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29 Great American Diners

America’s diners account for some of the oldest restaurants in the nation. Here are some of the most iconic.

Lille Allen/Eater

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A diner is a mood. It’s the slosh of sharp, black coffee poured from a steel tank behind the counter into a heavy white mug. It’s the miniature packets of butter and strawberry jelly waiting for their foil to be peeled back. It’s the waitstaff who’ve been scribbling orders on blue-striped checks for 40 years and know how to balance eight plates of pancakes on one arm. It’s the assurance that your eggs will always come out just the way you like them — not too runny in the whites, with a soft orange yolk built to drag slices of crisp, buttery, industrial-grade toast through. The promise of feeling like a regular no matter how many times you’ve actually visited.

America’s diners account for some of the oldest and most iconic restaurants in the nation. A dying breed by some accounts and a resurgent one by others, they’re shorthand for a vision of the United States as a place for all, regarded with seemingly endless fascination. Perhaps that’s why they’re so often the setting chosen for film and television — a place that feels universally familiar yet original, and brimming with character. Of course, that ethos can sometimes get hijacked by politicians and media pundits in search of “real” Americans (often white, cis, and conservative). But true diner lovers know this isn’t the full story. Diners — whether you’re speaking about them in the strict Northeasterner sense of the word, or call them a coffee shop, a family-style restaurant, a meat and three, a Waffle House — can’t be boxed into one type of customer, cuisine, or food tradition. Diners in 2023 are both old-fashioned and upscale, omnivore and vegan-friendly, 24-hour and breakfast-only. They serve Korean food, Hawaiian food, Greek food, Mexican food, Lebanese food, Thai food, and Filipino food. They cater to LGBTQ+ communities and also to the blue-collar worker in need of a chili dog, the Route 66 road-tripper, and the underaged kid scooping up forkfuls of banana cream pie purchased with their last $5 after a concert.

There are a lot of diners we could talk about. New Jersey alone is home to more than 500, while Southern California is a veritable coffee shop paradise, filled with beloved truck stops and Googie architecture marvels. Through deep research and the collective, highly opinionated knowledge of Eater staffers and experts across the country, we’ve compiled a list of not only what we believe to be the best modern American diners, but also those that demonstrate the broadly democratic beauty of a restaurant made for everyone. Slide into a booth; the coffee and hash browns are waiting. — Brenna Houck

Note: This list is organized alphabetically by region.


Cameo Cafe

8111 NE Sandy Boulevard, Portland, OR | 7703 NE 72nd Avenue, Vancouver, WA

Cameo Cafe exudes pure diner energy: Waitresses constantly refill coffee mugs, the menu offers a laundry list of griddle standards, and a bustling energy hums between a cook churning out orders at the behind-the-counter flattop and the cottagecore dining room. Amid it all, owner Sue Gee Lehn welcomes die-hard regulars and wide-eyed first-timers with the same jovial warmth. But it’s the way the restaurant runs contrary to Portland’s often too-self-serious brunch culture while exemplifying the melting pot of American cuisine that truly sets it apart. At the Cameo, diners may start the day with “acre” pancakes or with bindaetteok, a savory Korean counterpart made from a batter of ground mung beans with vegetables throughout. In the decades since Portland transformed from a sleepy town to a U.S. food destination, the Cameo has steadfastly stuck to its old-school ways, making it a true original. — Janey Wong

Gardena Bowl Coffee Shop

15707 S. Vermont Avenue, Gardena, CA

A platter of white rice topped with a beef patty, a fried egg, and a pool of brown gravy.
The loco moco at Gardena Bowl in Los Angeles.
Matthew Kang

