Diners are an icon of American culture. Many diners cropped up in areas around factories to serve as a place for blue-collar workers to get a meal before or after their shift. The first diner was established in Providence, Rhode Island in 1872 as a horse drawn canteen serving pies, sandwiches, and coffee. Since then, they have evolved through the generations with many across the country now serving up classic favorites as well as modern dishes. Here are seven diners across America - from Maine to Washington - that serve up countless cups of Joe, slices of pie, and bushels of eggs with a hint of nostalgia and a dash of sass.
Palace Diner – Maine
In the city of Biddeford, ME, you will find a quaint hole-in-the-wall that is known as the Palace Diner. It is a Pollard Car that was built in 1927 by the Pollard Company in Lowell, MA. With 15 padded stools as its seating capacity, you can imagine how quick the turnover must be during the morning rush. In 2021, the diner received its first renovations in over a decade. The Palace Diner serves breakfast and lunch with some of their menu items including buttermilk flapjacks, caramelized grapefruit, brown butter banana bread, and the ‘Palais Royale’ (double burger) and fries.
Check out the Palace Diner
Modern Diner - Rhode Island
The concept of the diner began in Rhode Island in 1827 by Walter Scott. Mr. Scott created a horse drawn canteen to sell pies, coffee, and sandwiches to the employees of the Providence Journal. In Pawtucket, RI, the Modern Diner is a popular eatery and the first diner to be on the National Register for Historic Places. This diner is a Sterling Streamliner, a popular shape and style dining car manufactured in the late 1930’s. The diner has rotating daily specials as well as classic favorites. Their custard French toast was featured on Food Network’s Top Five and is “loaded with strawberries, blueberries, kiwi and house glazed pecans topped with a warm custard sauce and raspberry drizzle” – sounds drool-worthy! Plan a visit to Modern Diner
Summit Diner – New Jersey
New Jersey is known as the “Diner Capital of the World” with over 500 diners across the state. So, there was a lot of competition for the title of Best Diner in New Jersey, but in 2022, NJ.com named the Summit Diner in Summit, NJ the best of the best! Located across from the Summit train station, this railroad car diner has classic diner fare for breakfast, lunch, and dinner plus some customer favorites like the crab cakes benedict, sliced flank steak sandwich, Yankee pot roast, and bread pudding. Be sure to hit up an ATM prior to your visit as they are a cash only establishment.
Stop on by the Summit Diner
“Historic” Village Diner – New York
Head over to the “Historic” Village Diner in Red Hook, NY for a great meal with a side of local nostalgia. Since 1950, this diner has been located on North Broadway, but it was a traveling dining car prior to that time. With breakfast, lunch, and dinner, the menu is expansive with choices such as the mini waffle plate, the Village omelet (bacon, tomato, onion & cheese), Arleen’s homemade corned beef hash, a patty melt, extra thick milkshakes, and a good variety of vegetarian options.
Pull up a stool at the “Historic” Village Diner
Lou Mitchell’s – Illinois A hundred years ago, in 1923, Lou Mitchell’s was the first place in Chicago to serve breakfast all day. Today, it is still a popular place to get breakfast in the Windy City with over 15,000 eggs served in the restaurant weekly. The diner’s freshly squeezed fruit juices, homemade bread, and generous portions for fair prices are just a few reasons why it stands out. During Lou Mitchell’s five generations of ownership, it has received many awards and accolades including a Michelin rating. Among the menu favorites are a malted pecan and bacon Belgium waffle, apple and cheese jumbo omelet, steak and eggs, baked meatloaf sandwich, and any one of their homemade desserts.
Grab a cup of Joe at Lou Mitchell’s
Ruth’s Diner – Utah One of the most storied diners on our list is Ruth’s Diner in Salt Lake City, named the second oldest restaurant in Utah. Established originally in a downtown location as Ruth’s Hamburgers in 1930, it later moved to its current location in 1949 after Ruth, a former cabaret singer and spirited storyteller, bought a Salt Lake Trolley car and built an apartment for her and her Chihuahuas on the back. After changing hands a few times, Ruth’s Diner still carries on her legacy with photos of her and the original diner proudly displayed to this day. Ruth’s Diner serves up dishes such as Ruth’s famous Mile High biscuits and country gravy, fresh Atlantic salmon hash, Grandma Claire’s mac & cheese, and Ruth’s peach and blueberry cobbler. Read more about Ruth herself and Ruth’s Diner
59er Diner & Cabins – Washington Last, but certainly not least, on our list of diners across America, is the 59er Diner & Cabins in Leavenworth, WA. Serving up farm-fresh eggs from their chickens on-site and EV charging stations at the smiley face barn are just a couple of things that make this diner unique. Diners can also stay in one of their 50’s themed cabins with names like Big Bopper Bungalow, Curly’s Place, and Roy’s Knotty Bungalow where a poodle skirt and some saddle shoes would fit right in! Delicious items that grace their menu include chili cheese fries, the ‘Hot Lips Houlihan’ Burger (topped with melted cheddar and lots of jalapeños), Frito pie, and Flo’s fresh-baked blackberry cobbler.
Hop on over to the 59er Diner & Cabins
We hope this list makes you hungry and inspires you to wander for diner food and ambiance! Did we miss one of your favorite diners? Tell us about it at WinniWanderer@winni.com. Hearing from you will make our day!
By Staff Contributor