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Your Orders Up! - for the love of diners

HillJ Jan 29, 2013 10:17 AM

The OP on cold weather sandwiches had me remembering all the great sandwiches my family & I have enjoyed in diners..and the road food...and the pies....rice pudding...creature comfort foods for sure but diner food really is different than any other sort of food stop you can make. And, like food trucks, some diners really have exciting menus and unexpected choices and others remain true to their 50 years in the business and never change the menu (except maybe the prices!).

My favorite diner has a long list of eggs benedict selections that I'm still working through. The jambalaya benedict was the last one I tried and it was killer good, spicy and rich. They also do a hash brown that just rivals other diners-crispy outside, creamy inside potato and just the right mix of onion and grease. Another diner I love has those snap pickles and vinegary coleslaw that's worth the trip just for those two sides.

So, CH's what do you order from your favorite diner, what time do you tend to go to a diner (I'm a 2am post concert, Sunday breakfast road stopper kinda gal) and what sets your diner apart from the rest?

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  1. pinehurst RE: HillJ Jan 29, 2013 10:29 AM

    Not truly a diner, but my favorite place was called Mamma Mary's (formerly, Mary's Lunch) in Methuen. They were a b/l/d place open seven days.

    I used to love their "Italian toast".. two medium Italian sub rolls, cut in half lengthwise, liberally buttered and grilled. That and an endless cup of coffee was a cheap, satisfying breakfast for me during my college years.

    For lunch/dinner/whenever, I loved their "veal on a heel"....veal parm on the aforementioned roll.

    I miss that place. There's a good Italian deli there now, but still. I miss it.

    1. juliejulez RE: HillJ Jan 29, 2013 10:41 AM

      I don't have a favorite anymore. I learned my previous favorite in Chicago (Salt & Pepper on Lincoln & Wrightwood) closed recently :( But they had a great staff, and it was just my little refuge. I moved away in 2010.

      I would go there for lunch often, usually around 2 or 3 after the lunch crowd was gone and I always got a grilled cheese. So much so that they knew my order (grilled cheese on white with fries and a side of bbq and a diet coke). It started when I moved there and was a broke college student, and grilled cheese, fries, and a soda cost me around $5 with tip. But even after I was done with school and had a "grown up" job nearby, I still would go there for lunch with a newspaper and order it... my job was very stressful and that place was a source of comfort for me, even if for just 30 minutes in the middle of the day.

      I avoided it on weekends because of the brunch crowd, and they didn't stay open after 4pm otherwise I would have probably gone for dinner there too.

      2 Replies
      1. re: juliejulez
        Big Bad Voodoo Lou RE: juliejulez Jan 29, 2013 12:37 PM

        Stand-up comedian John Mulaney has a hilarious bit about the Salt and Pepper Diner in Chicago:

        1. re: Big Bad Voodoo Lou
          juliejulez RE: Big Bad Voodoo Lou Jan 29, 2013 12:44 PM

          Ha, that's the place. The first two images shown were "my" diner. The other one on the brick building is the one up in Wrigleyville.

      2. fldhkybnva RE: HillJ Jan 29, 2013 11:04 AM

        I love diners! I am not a big breakfast/brunch fan which is lucky for me as our local diner does killer more savory dinner food and was actaully featured on the lovely Diners, Drive Ins and Dives for a seafood pasta dish which is quite tasty. They also make a mean crab stuffed chicken and potato crusted salmon. We actually usually go for dinner which is nice as it's less crowded. Oh, I forgot the best part and usually the reason we get the idea to go there. The bread!! It is only served at lunch and dinner time but they serve this basket of a bread loaf which has been sliced and the inside is soft and moist with a sweet, creamy flavor. We can never figure out what exactly it is, but I just called and apparently it's cream cheese but it seems like so much more. It is owned by a Greek family so perhaps if anyone is familiar with a cream cheese Greek bread they'd like to share the recipe.

        I am not a big breakfast food type person, but when I have a random craving we go for breakfast and tend to go later in the morning/early afternoon so as to beat the line. I will usually order a ginormous omelette (occasionally pancakes or french toast) ALWAYS with hash browns and usually with sausage or bacon and toast. I love the pile of food that greets me at the table and then we sit around and enjoy for a good while.

        I love love diners and surprisingly enough as I usually hate choice because I can never make up my mind I love the menus which are as long as a book as it gives everyone something good to order and it's usually all delicious and it's nice to try different things every time. Also, the atmosphere just makes you feel cozy.

        1. m
          MonMauler RE: HillJ Jan 29, 2013 11:09 AM

          I don't get to diners as much as I like because virtually none of the diners around me serve alcoholic beverages, which is one of the greatest sadnesses of the culinary world. However, when I do go it is almost always very late morning - closing in on noon - after a particularly rough night. Most of the diners near me serve breakfast all day, and I always get breakfast at diners.

          Eggs Benedict is a favorite if done well, but I've found they can be very hit-or-miss at diners. I usually reserve Eggs Benedict for fancier restaurants or home cooking, although I have found a few diners that do EB very well.

          A Breakfast Burrito is another diner favorite. Usually, it's just meat, eggs, cheese, fried potatoes, and a spicy salsa type sauce.

          My go to, though, is simple: 2 Eggs over easy, fried potatoes, sausage or bacon, and whole wheat toast. It truly has restorative properties.

          1. Perilagu Khan RE: HillJ Jan 29, 2013 11:33 AM

            Diners per se, seem to be more a northern and eastern thing. True diners are practically unknown in west Texas. We have "cafes," which are similar, but I can't think of a single joint with the word "diner" in it.

            1. Bacardi1 RE: HillJ Jan 29, 2013 12:08 PM

              I LOVE diners, but what you describe HillJ isn't anything like any "regulation" American diner as I'd describe it. "Jambalaya Benedict"? Probably awesome - but not regular "diner" food. "Regional" diner food, yes.

