The view from my cup…a diner. The area of the country in which I live has nary a diner in sight. The one I’m in this morning is more of a tiny family restaurant, but it is open 24 hours and serves as a make-do diner to its many loyal patrons. When I lived in Pennsylvania for a few years, diners were aplenty. We traveled often to New Jersey which also seemed to have a diner on practically every corner. In those areas, each family had ‘their’ diner; the one you most often frequented, regardless of the availability of similar nearby establishments. Diners seem most prevalent in the northern part of the country, dwindling out the farther south you go.
Diners are a breed of eatery all to themselves. But to actually define a diner defies all logic. The attributes of a diner fit almost any restaurant, the exception being the ‘round the clock hours. They serve a variety of menu items, have scrumptious desserts, and strong coffee. Not so different from many places, yet diners are totally different from other eateries.
There is a decided smell to a diner. Not a bad odor, but a diner odor that seems the same no matter what diner you walk into in any state. My personal opinion is that the aroma of coffee, fried food, old cracking naugahyde booths and near constant flow of customers combine to make that undeniable ‘diner smell.’
Some dishes are found in diners that are rarities in other restaurants. Scrapple and hard rolls, cannoli, chipped beef on toast. (side note: scrapple starts with ‘scrap’ for a reason…blech!) Ubiquitous to diners are heavy porcelain dinnerware, specifically coffee cups. Usually white, always heavy and made to fit hands wrapped around them for warmth in cool months.
The wait staff more often than not know the names of the regulars, and the regulars have their favorite servers. Jokes flow, laughter rings out and service is with a smile. That alone is worth the trip.