The clatter of falling pins and the low rumble of rolling balls is a suitable backdrop for Gardena Bowl Coffee Shop, located — you guessed it — inside one of Los Angeles’s quickly fading bowling complexes. There was a time when the city was littered with Formica-wrapped local breakfast spots (called, usually, “coffee shops,” instead of the more East Coast-familiar “diners”) tucked into bowling alleys, hotels, and small residential developments, before redevelopment and growth began to reshape the city’s busiest corridors. Gardena Bowl Coffee Shop stands alone at the top of a dwindling pile of such places, with its sunny disposition, low-touch service, and delightfully small footprint. The place has a devoted following thanks to its Hawaiian Japanese menu; banana pecan pancakes, Spam omelets, teriyaki beef, and egg plates are always flying around the room. Fried rice is a must, and most folks will tell you to order the loco moco, though the dinnertime barbecued short ribs should not be missed. The background bustle is just part of the charm, a reminder that even in noisy, changing Los Angeles, the delicious, hearty food that feeds LA’s many working-class communities always finds a way to survive. — Farley Elliott

Grubstake Diner

1525 Pine Street, San Francisco

Red booths line the interior of Grubstake diner.
Grubstake Diner in San Francisco witnessed the cities first Pride march in 1970.
Patricia Cheng

Like San Francisco’s cooks and chefs, the city’s queer communities have firmly established the Bay Area on the cutting edge of cultural change. So it makes sense that one of the city’s most treasured diners (a restaurant genre often idealized as a place for everyone) is woven into the history of a city considered a haven for people who felt unsafe in their home communities or sought a rebirth in the Paris of the West. When Grubstake’s now-iconic train car diner landed in San Francisco in 1927, its original owners couldn’t have known the diner’s address would witness the city’s first Pride march in 1970. After dancing and singing at nearby bars, the city’s queer community likely flooded to the late-night restaurant for omelets and shakes. Iconic gay rights leader and politician Harvey Milk frequented the restaurant late-night where he’d “hold court,” and the pride flag still billows over the business to this day. If there’s a diner for LGBTQIA+ folks in America, it’s Grubstake. — Paolo Bicchieri

Ken’s House of Pancakes

1730 Kamehameha Avenue, Hilo, HI

Locals know that while Kona’s ample sunshine makes it more tourist-friendly, it’s Hilo that’s the blue-collar backbone of the Big Island. And there’s perhaps no better place to rub elbows with locals than at Ken’s, a favorite for ono grinds including stacks of pancakes topped with banana and coconut and “sumo”-sized loco moco platters loaded with sliced Spam and rich brown gravy. The restaurant opened in 1971 — the first and only 24-hour spot on the east side of the island at the time — and still sports a groovy design including burnt orange booths and swiveling ochre bar stools. Slide in for massive portions of island favorites like steaming bowls of saimin, saucy teri-burgers, and plates of Portuguese sausage and eggs, as well as classic diner fare. Between the warm service and comforting island flavors, it’s easy to understand why Ken’s has become a don’t-miss restaurant for visitors and locals alike. — Lauren Saria

Norms La Cienega

470 N. La Cienega Boulevard, West Hollywood, CA

A building that looks like it’s made out of flags or birds beaks.
Norm’s on La Cienega is a landmark known for is retro Googie building.
Wonho Frank Lee

Los Angeles is a city of streets and strip malls, parking lots and palm trees. It’s also the home of Googie architecture, the retro-futurist aesthetic perhaps best represented by The Jetsons. The swoops and colors and angular edges were popularized more than half a century ago, and today the style lives on in LA’s endless apartment buildings and restaurants — most famously at the Norms on La Cienega. The sharp, sloping roofline and diamond-shaped signage is more than just the backdrop to bacon and eggs at this regional chain (with 21 SoCal locations and growing); it’s practically the entire point of dining at this Norms in the first place. Built in 1957 and today the oldest Norms in existence, this glassy diner oozes Angeleno pride, glowing off-white and orange at all hours of the night. It’s a special place, protected by the city as a piece of cultural heritage, that speaks to the heart of LA eating — and the steak and eggs plate is better than you think. — Farley Elliott

Peggy Sue’s 50’s Diner

35654 Yermo Road, Yermo, CA

A fisheye lens view of the jukebox-shaped entrance to Peggy Sue’s.
Peggy Sue’s offers respite for weary travelers on the road between Vegas and LA.
Gareth Lowndes/Shutterstock