              For "regular" diner food, nothing beats corned beef hash & eggs, or the hash folded into an omelet. Or steak & eggs; or sausage or sausage patties & eggs; or pancakes; etc., etc.

              Now, "regional" for around here in Virginia, diner food means GREAT coffee, LARGE orange juices, a side of grits with corned beef hash & eggs, country-fried steak & eggs, country-AGED ham & eggs (the ham is NOTHING like the boiled ham you're going to get at IHOP or anywhere else but in the south), cheese omelets, fried pork chops & eggs, REAL hash-brown potatoes - the list goes on & on. Southerners LOVE their breakfasts - & around here where it's farm country, they NEED their breakfasts.

              But you ain't gonna find any "Benedicts" on the menu in the local diners around here - lol! ;)

              2 Replies
              1. re: Bacardi1
                HillJ RE: Bacardi1 Jan 29, 2013 12:13 PM

                Oh I hope I haven't limited anything! Like I said in the OP "some diners really have exciting menus and unexpected choices and others remain true to their 50 years in the business and never change the menu."

                I only mentioned two out of the probably 500 diners I've been to in all my years traveling and hunting down some memorable places. It's easy to recognize that diners are going to vary a great deal depending on where we are or how the diner model is run by the owners.

                In my youth (early 20's) I was determined to eat a fried egg at every diner I could. And I think I probably got to 250 before I even considered stopping. Crazy things we do...but, I also had the time of my life doing it.

                What diners (I hope) have in common is the gathering place they become, the playbook menu they are known for, the comforting memories that linger and that they are (usually) open 24/7.

                My diner love is not defined one way, that's for sure. And, I'm loving these comments! Carry on!

                1. re: Bacardi1
                  fldhkybnva RE: Bacardi1 Jan 29, 2013 12:19 PM

                  OH!! Silly me, I forgot to list corned beef hash as a favorite diner food!

                2. alliegator RE: HillJ Jan 29, 2013 12:15 PM

                  Not many diners around my neck of the woods, but I've been to more than few when I was younger. Patty melt for me! Yum. And time of day? Usually lunch. On those late nights, I would usually need to get home quick to take my dog out, so those warranted a stop at Taco Bell.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: alliegator
                    melpy RE: alliegator Feb 4, 2013 08:38 AM

                    In central PA we have a ton of diners. The sad thing is they are mostly so so depending on what you order. Most is pre packaged stuffs. There is one I like for a party melt and fries. One for quiche or eggs. Another does a hotchee dog (chili dog) and gravy fries or a grilled ham club with actual pieces of ham.

                    We don't go super often but when a craving hits some are even open 24 hours. My small town O believe currently has at least 4 places I would consider a diner.

                  2. c
                    charlesbois RE: HillJ Jan 29, 2013 12:30 PM

                    A fav diner in my area does "hippie hash" which is sautéed mushrooms, onions, peppers, tomatoes and broccoli, served with hash browns. Pretty delish.

                    Also in the area, a lot of diners are owned by Greek families and do some amazing Greek food. Plus coney dogs.

                    8 Replies
                    1. re: charlesbois
                      fldhkybnva RE: charlesbois Jan 29, 2013 12:33 PM

                      Yes, our local diner is owned by a Greek family. If I could figure out the bread that they serve I would be a happy woman - it's sliced in half and seems to be spread with a sweet-ish cheese concoction and then baked and topped with sesame seeds. All I know is it involves cream cheese.

                      1. re: fldhkybnva
                        Tante RE: fldhkybnva Jan 30, 2013 03:59 PM

                        Oh my word, I have GOT to find a recipe for that bread (or better yet, somewhere locally that serves it). It sounded good to start with, but "spread with a sweet-ish cheese concoction and then baked and topped with sesame seeds" put it right over the top. I want some NOW!

                        1. re: Tante
                          fldhkybnva RE: Tante Jan 30, 2013 04:03 PM

                          I haven't tried this recipe but this is the closest recipe that I have found that looks like it just might be it. http://www.savoryreviews.com/2009/12/... Also the recipe is prefaced with mention of a diner so that raises my hopes.

                          1. re: fldhkybnva
                            Tante RE: fldhkybnva Jan 30, 2013 08:00 PM

                            Added it to my recipe bookmarks--looks delicious. I'm not a great bread baker, but going to give it a shot one of these weekends. Thanks!

                            1. re: Tante
                              fldhkybnva RE: Tante Jan 31, 2013 07:05 AM

                              Let me know what you think. I have a vacation coming up which usually turns into a cooking and eating fiesta and a stand mixer which is rarely used at the ready so perhaps I'll give it a shot within the next month or so as well.

                      2. re: charlesbois
                        Jeanne RE: charlesbois Feb 4, 2013 08:11 AM

                        That hippie hash sounds pretty darn good. I'll take mine with the hash browns and two fried eggs and whole wheat toast on the side please! I'd be set for the day.

                        1. re: Jeanne
                          Perilagu Khan RE: Jeanne Feb 4, 2013 08:12 AM

                          I would expect "hippie hash" to contain real hash.

                          1. re: Perilagu Khan
                            jeanmarieok RE: Perilagu Khan Feb 4, 2013 08:15 AM

                            I can only hope!

                      3. jrvedivici RE: HillJ Jan 29, 2013 12:32 PM

                        The two diners of my youth are no more......which is why I can't remember which one had the Happy Waitress I remember so fondly.

                        My current diner favorites are these:
                        Turkey Club extra mayo on the side..white or wheat toast. (Diners just make the best triple decker sandwiches) with fries.

