous floral displays! (No Diners though)

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The Scobee Diner on Northern Blvd in Little Neck, NY. Nothing distinguishing about it other than the fact its the diner I have been to more than any other diner in my life.

The Scobee brings back memories. I practically lived there during my senior year in high school and during summers in college. If you ever saw a group hanging out wearing tuxedo shirts and black pants, that might have been us, the bartenders and Captains from Leonard’s, the catering hall on Northern. After working 16 hour days and then closing down the sunset grille bar (two doors down from Scobee, it changed names a few times and is now a drug store I think) we would be in Scobee until the sun came up. If you ever went to a Bar Mitzvah at Leonards and thought the bartenders were unusually surly, it was because we were working in a huge pink building on two hours of sleep.

Thought this is an interesting web site on diners across the country. diner city

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"The Miss Florence in Florence MA. There's only one thing to order-- corned beef hash. They grind it, which is very old-style, slap a great big plate-sized circle of it on the griddle with some red onions smooshed into it, crisp it on both sides and serve it with poached eggs on top. Almost surreally good, the combination of crisp outside and creamy, meaty, potatoe-y inside is splendid, with the velvety egg smeared on the top. I miss it so. Snif"

Ms Flo's ain't what she used to be. I remember getting a really great pan-fried trout there about 30 years ago. No longer. It has changed hands. The menu is no longer the same, but for everyone's sake, I do promise to try out the corned beef hash. In Northampton, I think the better place is the Bluebonnet Diner on King Street, just off I-91. The hash is good and the other old standards are reliable -- e.g. grape-nut pudding, teased hair, piles of the local papers lying around. The dining room has a miniature train that runs around the ceiling.

Another classic New England diner is Haven Bros. in downtown Providence, right next to City Hall. For more decades than I admit to remembering the diner gets moved in place every night, staying open to God knows when, cooking hot dogs and hamburgers. The menu is limited, but the characters who hang out there are not.

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Actually, Washington DC is the American king of traffic circles. New Jersey has plenty of boni-fide circles, but many of them ARE more like jughandles to make turns as opposed to true traffic circles, where you can get stuck going 'round and 'round for hours if you aren't careful (think of that scene in London in "European Vacation").

Jon Lurie, aka "jhlurie"

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Actually, Washington DC is the American king of traffic circles.  New Jersey has plenty of boni-fide circles, but many of them ARE more like jughandles to make turns as opposed to true traffic circles, where you can get stuck going 'round and 'round for hours if you aren't careful (think of that scene in London in "European Vacation").

perhaps DC is the "new" king, as NJ has been phasing them out. i can assure you, however, that back in the 70's, there were many many many boni-fide circles in NJ, especially in Monmouth and Ocean counties. in fact, i tihnk i remember reading that the first circle in the country was up on 1/9 just south of rt 46. although, that's not really a circle.

staying on topic, i'm trying to think of a diner on a circle. ah, see, it took 2 seconds...the Laurelton diner (i think that's what it's called) on the (Laurelton) circle in Bricktown (the circle has been phased out). i do believe this was the first place i saw people order "gravy cheese fries." it was a group of drunk girls. the fries were very good.

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in fact, i tihnk i remember reading that the first circle in the country was up on 1/9 just south of rt 46.  although, that's not really a circle.

I know we are in danger of topic drift, but assuming that's the one in Ridgefield Park, that was converted out of circle-dom about six months ago.

Odd, there are no good diners on Route 1/9. You'd figure that with all of that commercial traffic there'd be something.

Forum Diner in Paramus, NJ. Have we talked about that one? It lacks any and all traces of chrome, but other than that its a classic.

Oh... this is interesting for you Northern New Jersey diner fans. A list of NNJ diners, maintained by the Bergen County Mall.

Jon Lurie, aka "jhlurie"

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ah, diners. My favorite of favorites no longer exists :-( It was called The Chef and it was in Manhattan, Kansas. Only a counter, no booths. One could get chicken fried steak with gravy and real, ah say, REAL curly cue french fries. green beans out of a can, and a squishy parker house white bread roll. But the best part was the waitresses. they had the beehive hair, the chewing gum, the proper diner waitress clothes, and when you ordered, they turn, where they stood, and yell back at the kitchen "CHICK-EN FRY!!" god bless 'em ;-)

Born Free, Now Expensive

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We were back in Columbus, OH for a couple of weeks last month and stumbled on a place in Hillard called "The Starliner Diner." I don't know by deifnition the true meaning of diner, but we ate three different meals (breakfast, lunch and super) there, they had waitresses but counter (did have a bar you could eat at). Anyhow the food was Cuban based (had Cuban Walleye one evening) and very good and much worth a trip.

dave

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Hey, do you all know about Randy Garbin's "Roadside" -- magazine and website? It was a terrific resource for all things diner, from the construction of the diner itself to the forks, to the food, to the folklore... John Thorne wrote about it on his own website: John Thorne writes about Roadside

Unfortunately, I think that Roadside, the magazine, has gone by the road. Garbin apparently has written about it here in Roadcide. I haven't checked, but maybe it's possible to purchase hardcopy or read online back issues (perhaps Google cached them?)....

And Food History News notes in its Calendar of Events the following:

June 7, 2003, 11 a.m.-3:00 p.m.

"Diners: Still Cookin' in the 21st Century." Culinary Archives & Museum at Johnson & Wales Univ., Providence, RI.