Familiar to anyone who has made the four-hour voyage between Los Angeles and Las Vegas, Peggy Sue’s 50’s Diner is located off a long stretch of Mojave Desert, in the town of Yermo, California. The long drive is a preamble to the timewarp of stepping through the jukebox-shaped entryway. Peggy Sue’s opened in 1954 as a nine-seat, three-booth five-and-dime, but in the ’80s it went full kitsch. Its myriad dining rooms encompass every genre of ’50s charm. At the lunch counter, a mannequin dressed as a waitress takes a permanent seat next to actual customers who chow down on cheeseburgers and Philly cheesesteaks. The broad lavender-colored dining room features checkered floors where waitresses clad in turquoise traipse about delivering orders of French dip sandwiches, fried chicken, short stacks of pancakes, and ice cream sundaes. Beyond the life-size Betty Boop and the Elvis statue is the red-and-white Americana-drenched pizza parlor from which drivers carry out big cheesy pies they ordered from the road. After eating, venture to the backyard and stretch your legs in the garden with the towering plastic dinosaurs that peer out toward the interstate. — Janna Karel

Trudy’s Kitchen

3876 Idaho State Highway 21, Idaho City, ID

At Trudy’s Kitchen, owners Paul and Melissa Head strive to make everything from scratch. They bake their own bread and desserts, grind brisket and sirloin for burgers, slow-cook corned beef for Trudy’s popular Reuben, and roast turkey, beef, and ham for sandwiches and mains. Though it opened in the 1990s, the log cabin restaurant in tiny Idaho City — about an hour outside of Boise — looks like it’s been there since the 1860s heyday when gold prospectors and other settlers from Europe and Asia made it the largest city in the Northwest. Trudy’s serves diner essentials as well as finger steaks (an Idaho classic featuring slices of prime rib deep-fried in a gluten-free batter), huckleberry cheesecake, and cream pie in a knickknack-filled dining room. Located next to the Ponderosa Pine Scenic Byway on Highway 21, the gateway to outdoor adventures in the Boise National Forest, Trudy’s is a welcome stop after a hike or a snowshoe in the hills or several nights sleeping in the woods. What’s better than a loaded cheeseburger and a slice of pie after camping? — Scott Ki


Jerry’s Cafe

406 W. Coal Avenue, Gallup, NM

Just off of Route 66 near Gallup’s downtown sits Jerry’s Cafe. The narrow one-room establishment has been a staple for decades, filled with brown booths perpetually stuffed with patrons. While it’s easy to find standard hamburgers and buttermilk pancakes on the menu, look for something smothered in the state’s traditional red or green chile. Flat enchiladas, chile rellenos, huevos rancheros — the menu is classic New Mexican fare, all on brown and white patterned plates overflowing with sauce. Piping-hot sopaipillas on plastic trays sop up what’s left, alongside the requisite sticky bottle of honey to dribble in the corner of the fried dough. — Asonta Benetti

Sid’s Diner

300 S. Choctaw Avenue, El Reno, OK

A burger with deeply singed onions on a picnic table beside a pile of fries.
A classic onion burger from Sid’s.
Amy McCarthy

About 30 minutes outside of Oklahoma City, in the tiny town of El Reno, lies one of burger history’s most compelling innovations: the Oklahoma onion burger. This creation — a mound of thinly shaved onions is smashed into a beef patty as it sizzles on the griddle — was a thrifty innovation that allowed the owners of the Hamburger Inn to keep prices low during the Great Depression by using less beef. The El Reno Hamburger Inn is gone now, but the Oklahoma onion burger tradition lives on here, perhaps most prominently at Sid’s Diner. It’s located just off of where Route 66 used to be, and a jaunty red awning welcomes visitors from far and wide. Inside, you’ll find classic diner fare and friendly service, but you’d be remiss to order an omelet here. Stick with the cheeseburger with fried onions, and definitely don’t forget to add an order of Sid’s crispy, double-fried fries. — Amy McCarthy


The Four Way Restaurant

998 Mississippi Boulevard, Memphis, TN

Ordering fried catfish or country-fried steak at storied Memphis soul food restaurant the Four Way isn’t a revolutionary act in and of itself. At least, not today. But that was actually kind of the idea when original owners Clint and Irene Cleaves opened it back in 1946 in South Memphis serving the Black community — at a time when Jim Crow was still the law of the land. The restaurant serves simple food like vegetable plates, hamburgers, and turkey and dressing in this neighborhood with a market across the street and a church and cafe just down the road. But the Four Way is something more than just a restaurant.