                        Pork Roll Egg and Cheese (from NJ of course)

                        Chicken Cordon Blue'.....this is a dish which as changed over the years and I like to see how different diners approach it. The Chicken Cordon Blue of my youth was stuffed with ham and cheese (swiss) with a garlic and butter center when cut open the garlic and cheese would ooze out of the center. It was fried a golden brown and crispy on the outside. Any sauce....was generally brown with mushrooms and served on the side.

                        Today...the two diners by me serve this in a creamy sauce.....so the outside crispy shell is long gone. The center is stuffed with ham and cheese but no buttery garlic and one service it over rice while the other with tortellini! They are both served with a battered and sauteed broccoli stalks as well.

                        I don't mind the updated version but when traveling and eating a different diners for dinner I will routinely try the Chicken Cordon Blue to recapture the one from my childhood memories.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: jrvedivici
                          HillJ RE: jrvedivici Jan 29, 2013 12:56 PM

                          Triple deckers!! I loved the NJ sloppy joe (with sandwich salads and/or deli meats, cole slaw on rye bread) from Mr. J's diner in Cranford.

                          1. re: jrvedivici
                            fldhkybnva RE: jrvedivici Jan 29, 2013 01:51 PM

                            +1 on the triple decker always cut in 4 triangles. I love cordon bleu and my weekly menu has included it for months now but I can't say I've ever seen or had your childhood favorite version though it sounds quite good! We always use ham with munster and provokone but perhaps I'll try a different approach to switch it up.

                          2. MGZ RE: HillJ Jan 29, 2013 12:48 PM

                            Diners to me are breakfast or late night spots. Breakfast is poached eggs, homefries, and a side of bacon or sausage. Pork roll, egg, and cheese, if it's to go (they need to sit wrapped for a few minutes to achieve perfection).

                            Late night, it's fries with some gravy after too much booze. Been a while since I was out so late, but that was always kind to me.

                            I can honestly say, I've never had a good dinner at a diner.

                            BTW - Are there diners outside New Jersey?

                            6 Replies
                            1. re: MGZ
                              jrvedivici RE: MGZ Jan 29, 2013 12:51 PM

                              (they need to sit wrapped for a few minutes to achieve perfection).

                              The man know's his pork roll, egg and cheese sandwiches.

                              1. re: jrvedivici
                                MGZ RE: jrvedivici Jan 29, 2013 01:53 PM

                                The steam contained within the foil or paper helps soften the roll and finish melting the cheese. I've thought long and hard on this one - over way too many years. For what it's worth, the amount of time it takes to get from the Seabreeze in Spring Lake Heights to sitting on the beach is perfect. No one should ever live a life where they haven't had a PR, E & C on the beach, facing the Atlantic, while the sun is coming up. Coffee optional.

                                1. re: MGZ
                                  jrvedivici RE: MGZ Jan 30, 2013 06:09 AM

                                  The "hard roll" is a wonderful thing but you are correct I don't want the "crunch" when biting into a PRE&C so the steaming of the roll is imperative to a perfect sandwich.

                                  This reminded me of my first trip to Fla. as an "adult". Being 19 or 20 years old (1989/90) we woke up in the morning and went to the local place for breakfast where I ordered a PRE&C. The waitress looked at me like I had two heads. When she said they don't have any such breakfast sandwich I felt like I was in bizarro world.....I had no idea it was mostly just a Jersey thing back then.

                                  Now they have better distribution and I'm pretty sure you can find it up and down the east coast. I don't know about out west.

                              2. re: MGZ
                                HillJ RE: MGZ Jan 29, 2013 12:53 PM

                                http://www.askmen.com/top_10/travel/t... this is just a quick link, as you can imagine there's tons of info on the Net about the location of American diners.

                                and some NJ diners that have been physically moved elsewhere. The diner I grew up in (Dad owned a factory across the street) resides in Germany now.

                                1. re: HillJ
                                  MGZ RE: HillJ Jan 29, 2013 01:03 PM

                                  In my head, I know you're right. In my heart, I disagree.

                                  1. re: MGZ
                                    HillJ RE: MGZ Jan 29, 2013 01:05 PM

                                    You're too funny, MGZ. I know exactly what you mean.

                              3. h
                                HillJ RE: HillJ Jan 29, 2013 12:59 PM

                                Question, what qualifies a diner as a diner? For me, it's not just the word diner on the business sign. It's also a place with counter service. Now there are lunch places that have a small counter service but don't call themselves diner at all....but the counter service in front of the cooking area or very close to it..stands as one marker of a diner.


                                4 Replies
                                1. re: HillJ
                                  juliejulez RE: HillJ Jan 29, 2013 01:18 PM

                                  That's what I think too... counter required, along w/ the open cooking area.

                                  1. re: juliejulez
                                    suzigirl RE: juliejulez Jan 29, 2013 01:25 PM

                                    The three that I mentioned have both of those

                                  2. re: HillJ
                                    Perilagu Khan RE: HillJ Jan 29, 2013 01:43 PM

                                    Do they have to have late-nite or all-nite service?

                                    1. re: Perilagu Khan
                                      HillJ RE: Perilagu Khan Jan 29, 2013 01:45 PM

                                      In this day and age I've seen hours change a good deal due to the economy so I'd say no not all do...but most people still equate diners with 24/7.

                                  3. v
                                    Violatp RE: HillJ Jan 29, 2013 01:01 PM

                                    I grew up a few blocks away from a Golden Nugget, a 24 hour diner that has (I just checked) 7 locations on the north side of Chicago.

                                    Pancakes or waffles with strawberries & whipped cream was my go-to when I was a kid.

                                    In high school it was heaping servings of fries and hours worth of free coffee refills as I did my homework in a back booth. (Those were some kind, patient, waitresses back in the day!)

                                    These days, it's weekend breakfasts or late night, after drinking for hours, meals. I can't be responsible for what I may order when drunk - it can be damn random. But, when sober, corned beef hash (preferably scratch made) is a favorite. Or Joe's Special. Biscuits and gravy. Open faced hot sandwiches - turkey or roast beef. Cobb salad.

