5 American Diners With Seriously Good Grub
Diners have been part of American culture since Walter Scott began selling food from a horse-drawn wagon in 1872. By the mid-1920s, diners became more welcoming, changing their focus to good food and away from their earlier “greasy spoon” reputation. Typically housed in retired rail dining cars, the new style diner had restrooms and booth seating with many offering credit to customers as well as franchise opportunities.
After losing market share to fast food restaurants throughout the 1960s, interest in diners rebounded in the 1970s. That interest continues to this day. If you want to experience a real taste of America’s past, try one of these 5 top diners.
#1. Tastee Diner in Silver Spring, MD
“Diner Man” Eddie Warner was the original Tastee Diner at Silver Spring operator. Built in 1946 by the Jerry O’Mahoney Diner Company, the classic railroad car design Tastee Diner was assembled on-site. The diner became known for its affordable prices and great hometown style food.
The Tastee Diner almost met its demise in the 1980s when area redevelopment threatened its existence. Loyal customers and employees petitioned County Council to keep the beloved icon open. Gene Wilkes, who already owned the Bethesda and Laurel locations, stepped in and saved the diner. In June 2000, the eatery was relocated to 8601 Cameron Street, where it sits today.
Today, the Tastee Diner, dubbed the “most famous restaurant in Montgomery County” by The Washington Post, serves breakfast 24/7 and offers diners homestyle cooked lunches and dinners as well as fresh baked pies.
If you’re looking for more options, here’s a list of Mid-Atlantic favorites.
#2. Palace Diner in Biddeford, Maine
The Palace Diner doesn’t have a huge menu. It’s only open for breakfast and lunch. The place only seats 15 people. What it is, however, is one of the best diners in the country. Palace Diner is one of only two surviving Pollard railcar diners in existence today. The cozy atmosphere and quaint “Ladies Invited” facade give Palace Diner a distinctive charm you can’t find anywhere else.
#3. Ruth’s Diner in Salt Lake City
Talk about a fantastic setting – Ruth’s Diner sits in Salt Lake’s gorgeous Emigration Canyon. Most menu items include Ruth’s famous Mile High Biscuit, a must-have if you visit. Ruth’s founder was a fascinating woman who loved to tell stories about her adventures. As a young woman, from approximately 1912 to 1916, Ruth was a cabaret singer performing in the bars around Salt Lake. One of Ruth’s favorite tales was when a jealous woman grabbed her by the hair during a performance and dragged her off stage. After regaining her footing, Ruth explained what happened next: “The biddy regretted herself for some time to come.” A feisty and spirited character, Ruth died in November 1989. She leaves behind a grand legacy – one of the best diners in the U.S.
#4. Fremont Diner in Sonoma
Diners are more common in the Eastern US and Middle West. That said, the West Coast’s Fremont Diner is one of the youngest in America. Its charm and menu also make it one of the best. The diner has earned several “Best Diner” awards. With farm fresh, locally grown ingredients, homestyle favorites and vintage decor, you’d never guess it first only opened in 2009.
#5. Brent’s Drugs in Jackson, Mississippi
The good old days of bar stools and soda fountains never left Brent’s Drugs. No longer a drugstore, Brent’s is now a classic diner. The teal-and-white decor is new, but the soda fountain and bar stools are exactly where they were when Brent’s opened in 1946. The diner made its film debut in “The Help” and was recently touted by Spoon University as having Mississippi’s Best Chocolate Malt Shake.