I have always loved diners. When I was a child it was the allure of the shiny red booths, the jukebox in the corner, the chocolate milkshakes, French fries and a special meal out with Mom and Dad. Later, in the throes of adolescence, it was a combination of the allowance-friendly food prices, the never-ending cups of coffee and the fact that, no matter how long we stayed, the wait staff never kicked us out. It was a place to hang out with a fantasy of independence, a place to feel cool—even if my mother picked us up in a1991 silver Ford Aerostar (disaffectionately called “Ms. Daisy”) at the end of the night.
The summer after my sophomore year in college my parents moved from our home of eleven years in beautiful Bucks County, Pennsylvania to Fairfield County, Connecticut. The move wasn’t too hard on Sharon and me. After all, we had both flown the nest and were only home summers, but it was still an unwelcome change. It wasn’t home we were going home to, rolling hills and Pennsylvania fieldstone barns; it was suburbia, bedroom New York.
It didn’t take long for Sharon and me to find the Post Road Diner. A silver bullet affair with an aqua and pink neon sign out front, it is perhaps the quintessence of diner. I love the antique Coke ads, the black-and-white checked tile, the mirrored walls, the classic sixteen-page menu and the fact that it’s an all-booth diner. No tables, unless of course you want to belly up to the counter on a swivel stool near the soda fountain. It’s straight out of the 50s, complete with a drive-in movie mural (Bogie and Bacall of course) on the outside wall. It’s tacky and kitschy and Sharon and I fell immediately in love. Home is where the diner is.
A month ago I was apartment hunting in New York City with a broker and a friend. After a long and fruitless day, we needed to stop for lunch. Stumbling upon “Big Daddy’s Diner” we decided a burger and onion rings was just the ticket. We sat down in a booth and my broker said, “This next place, I think you’re going to love it.” “How far is it,” I said, “from here?” Three hours later we were signing paperwork. This could be home.
Maggy, I’ll agree. As much as I disliked living in Jersey City, I *really* miss the Brownstone (more formally, The Brownstone Diner and Pancake Factory).
In San Antonio, there is a chain of diners, simply known as Jim’s. I know what you’re thinking: a chain? But honest to goodness, every Jim’s is exactly what you come to expect from a diner. Formica and stainless steel tables, single seater bar in front of the kitchens, and consistently fantastic food. Every one of them is open 24 hours, and every one of them is home to copious amounts of college students from midnight to 4 a.m., all who only order coffee, and if the waitress is lucky, a breakfast taco (for $2.89, I might add).
There are many Sundays in New Jersey when I miss Jim’s as much as I miss my parents. Jim’s was our 3 a.m. ritual, after my dad had a gig on a Friday night, our Sunday morning place to be with my grandparents. And when you couldn’t figure out what you were in the mood for, Jim’s is where you went.
I hope I get to take you and Andy there someday soon.
Haha I used to work across the street from Big Daddy’s-the milkshakes are delicious!
Clearly, Maggy, you’ve found comfort in diners–especially during transition. I think that’s true for me too. We live in CT now, but we’ve built our home in Eastern Pennsylvania, a place we get to at least twice a month. Whenever we’re there we head to the local diner for breakfast, which is so frequent that the waitresses think we live here. They know us that well. David and I always walk in thinking we’re going to order something different, but he almost always orders pancakes, and I order 2 eggs (1 over easy for his pancake and 1 over hard for me) so I can have the hash browns.
BTW, the onion rings–best recipe ever–is courtesy of Havana’s in New Hope, PA.
I am new to your blog, My daughter brought me over one day a while back, but I have not read any until today. I think I picked the best “first-read”.
We Love love love to go to THE BLUE BENN diner in Bennington VT. Also one in Portland Maine when we go there. I can’t remember the name though.
Always looking for diners
Jenn Marie says
Totally agree. A local chain recently expanded, adding a 24-hour diner less than a mile from our house. They make everything from scratch fresh every day. It’s dangerous to the waistline.