Underated in America: Diners


There are two main breakfast options in my neighborhood: A charming but perpetually-crowded bistro, known as much for its quiche and muffins as for its hour-long waits; and the local '50's-style diner, which features no nonsense food with no nonsense service.

I always choose the diner. And apparently I'm in the minority.

In the age of bistros, cafes, cucinas and ristorantes, where is the love for The Great American Diner, that bastion of jukeboxes, polished steel and vinyl stools, grill jockeys in a white t-shirt and apron, and good old-fashioned American grub at prices the average American can afford? Although the diner has enjoyed a long tenure in American culinary history, The diner, the precursor to fast food, is fast becoming just another American memory, gone the way of the New Deal and the '57 Chevy.

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But I argue that the diner is one of those few American traditions that will never entirely go away. Because at bottom, Americans love their no-nonsense value meals as much as they still love their cars, the fading of Detroit's Big 3 notwithstanding.

Especially these days, with the restaurant industry hurting along with everyone else. Now, more than ever, Americans must appreciate the neighborhood greasy-spoon, where a two eggs sunny-side up, hash browns and a cuppa joe sells for $6 and the waitresses always know your name. With higher gas prices, the neighborhood joint has an instant appeal for those Sunday morning breakfast jaunts. A good diner has something for everyone, from the Senior Citizen special to the kiddie menu to the pie and coffee catering to the late night crowd.

When the dust eventually clears, the diner will still be standing, thanks to the value they provide and the sense of community they foster. It's where I'm getting my breakfast most Sunday mornings, anyway. Anyone care to join me?