                                    1. suzigirl RE: HillJ Jan 29, 2013 01:16 PM

                                      There aren't many diners around me anymore but the ones that are have a few of my favorites. Homemade corned beef hash is great at one. The other one has what is dying in my area and that is country ham. I like it along side of eggs but they serve it as a dinner also. Another one has a Greek/Mexican theme and two seperate staffs to prepare the food. The best thing there is the Greek fajita salad. Its greens served with peppers, onions and chicken or steak fajita meat and tzatziki sauce and pitas. It is crazy and delicious.

                                      1. biondanonima RE: HillJ Jan 29, 2013 01:56 PM

                                        I'm not much of a diner person (I enjoy making my own coffee and breakfast AND eating in my pajamas far too much to go out and pay for it!), but I do make an exception for the Horseman's Haven in Santa Fe. I lived there briefly and whenever I go back I MUST have breakfast at the HH. The serve typical Northern New Mexican breakfast foods - burritos, huevos rancheros, really any combination of eggs, beans, tortillas, chile and meat you can imagine. I adore their carne adovada burrito, smothered in green chile. They have insanely good hash browns and the hottest green chile I've ever tasted (seriously - they have two levels, one of which is semi-secret. You have to know to ask for the #2 green chile, and even then they won't put it on your food, they'll only serve it on the side).

                                        Now I need to plan a trip to Santa Fe!

                                        1. gaffk RE: HillJ Jan 29, 2013 02:45 PM

                                          mmmm . . .diners. I grew up right around the corner from a diner in NE Philadelphia. (Yes MGZ, Philly and its environs are crawling with diners :) That diner was known for its bakery. When we were young, my sisters and I would sneak out of the house after the folks were in bed and run out for their decadent chocolate frosted brownies. This spot was also a favorite for post high-school dance snacks.

                                          College and 20s, diners were specifically late-nite use cheese fries and coffee to sop up the alcohol.

                                          These days, my local diner fave (Philly burbs) is for late breakfasts on the weekend or early breakfasts before a road trip when I don't want to cook and clean before hitting the road. My order generally revolves around eggs of some sort, bacon or scrapple and toast or bagel. Coffee, apple juice, ice water--after a few (dozen) visits, these appear magically before your waitress even greets you.

                                          Diners for me are 24/7 places. The staff are friendly and call everybody "dear" or "hon" and are there year after year. The coffee is always fresh and strong. There is always a pastry case (which I now manage to ignore, regardless of how good it all looks). The menus are books, but always an interesting special or four on the whiteboard.

                                          7 Replies
                                          1. re: gaffk
                                            MGZ RE: gaffk Jan 30, 2013 02:06 AM

                                            You are indeed correct, Eastern Pennsylvania has quite a diner culture. I too spent a lot of time in them during my college years. The best part of diners on that side of the Delaware is that I can have my eggs and 'fries with a side of scrapple.

                                            It's funny though that I think of Western PA as cafe country - as if there's a line somewhere near Harrisburg where it changes over.

                                            1. re: MGZ
                                              Heatherb RE: MGZ Jan 30, 2013 04:53 AM

                                              You're right about the "Harrisburg line"! I'd go out to visit an old boyfriend after he moved west of Harrisburg, and I remember him scrambling to find us a "diner" breakfast spot. It was all "cafes" up in the mountains where he lived.

                                              1. re: MGZ
                                                hyacinthgirl RE: MGZ Jan 30, 2013 11:05 AM

                                                I have yet to find a great diner in Harrisburg- the line might be east of here.

                                                1. re: hyacinthgirl
                                                  Perilagu Khan RE: hyacinthgirl Jan 30, 2013 11:51 AM

                                                  Have you tried the Colonial Park Diner?

                                                  1. re: Perilagu Khan
                                                    hyacinthgirl RE: Perilagu Khan Jan 30, 2013 12:42 PM

                                                    I haven't, it's worth it?

                                                    1. re: hyacinthgirl
                                                      Perilagu Khan RE: hyacinthgirl Jan 30, 2013 01:14 PM

                                                      The food's so dam' cheap, it'd have to be pretty bad not to be worth it! But seriously, I haven't been there in several years. The Khantessa's kinfolk swear by it, though.

                                                      1. re: Perilagu Khan
                                                        hyacinthgirl RE: Perilagu Khan Jan 30, 2013 01:21 PM

                                                        With diners, my "worth it" is does the deliciousness equal the calories, since I don't think I've ever ordered a diet anything in a diner : )

                                            2. s
                                              sedimental RE: HillJ Jan 29, 2013 08:49 PM

                                              Yes! I am also a diner fan. All kinds....from hippie joints to old school trucker hang outs. A few times per year only. I go to a place not far from me for a traditional breakfast. All greasy, all good.

                                              I never branch out, I always get traditional diner food (patty melts, potato salad, fries, grilled cheese, chicken fried steak, club sandwich). You just can't get that kind of food elsewhere, so I have to order it. I save creative meals for other places!

                                              1. h
                                                Heatherb RE: HillJ Jan 29, 2013 08:54 PM

                                                I like a good diner sautee. I think maybe it's a Jersey thing, but they tend to have some dishes that are just a meat (usually chicken) sauteed with some vegetables in some kind of sauce, served over rice or maybe with a baked potato. LOVE trying those out.

                                                Or a grilled cheese - my late-night drunk snack:)

                                                1. ipsedixit RE: HillJ Jan 29, 2013 09:06 PM

                                                  My dream diner meal:

                                                  Salisbury steak with mashed potatoes and gravy and a side of vinegary coleslaw and a big piece of warm cornbread.

                                                  Followed by a nice wedge of banana cream pie and all washed down with a root beer float in a tall *glass* mug.