Not only has a steady stream of celebrities — Al Green, Elvis Presley, Ike and Tina Turner — passed through the doors, but icons of the civil rights movement, including Martin Luther King Jr. and Al Sharpton, have made time to eat here. Black artists in segregated Memphis who recorded at Stax Records also gravitated toward the Four Way. It literally fed a movement, and it’s still feeding a new generation of Memphians with a no-frills formula: a daily entree, served with two sides and cornbread, plus an extra helping of Bluff City history. — Andy Meek

Jimmy’s Eastside Diner

7201 Biscayne Boulevard, Miami

Decades-old Miami institution Jimmy’s Eastside offers everything one might want in a classic diner: vintage vibes complete with worn booths, charming and refreshingly direct waitstaff, and a menu filled with hearty diner staples. South Floridians have adored it for years, but it saw a resurgence of sorts after it served as the setting for a pivotal late-night scene from the 2016 Oscar-winning film Moonlight. This transformed it into a must-visit destination for tourists and reinvigorated local interest. Despite a heightened profile, the cuisine remains consistent as ever, with diners feasting daily on oversized omelets, crispy hash browns, and piled-high sandwiches. Interestingly, though, the restaurant doesn’t offer dinner service — closing in the late afternoon around 3:30 p.m. daily — so for those keen to recreate the iconic film scene, breakfast or lunch is your best bet. — Olee Fowler

Joe’s Bakery & Coffee Shop

2305 E. Seventh Street, Austin, TX

Three tacos prepared with flour tortillas on a plate.
Breakfast Tacos (including fried bacon) at Joe’s Bakery & Coffee Shop.
Brenna Houck

Okay, so this is probably blasphemous, but as a New Yorker, when I was asked to think of the best diners in Texas, my gut response was, “There are none.” But when I sat down to really think about it (especially as I near my 10-years-in-Austin anniversary), I realized that there is only one true answer for Texas: the legendary Joe’s Bakery & Coffee Shop. It ticks off all the boxes for what embodies a diner: history, casual service, family-run, community-oriented, and, most importantly, simple but fantastic food. The menu is beautifully Tex-Mex with daytime classics of oh-so-tender barbacoa, battered-and-fried bacon stuffed into stellar breakfast tacos, and soothing menudo. There are fluffy conchas, eggs every which way, and plate specials galore, folks.

Founders Joe and Paula Avila started the little restaurant in 1962, and over 60 years later it remains in the family, run by their daughters and granddaughter Regina Estrada. It’s in this spirit that they continue to give back to their community amid rapid gentrification. Estrada is adamant about informing her neighbors and customers about local issues and even straight-up registers people to vote — civic action with a side of great food. — Nadia Chaudhury

Majestic Diner

1031 Ponce De Leon Avenue NE, Atlanta

A cheeseburger and steak fries on a plate at Majestic Diner.
Majestic Diner has been a staple for simple, filling food since it first opened in 1929.
Sarah Dodge

Grilled cheeses and fries, gooey patty melts, club sandwiches, and omelets complete with grits and toast, compose the diner menu at Majestic, an Atlanta fixture since 1929. Like any diner in the South worth its salt, the Majestic serves a Georgia twist: think steak and eggs, biscuits and gravy, chicken and waffles, and blue plate specials like seasoned pork chops with sides of salad and Texas toast. Established by Charles Kliros and George Kotsoyianis at the corner of 10th and Peachtree in Midtown, this venerable Atlanta restaurant opened a second location a decade later in Poncey-Highland to become part of the first modern shopping center in Atlanta: the Briarcliff Plaza (now Plaza on Ponce). Today, that Majestic (now the only location) is operated by Tasso Costarides, and little has changed: The menu remains lit above the Majestic’s distinctive red counter and Formica tables still populate the spartan dining room. Though the pandemic halted 24/7 service, regulars continue to pile into the restaurant for a comforting, affordable meal. — Beth McKibben

