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Jan 16, 2008 03:40 PM

What is the difference?

I was wondering if my home town had an authentic this discussion began about what a diner is. Is a coffee shop the same? What makes a diner?

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  1. I'm sure someone can do a better job than I, but this is what I think.

    Diner: Counter service, endless coffee/soda, breakfast all day, simple home-y dishes. Doesn't need to be 24hrs but that definitely cements its status as a diner.

    Coffee shop: Many different varieties of coffee, pay per cup, pastries, music (optional).

    Both: Lonely people reading all day.

    1. Diner: Eggs. Matronly waitresses asking, "What'll it be hon?"

      Coffee Shop: Muffins and scones. College-age staff mumbling stuff.

      5 Replies
      1. re: Panini Guy

        I think that's a 'new age' definition of coffee shop. I still think of a coffee shop as more of a pared down diner.

        1. re: jeanmarieok

          Yes. A coffee shop is not a Starbucks; it's a Denny's-esque place, usually open 24 hours, like the ones you find in most every casino.

          1. re: jeanmarieok

            Grew up in New England. We had diners (90% Greek-owned it seemed), donut shops and luncheon counters (which also served breakfast). The edges of those blurred, but there was no such animal as a coffee shop that wasn't built around an espresso machine.

            1. re: Panini Guy

              What is now called a coffee shop with an espresso machine has it's roots as a coffee house. Back when there were coffee houses, a coffee shop was more similar to a diner.

          2. re: Panini Guy

            That's a coffee *house* not a coffee *shop* -- not the same thing at all.

          3. See this thread from months ago and see if that helps:


            1. The old style coffee shop is very similar to a diner, IMHO. The difference may be as simple as diner is a standalone, pre-fab structure ala the great diners of the 20s-50s... coffee shop is embedded in a larger building or srtip of stores.

              1 Reply
              1. re: woodburner

                I like your definition, it's kind of what I was going for.

              2. Real Diners have menu's the size of Guttenberg Bibles...
                And have the ability to serve an open faced hot turkey sandwich at 10am...
                Or bacon and eggs at 2am...

                1 Reply
                1. re: Tay

                  I guess your idea of what a diner is depends on where you grew up! I always think of the diners that have the gigantic laminated menus with everything available all the time as "Jersey Diners". Being from New England, I think of a diner as a place way smaller, with simple food, and might not even be open for dinner (which is always too bad) like the Capitol Diner in Lynn, or Jiggers in RI. But I guess both types are basically diners, just from different eras.