                                                  2 Replies
                                                  1. re: ipsedixit
                                                    sedimental RE: ipsedixit Jan 29, 2013 09:09 PM

                                                    Oh, man......Can we sit at the counter and spin on the counter stools?

                                                    1. re: sedimental
                                                      ipsedixit RE: sedimental Jan 29, 2013 09:11 PM

                                                      Seat on the right is open, mon ami.

                                                  2. j
                                                    Just Visiting RE: HillJ Jan 30, 2013 04:15 AM

                                                    Grew up in central NJ and loved, loved, loved Mastoris Diner in Bordentown. They would bring two freshly baked breads to the table - one cheese and one cinnamon. SO GOOD. To the point that when I moved to Maryland years later, I would ask friends who were going to the diner to buy a loaf of each and fedex them to me. We would always go there on the way back from the shore, when cutting school - even though we didn't live in that area. I've gone back a few times over the years and it isn't what it used to be but still pulls in the crowds.

                                                    We don't really have diners in this area. There are these replicates like Silver Diner or American Diner, but they just don't scratch the itch. There is also a greasy spoon called Tastee Diner. It has been around forever but for some reason, I just never enjoyed it. Whenever friends want to go there, I just order coffee and an English muffin.

                                                    4 Replies
                                                    1. re: Just Visiting
                                                      Heatherb RE: Just Visiting Jan 30, 2013 04:56 AM

                                                      I moved out to Denver a couple years ago from central Jersey - my last meal in Jersey before I started the drive out here was at Mastoris, a big ginormous diner breakfast to fuel my day. There is NOTHING that remotely compares with it out here, or even just your average Jersey diner. One of the very few things I miss - that and DeLorenzo's pie.

                                                      1. re: Heatherb
                                                        Just Visiting RE: Heatherb Jan 30, 2013 04:15 PM

                                                        DeLorenzo's. No kidding. We haven't been since last year when my dad died and we moved my mother down here. I know people who drive from DC to NJ just to have za at DeLorenzo's.

                                                        There is actually a diner on 130 in Hightstown that is pretty good. It is called the Americana Diner. It has been opened and closed for decades, many fires (if you are from NJ you will know what that's about), many new owners have come and gone. The current owners have been there for quite a few years, the place is always packed, the food and service are really good.

                                                        1. re: Just Visiting
                                                          Heatherb RE: Just Visiting Jan 30, 2013 04:51 PM

                                                          Yeah, that's a good one - but the Claremont (I think that's its name) that opened next door to the Americana is pretty awesome too if it's still open. The guy who's running it used to run the old Jim's Country Diner, closer to Hamilton on 130. The Claremont is a little more "old school" than the Americana. My dad loves them both though :)

                                                          1. re: Heatherb
                                                            Just Visiting RE: Heatherb Feb 1, 2013 06:07 AM

                                                            Yes, I think Claremont is still there but it isn't next door. Americana is just north of the intersection of 130 and Princeton-Hightstown Road and the Claremont is just south of it. Huh. I just googled it. It is actually Clairmont! Never noticed that in all the times I drove by.

                                                    2. mamachef RE: HillJ Jan 30, 2013 04:51 AM

                                                      Unfortunately, my dream diner has gone the way of all good things, but for the many years it was there, it couldn't be surpassed. Norm's in Santa Rosa had classic diner foods, and we went there for late breakfasts, BIG ones, around 10 a.m. We also loved it on the Monday of a 3-day weekend, which they called "holiday Mondays" and had to gear up for because Norm got SLAMMED on those days.
                                                      I ordered things that I wasn't likely to make at home, especially at that hour: Chicken-fried steaks so big they used to hang off the plate; biscuits, perfectly-done eggs. Norm was the only short-order cook I knew who'd offer basted or poached eggs as a matter of routine, and his poached, on a plate of crispy canned corned-beef hash, were stellar examples of egg cookery.
                                                      What set it apart? A few things. One was that those biscuits were made from two shortenings. I know one was butter, and after swearing me to secrecy, Norm's ex-wife who still waitressed for him told me the second was lard. No matter: I wasn't eating like that for my health and I can't even tell you how delicious a biscuit like that can be. He also ran a string of daily specials on the board, and a biiiiig house favorite was the Jack cheese/green chile omelette. No, Normie didn't roast his own; he was too busy making biscuits and perfect eggs and swearing at his co-cook for that. But they were delicious, nonetheless. Every meal came with a changa (monkey dish/sauce dish) of gravy. If you didn't eat it, Norm would charge out demanding to know why. The entire family worked there in some capacity.
                                                      It was a hole, a dive. But it was clean and loaded with regulars, and it belonged to us, and to the town, and to the time. When I started having kids, it was a treat to stop in and see Norm and whomever he was yelling at and have hot chocolate with whipped cream and catch up. I know, I know....a dive where the owner is yelling and the waitress is bitchy, not sassy, doesn't sound like a dream-spot. but it was just exactly right, and I miss it a whole lot.
                                                      Nice topic. Thank you!!

                                                      5 Replies
                                                      1. re: mamachef
                                                        Perilagu Khan RE: mamachef Jan 30, 2013 06:33 AM

                                                        Heh. You need to work that piece into an article. It's got potential.

                                                        Branching the thread out a bit, just where is the geographic heartland of the diner? Jersey and eastern Pennsylvania, apparently. But where else? The Wikipedia article states that diners are most common in the northeast and midwest. Anybody want to vouch for the midwest and non-Jersey/E. Penn. nor'east?

                                                        1. re: Perilagu Khan
                                                          mamachef RE: Perilagu Khan Jan 30, 2013 06:42 AM

                                                          Thanks, PK!! I love topics like this, because they're just so...nostalgia-driven, and so very, very sweet. I saw some of the best responses ever on a similar-but-different thread that posted a few years ago. Seems we all have some love for the combo....food, comfort; maybe simpler times.

