Nostalgia sells. Whether it’s fashion or food, we have an instinctive need to revisit our past or that of previous generations.
When it comes to the archetypal American diner, there is a certain simplicity and warmth that we can help but be drawn to, even if it’s something that is in many ways alien to our own upbringing and culinary experiences.
The American diner, as a style and niche, is one that is actually popular the world over, and that is down in no small way to the cultural significance it has on a global scale. From Illinois to India, there are many who crave the no-frills, no-fuss stylized approach that this style of restaurant offers.
The old-school retro appeal of American diners, such as those brought to life in tv shows like Happy Days, resplendent with restaurant booths and jukeboxes, is very much on the rise and is living proof that the past is still very much part of our future.
In many ways, the period that the classic American Diner speaks to us of was one of massive upheaval and change. It was that unpredictable time, post-war, when the country (and the world) was again finding its feet.
It was also a time when the youth of America was experiencing the benefits of disposable income for the first time, secured from part-time shifts in local establishments, which they then sought to spend on the requisite fashions which they adorned on their trips to the diner to get their taste of the menu of that era.
The fondness of that time is, of course, more than slightly distorted by the window of time, and it can be more than just a little misconstrued when viewed through rose-tinted glasses, as we tend to do as a society.
Nonetheless, there are many who are keen to experience, or recapture, that moment in time, and there are thousands of American diner-themed restaurants across the US, and here is a handful of the most popular and appetizing ones out there.
1. The Dutch Mill Diner – Tillamook, Oregon
By all accounts, the burgers served at this joint are the best on the West Coast, which is quite a claim and one well worth testing the validity of. The decor is pitch-perfect in terms of that iconic American diner feel, and the ambiance is similarly warm and welcoming.
Try out their classic milkshake floats, take your seat at the bar, and watch the world go by.
2. Pann’s – Los Angeles, California
This place has been open since the late 1950s, and the decor is a testament to that fact and remains as popular as ever. A sign of a truly successful American diner experience is the fact that Pann’s is loved by locals and tourists alike.
They offer special menus for the holidays, and the red leather booths have an enticing appeal. The retro appeal is undeniable, as are the delicious fried chicken wings, and this LA institution, situated in Inglewood, is a must for those going on a coastal trip.
3. Olympia Diner – Newington, Connecticut
Olympia is the oldest stainless-steel diner in the whole country, and if you approach this diner at night, you’ll spot the alluring neon sign from quite a distance, tempting you in as you drive by in much the same way as sirens draw in sailors to the rocks, albeit with far more satisfying conclusions.
This place is loved by the locals as much as it is by tourists, albeit it’s not exactly in an area where many tourists would frequent, which perhaps makes this place all the more appealing to those more discerning travelers. As well as being ideal Instagram fodder, the food is sumptuous!
4. Marietta Diner – Marietta, Georgia
There are some restaurants that you might miss and others you’d choose to avoid, but Marietta’s Diner is neither of these. The incredibly vast exterior will call you long before the smell of sizzling burgers hits your nasal passages, and frankly, this place is somewhere you don’t want to miss.
Incredibly, Marietta’s serves over 500 dishes and covers not only typical American diner cuisine but also ticks other boxes, including some stunning Greek specialties. You’ll leave satisfied and no doubt uttering ‘wow’ as you bid farewell to this culinary masterpiece.
5. A1 Diner – Gardiner, Maine
If you have an image of a stereotypical stylish American diner fixed in your mind or somewhere deep in your subconscious, it’s likely that it will look very much akin to the A1 diner in Gardiner, Maine.
It’s situated in an original diner car from the mid-1940s and is resplendent with all the fixtures and fittings you would typically associate with a retro American diner, from its neon signs to its retro booths, and the menu is much the same as it has ever been.
In many ways, whereas you’d find countless establishments seeking to recreate that characteristic vision of an American diner, the A1 Diner IS, in fact, just that. It’s the original, and it’s still, in many ways, the best.
As well as serving vintage classics, they also produce a bean Steak Roulade and even offer Duck with Mojito Glaze, but in many ways, it’s the temptation of the tried and tested burgers and pancakes that should draw your attention most effectively.
These are just five possible options to consider but rest assured, if none of these options is a realistic one (due to issues relating to geography), you are never far away from an American diner that is sure to meet your needs, both in terms of your stomach and your soul.
Feature image from Pexels