Lecture and book signing with Ricahrd Gutman, guest curator of diner exhibit. Gutman, the leading authority on diner history, author of American Diner and American Diner Then and Now will be on-hand from 11 a.m., with a scheduled talk at 1:30 p.m., followed by questions and answers. Museum is located at 315 Harborside Blvd., in Providence, RI; for more information call 401-598-2805. Registration; fee $5.00, checks made payable to Culinary Archives and Museum, send to 315 Harborside Blvd., Providence, RI, 02905.

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The Silver Moon Diner on Union Turpike in Flushing, Queens. One of the oldest, I beleive. (EDIT, I think its out of business.  :sad: )

Out of business? Say it ain't so Jason. I grew up in that neighborhood and the Silver Moon was a cherished local institution. A friend of mine once owned a bar and grill next door. We could barely manage to crawl there after closing--for breakfast at 5:00am. Great food. Cheeseburger Platters with the burgers done drippin' bloody-rare, Onion Rings in Beer Batter, Tuna Clubs, Eggs over Easy, and oh, the pastries and pies!

BTW it was at Union Turnpike and Lakeville Road. Smack on the city side of the NYC/Nassau border. I think the town was called Glen Oaks.

PJ

"Epater les bourgeois."

--Lester Bangs via Bruce Sterling

(Dori Bangs)

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In the Twin Cities, it's Mickey's Diner. This place is such a classic (it's on the National Register of Historic Places), it has been a location in a bunch of movies produced here.

Consistently great, cheap food. Packed after bar closing.

Susan Fahning aka "snowangel"
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The Silver Moon Diner on Union Turpike in Flushing, Queens. One of the oldest, I beleive. (EDIT, I think its out of business.  :sad: )

Out of business? Say it ain't so Jason. I grew up in that neighborhood and the Silver Moon was a cherished local institution. A friend of mine once owned a bar and grill next door. We could barely manage to crawl there after closing--for breakfast at 5:00am. Great food. Cheeseburger Platters with the burgers done drippin' bloody-rare, Onion Rings in Beer Batter, Tuna Clubs, Eggs over Easy, and oh, the pastries and pies!

BTW it was at Union Turnpike and Lakeville Road. Smack on the city side of the NYC/Nassau border. I think the town was called Glen Oaks.

PJ

I believe there are/were two Silver Moon Diners. One was on Union Turnpike, near St. Johns and one on Union and Lakeville. The one near the University was not a free standing building, but on a corner with a tiny parking lot. I think it is still open, but now is called the Fame Diner. I might be confusing my Diners :blink:

The one on Union and Lakeville raised their prices significantly after a remodeling several years ago. There are better Diner options driving a few minutes down Lakeville to Northern Blvd.

Edited by NewYorkTexan (log)
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NOW we're on a favorite topic! My dad ran a lawn service for years - couldn't cook anything but popcorn. THEN he married the manager of our local (Central Connecticut) Sears and Roebuck Luncheonette. 'Member those? Anyway - she talked him into opening a diner, so he bought "Johnny's Deluxe Luncheonette" in Plainville (my town). We renovated it (*shiver* it was disgusting...Johnny had run it for 27 years) and, honestly, it lost a lot of its charm in the translation. We pulled out the permanent booths to install orange vinyl portable booths. The bookie's phone booth was removed. The 10-foot long magazine rack was removed. But the food was superb and I learned a LOT about economies, planning, etc., etc. Also - I have no idea how many pounds (50-pound bags) of potatos I peeled for homefries. But it was worth it. Now defunct.

Nobody's mentioned the Olympia Diner on the Berlin Turnpike in Newington, Connecticut! Huge menu, open 24 hours - it's got it all.

I take exception to those trendy new diner-wannabe restaurants that call themselves "New York-style". They've all got lots of tile, lots of windows, expensive deli-style menus... there's one in Westchester, NY near the Westchester County Civic Center. I go in there only once a year, attending a radio-control model show across the street.

If it's got a bar, it ain't a diner.

If doesn't have booths, it ain't a diner.

No fry-grill? No diner.

If a steak is more than half an inch thick - it ain't a diner.

Homefries not on the menu? NO DINER!!!

No 'breakfast special'? NO DINER!!!

There's two still in Plainville (which is next to New Britain, CT). The Plainville Diner is downtown and serves a decent breakfast - but DON'T eat there after lunch.....it'll curl your toes.

And *sigh of prandial lust* Howie's. When I was in high school, it was Howie and Jim's, and while you could get breakfast, it was primarily a fried-food and burger place for lunch and supper. One of the guys I graduated from high school with bought it (his name is Tony) and he renamed it simply Howie's. He's a breakfast-cooking god, a short-order artiste

I hadn't been in years - it's tiny and nothing will attract you to it. My dad dragged me in there one Saturday morning and we had breakfast. Dad ain't a lightweight - he's 6'3" and probably 270 pounds or so. He orders 1 (that's ONE) pancake. I rolled my eyes...sheesh. I had the 'special' with bacon.

omigod.

Dad's single pancake was 3/8" or more thick and completely covered his plate. My eggs were perfectly done, no browned bits, shimmery perfection quivering on my plate. The bacon? (This was a $2.50 meal) I think I had 6-7 slices of thick-cut foot-long slices, cooked jsut prior to getting crispy. Thick rye toast..... and of course, those little containers of jelly... :) Perfection.

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Two points:

1. Our member ShawtyCat is married to "the blind waiter."

2. It doesn't fit the physical description of a diner, but Dot's in Wilmington, VT sure fits the culinary profile. Great breakfasts (banana pancakes, berry-berry pancakes :smile: ), decent sandwiches, excellent chili. The waitresses don't have teased hair, but they're great and remember you from year to year. Oh, yeah, and the McDot's Deluxe: eggs, sausage, cheese, etc. on a double roll. Heart attack city.

Edited by Suzanne F (log)
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