                                                          1. re: Perilagu Khan
                                                            MGZ RE: Perilagu Khan Jan 30, 2013 07:32 AM

                                                            What's the "Midwest"?

                                                            1. re: Perilagu Khan
                                                              juliejulez RE: Perilagu Khan Jan 30, 2013 02:58 PM

                                                              I already mentioned a Midwest diner, in Chicago, and so did someone else (golden apple). There's also Lou Mitchell's in Chicago: http://www.loumitchellsrestaurant.com/

                                                            2. re: mamachef
                                                              gaffk RE: mamachef Jan 30, 2013 05:29 PM

                                                              Sounds like a dream spot to me. If you ever give up your day job, you must take up writing.

                                                            3. h
                                                              HillJ RE: HillJ Jan 30, 2013 05:18 AM

                                                              Just loving these stories!

                                                              1. RealMenJulienne RE: HillJ Jan 30, 2013 07:42 AM

                                                                "My diner" is Belmont Snack Shop, right across from the EL station at the corner of Belmont and Kimball in Chicago. It's a small space, no bigger than most hot dog stands, with most of that space taken up by an L-Shaped counter. The rotating stools are patched up with tape, and you can see the griddle – blackened from years of greasy cooking – from where you sit. The grillman is a skinny old-timer who looks like Mike Royko. Even after a career which must have covered hundreds of thousands of sandwich and burger orders, he still layers each one with the meticulous precision of a craftsman. Bread, egg, bacon, cheese and bread, with not an element out of place, carefully wrapped in wax paper.

                                                                This is extremely important: on the cool side of the ancient griddle is a gigantic pile of par-boiled potatoes. It's my belief that the potato pile is to the diner, as soy sauce is to the Chinese restaurant or starchy pasta water is to the Italian restaurant. They sit there all day, steaming in the low heat, which gives them a creamy texture you can't get any other way. When a hash brown order comes in, a spatula-full of potatoes is moved to the hot side along with a generous squirt of grease. When the pile gets low, it's replenished by more par-boiled potatoes from the fridge. Thus, like the ancient Persian Immortals, the potato pile is always kept at full fighting strength.

                                                                This is a true-blue neighborhood diner, not a hipster "working-class diner". If a customer has a beard it's because he forgot to shave that morning, not because he thinks it looks good with skinny jeans and thick framed glasses. I get the impression that these kinds of places used to be found on every block of the city, but at least on the North side they are getting pushed out by chain soup-and-bagel cafes and shitty overpriced brunch places. Let's all have dinner at a diner tonight guys. We can't afford to lose another one.

                                                                11 Replies
                                                                1. re: RealMenJulienne
                                                                  MGZ RE: RealMenJulienne Jan 30, 2013 07:51 AM

                                                                  Brilliant post. Around here, though, those potatoes get some onion and we call 'em homefries.

                                                                  1. re: RealMenJulienne
                                                                    mamachef RE: RealMenJulienne Jan 30, 2013 07:52 AM

                                                                    This is wonderful!!

                                                                    1. re: mamachef
                                                                      RealMenJulienne RE: mamachef Jan 31, 2013 08:57 AM

                                                                      Thanks Mama. There are some kinds of restaurants - the diner, the Chinese buffet, the Italian beef stand - that I just feel really strongly about, almost regardless of how good or bad the food is.

                                                                    2. re: RealMenJulienne
                                                                      HillJ RE: RealMenJulienne Jan 30, 2013 11:02 AM

                                                                      Let's all have dinner at a diner tonight guys. We can't afford to lose another one.
                                                                      Greater words were never spoken!

                                                                      1. re: HillJ
                                                                        MGZ RE: HillJ Jan 30, 2013 11:17 AM

                                                                        As I posted above, I'm no big fan of diners for dinner, but I'll grab a breakfast soon out of a sense of solidarity.

                                                                        On a related note, it seems the Paramount here in Manasquan may have closed this week. Hopefully not - although their food was mediocre, this dopey, little town needs a Main Street diner. I guess I'll have to cross the Bridge to John & Elaine's in Point for my occasional fix.

                                                                        1. re: MGZ
                                                                          jrvedivici RE: MGZ Jan 30, 2013 11:31 AM

                                                                          How about giving us the inside scoop on the OB diner? It closed recently didn't it? How can that be the place has been a staple for years.

                                                                          Side story....had my first breakfast as a free man there after spending the night in the Point big house for a drunken disorderly offense. I know we have never met but I don't want to shock you by alerting you I've been arrested for that offense. Ok more than once!

                                                                          1. re: jrvedivici
                                                                            MGZ RE: jrvedivici Jan 31, 2013 06:27 AM

                                                                            I haven't been to the OB in ten years. It was right by my Grandmother's house and in my lowercase days we'd go there for cheap, solid eats. She always insisted on paying - even after I was making more in a year than she probably did in thirty.

                                                                            Around 2001, 2002, I no longer found the grub worth it. John & Elaine's opened up around the same time (as I recall) and Grandma decided they were a better value.

                                                                            (As to steel bracelets, they don't look good on me either.)

                                                                            1. re: MGZ
                                                                              jrvedivici RE: MGZ Jan 31, 2013 06:59 AM

                                                                              Is it still vacant? The last time I passed it was closed but that was probably 6 months ago.

                                                                          2. re: MGZ
                                                                            RealMenJulienne RE: MGZ Jan 31, 2013 06:13 AM

                                                                            Well, nothing wrong with having breakfast for dinner right? That's the beauty of the diner. Steak and eggs works at any hour of the day.

                                                                            1. re: RealMenJulienne
                                                                              MGZ RE: RealMenJulienne Jan 31, 2013 06:20 AM

                                                                              Very true, very true.

                                                                        2. re: RealMenJulienne
                                                                          hyacinthgirl RE: RealMenJulienne Jan 30, 2013 11:07 AM

                                                                          Perfect description of those potatoes, you're absolutely right.

                                                                        3. shaogo RE: HillJ Jan 30, 2013 11:06 AM

                                                                          To give you an idea just how challenging being a diner chef is, let me put it this way. Cheesecake Factory chain employs no fewer than eight people in the kitchen to put out a menu with as many selections on it as diners with a kitchen staff of four.

                                                                          We actually frequent a diner that's a 25-minute drive away. Me: a bagel plate with smoked salmon, lettuce, onion, tomato - OR - Salisbury steak, mashed and vegetable. The dude always gets steak and eggs.

                                                                          A couple of barometers to taste and tell if a diner is good:

                                                                          - their cole slaw
                                                                          - their hamburger
                                                                          - their mashed potatoes/gravy
                                                                          - and even their coffee...

                                                                          1. jrvedivici RE: HillJ Jan 30, 2013 11:11 AM

                                                                            Bonus question for NJ Diners...........

                                                                            What is the coffee all Greek owned Diners serve?

                                                                            4 Replies
                                                                            1. re: jrvedivici
                                                                              MGZ RE: jrvedivici Jan 30, 2013 11:17 AM


                                                                              1. re: MGZ
                                                                                jrvedivici RE: MGZ Jan 30, 2013 11:38 AM

                                                                                {{Buzzer}} Sorry. Next contestant?

                                                                                1. re: jrvedivici
                                                                                  Just Visiting RE: jrvedivici Jan 30, 2013 04:19 PM


                                                                              2. re: jrvedivici
                                                                                pie22 RE: jrvedivici Mar 19, 2013 01:41 PM

                                                                                lacas! i buy it off them every now and then as bagged beans....the best coffee!

                                                                              3. goodhealthgourmet RE: HillJ Jan 30, 2013 11:30 AM

                                                                                Ah, the diner days :)

                                                                                Late-night post-partying snack: disco fries
                                                                                Morning-after hangover breakfast: omelette w/extra-crispy home fries
                                                                                Lunch or dinner: tuna melt or Greek salad

                                                                                1. juliejulez RE: HillJ Jan 30, 2013 03:12 PM

                                                                                  Another shoutout to a diner/drive-in of my childhood, Mearle's Drive-In in Visalia, CA. It had the drive up spots (although no car service in more recent times), but was also very typical diner on the inside, including a U-shaped counter all around that surrounded the cooking area. http://pics4.city-data.com/cpic/ufile... I read somewhere that it was one of the last, if not the last, original standing types of these restaurants. It originally opened in the 1940s.

                                                                                  It is now a Habit Burger. The owners of the restaurant ran into some financial trouble, and the building caught on fire in 2006 I believe. There was talk that they were just going to tear it down. It's on pretty prime real estate in Visalia across the street from the junior college. But Habit Burger thankfully came in and fixed it back up and opened in 2011. They did a pretty nice job of it too: http://www.flickr.com/photos/roadside... http://farm7.staticflickr.com/6046/63...

                                                                                  I have great memories there of going with my dad (who passed away in 2000 when I was 18) and getting "lime freezes" which was lime sherbet with 7-up, and of course grilled cheese. In high school my friends and I would hang out there for hours (Probably to the dismay of the owners) and munch on fries with ranch dressing. My dad also hung out there with HIS friends when he attended the junior college in the late 60s.

                                                                                  4 Replies
                                                                                  1. re: juliejulez
                                                                                    Perilagu Khan RE: juliejulez Jan 30, 2013 03:31 PM

                                                                                    I've seen pics of Mearle's and it looks like the ultimate, midcentury hangout. I'm glad the building has been salvaged because I had heard it had been destroyed.

                                                                                    1. re: Perilagu Khan
                                                                                      juliejulez RE: Perilagu Khan Jan 30, 2013 03:39 PM

                                                                                      It was in pretty rough shape after the fire: http://thisisvisalia.blogspot.com/201... But it looks pretty great now. I'm also glad they figured out a way to save the sign and still use it.

                                                                                    2. re: juliejulez
                                                                                      suzigirl RE: juliejulez Jan 30, 2013 03:38 PM

                                                                                      I'm sorry you lost you dad so young. Go have a lime freeze and a grilled cheese and some good memories in his honor. And the lime freezes sound delish.

                                                                                      1. re: suzigirl
                                                                                        juliejulez RE: suzigirl Jan 30, 2013 03:40 PM

                                                                                        Thanks. I should try and recreate the lime freezes at home, although I'm sure it won't be quite the same.

                                                                                    3. t
                                                                                      Tante RE: HillJ Jan 30, 2013 04:04 PM

                                                                                      I'm a big diner fan; and we frequent the local diners quite a bit, usually on Sunday mornings (pre-post-church crowd to beat the rush). I'm a sucker for eggs benedict but the quality varies depending on the chef's skill. I can't cook a poached egg properly to save my life, but I expect a runny yolk and solid whites when I'm eating out.
                                                                                      I also like a local diner's "Arrow omlette", with green peppers, mushrooms, tomatoes, and ham, topped with a "golden cheese sauce". With a side of toast and hash browns, it doesn't get much better.
                                                                                      Chalk this one up as another CH thread that's making me hungry. Seems they almost all do.

                                                                                      1. l
                                                                                        laliz RE: HillJ Jan 30, 2013 04:08 PM

                                                                                        very few diners in Southern California; but i grew up in NW PA (where it is spelled "dinor") so I grew up w/dinors.

                                                                                        Russ' Dinor in Wesleyville PA is still there from my youth, and it is exactly the same; even the old black payphone on the wall from which we would call our parents after the movie to pick us up (too young to drive)

                                                                                        The food is nothing special but the nostalgia is overwhelming. A couple of years ago my enitre family went to breakfast there. That is the place where we went after going to our 1 week post op visit to the doctor after getting our tonsils out and had mashed potatoes and tomato soup. (in the 1960s)

                                                                                        I most recently was back there in November and ate at New York Lunch on East Ave. in Erie PA and Greek's Coney Island Dinor on Buffalo Rd. in Wesleyville. I still love diner food.

                                                                                        Boston Cream Pie. Cheeseburgers. Meatloaf w/crater potatoes and gravy.

                                                                                        1. f
                                                                                          flavrmeistr RE: HillJ Jan 31, 2013 06:45 AM

                                                                                          The Barbara Fritchie Diner in Frederick, MD. Fastnacht and the best pancakes anywhere. They also have that vinegary coleslaw and warm potato salad. Fresh-squeezed orange juice and milkshakes made with Hershey's ice cream and whole milk. Family-run since about 1960 and hasn't changed a lick.

                                                                                          1. Perilagu Khan RE: HillJ Jan 31, 2013 11:45 AM

                                                                                            Looking back on it, I do have a diner experience of sorts. The "diner" in question, though, is known as the Silver Moon Cafe, but is, I think, substantially a diner.

                                                                                            In September, 1977 my family moved from Lubbock, Texas to Gallup, New Mexico. A higher-paying job lured my dad westward. Alas, money truly is not everything because, although wealthier in Gallup, we were also miserable. Consequently, my family burned rubber back to Lubbock every chance we got. And the midway point between our new and old homes was Santa Rosa, New Mexico, which boasted the Route 66 icon, the Silver Moon Cafe, established in 1959.

                                                                                            No return to Lubbock was made without stopping at the Silver Moon. I still recall the excitement of sighting the big, neon sign of a fingernail moon that signaled our stop for dinner. That sign, unfortunately, is long gone, but the Silver Moon remains.

                                                                                            After a haitus of roughly 30 years, I returned to the Silver Moon with the Khantessa, and it really has changed very little. The glittery gold vinyl booths, artifacts of 1959, are still there. The food and service are homey and fine. And the memories of four wayward desperadoes en route to Lubbock still linger in the air.

                                                                                            1. jrvedivici RE: HillJ Feb 1, 2013 06:20 AM

                                                                                              Just for the heck of it I'll throw this out there for anyone who might have been familiar with it.

                                                                                              The Meadow's Diner Dowd Ave. Elizabeth NJ (currently the Seaport Diner) from 1960-1990 was my families diner and in the mid 70's to mid 80's you would have found me scrapping gum off the floors (first job 5 years old 1975) moving up to working the soda fountain (circa 1980) then eventually working the deep fry station and playing around on the grill.

                                                                                              Let me know if anyone remembers the place.

                                                                                              6 Replies
                                                                                              1. re: jrvedivici
                                                                                                HillJ RE: jrvedivici Feb 1, 2013 06:28 AM

                                                                                                My Dad ran a textile mill in Eliz. from 1952 til his passing. I took a bus after school to his mill, I was a scrappy kid walking the downtown area of town until his work day was over just to be with him. I have no doubt I was in that diner under one carnation along with many bar pies eaten at Spirito's and neighborhood meals with people who knew my Dad but didn't speak a lick of English feeding me warm coffee and pastries. I Dad lived in diners. I was his sidekick.

                                                                                                1. re: HillJ
                                                                                                  jeanmarieok RE: HillJ Feb 4, 2013 08:22 AM

                                                                                                  Nice memories for you, HillJ!

                                                                                                  1. re: jeanmarieok
                                                                                                    HillJ RE: jeanmarieok Feb 4, 2013 09:17 AM

                                                                                                    Some of the best memories I have of my father include leaving the factory and going to a diner/restaurant/bar joint before heading home. Food people loved how much he enjoyed and related to their hard long hours.

                                                                                                2. re: jrvedivici
                                                                                                  Just Visiting RE: jrvedivici Feb 1, 2013 03:02 PM

                                                                                                  Hey Jrvedici - was my guess on the coffee - Venizelos - right?

                                                                                                  1. re: Just Visiting
                                                                                                    jrvedivici RE: Just Visiting Feb 1, 2013 04:24 PM

                                                                                                    In NJ 99% of the Greek Diners use Lacas Coffee.

                                                                                                    1. re: jrvedivici
                                                                                                      fourunder RE: jrvedivici Feb 22, 2013 11:40 PM

                                                                                                      Coffee Associates used to corner most of the business in Bergen County...from what I recall back in the 80-90s....I enjoy both roasters.

                                                                                                3. Dagney RE: HillJ Feb 22, 2013 01:31 AM

                                                                                                  There is a diner in Benson, AZ that serves Chicken Fried Steak with biscuits tasty enough to make weep openly.

                                                                                                  1. DonShirer RE: HillJ Feb 22, 2013 06:53 PM

                                                                                                    A committee I belong to meets in a Greek Diner because they have a big back room where they can move tables together for us. The food is nothing memorable, but served in large quantities. I occasionally go for their liver&onions, but usually just order a fruit pie a la mode, which they bake themselves. I have given up trying to get them to try one of the many good local ethnic restaurants.

                                                                                                    1. fldhkybnva RE: HillJ Feb 22, 2013 07:17 PM

                                                                                                      Wow I thought of this thread as I inhaled a diner breakfast big enough for a football team offensive line. It was a Wednesday and initally images of a big bacon and cheese filled omelet floated in my head, and then images of sausage, corned beef hash, home fries, and french toast began dancing. It has been years since I've been to a diner so after a good 30 minutes of contemplation I dove into a full spread and to my surprise inhaled it all in 20 minute and to my further surprise was quite hungry only a couple hours later. Wow, that diner food is good stuff. I am pretty sure they put crack in the corned beef hash.

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