Waffle House #411

325 Savannah Highway, Charleston, SC

The exterior of Waffle House sits behind an unconventionally round Holiday Inn with palm trees dotting the parking lot.
It’s simply the best.
Mike Ledford Photography/Eater Carolinas

It may be sacrilegious to name a Waffle House outside of Atlanta as the best, but #411 in Charleston, South Carolina, is the greatest one of them all. It’s like most other addresses in the chain — the yellow light from the outdoor sign blazes through the dining room and it always smells like burnt coffee and too-sweet syrup, but the supreme distinction lies in the pristine location. Just over the Ashley River Bridge, this Waffle House sits behind an unconventionally round Holiday Inn (an icon in its own right) with palm trees dotting the parking lot. It’s adjacent to a Lowcountry marsh, so when you step out of your car, you’re hit with the scent of pluff mud and salty air. It feels far removed from the chaos downtown, and that’s the charm. A refuge for the hungry after a hurricane, waiting in traffic too long, or after spending a night out on King Street. Oh, and Anthony Bourdain was a fan. — Erin Perkins

Wendell Smith’s Restaurant

407 53rd Avenue N, Nashville, TN

A neon sign that reads: “Fine Food Wendell’s Eat Drive In.”
Wendell Smith’s is a local icon that’s served meat and threes for more than 70 years.
Wendell Smith’s

The meat and three is a staple around the South — like sweet tea or tossing out a casual “bless your heart.” It’s an institution that hails from a long line of greasy spoons, but with a twist: Choose a protein and three sides from a menu of specials that rotate, often daily. One of the longest-standing examples of the format is Wendell Smith’s, a family-run diner that’s been serving comfort food for more than 70 years. Nashvillians come to this no-frills spot in the Nations to slide into one of the well-worn booths for simple, filling fare with soul. The menu changes daily, but you can count on roast beef and barbecue among your meat options and creamed potatoes, fresh-fried corn, and mac and cheese as possible sides. Everyone makes room for the banana pudding or lemon icebox pie — it’s non-negotiable. — Jackie Gutierrez-Jones


Al’s Breakfast

413 14th Avenue SE, Minneapolis

A belgian waffle engulfing a plate is covered with a pile of sour cream and sliced strawberries.
The waffle Suzette at Al’s Breakfast in Dinkytown.
Brenna Houck

When Al Bergstrom opened his namesake diner in 1950, Minneapolis’s Dinkytown neighborhood was stacked with diners and lunch cafes that served workers, students, and, later, the wry academics of Minnesota’s own Beatnik era, who taught and studied at the University of Minnesota. Over the next 70 years, Dinkytown changed dramatically, but Al’s Breakfast has stuck around. Known affectionately as Minneapolis’s narrowest restaurant, the diner is nestled into a 10-food-wide storefront; with only 14 stools, it doesn’t leave much room for the neat transactionality of many modern-day restaurants. The cook might sing to the radio while he’s dolloping sour cream and strawberries on hot waffles; strangers rub elbows, literally, as they tuck into salami scrambles. In a parallel universe, Al’s could have become a tourist trap — but in this one, it’s an enduring, beloved staple of Minnesota’s diner scene, where breakfast is king. — Justine Jones

Al Tayeb Restaurant

15010 W. Warren Avenue, Dearborn, MI | 873 Inkster Road, Garden City, MI

A dish of yogurt and chickpeas with almonds.
Breakfast means coffee, chickpeas, pita, and sujuk sausage at Al Tayeb Restaurant in metro Detroit.
Brenna Houck

Metro Detroit is home to one of the highest concentrations of Arab Americans in the United States and with that, some of the best Lebanese food in North America. Among the scene’s stars is all-day breakfast spot Al Tayeb (“delicious” in Arabic), where droves of people go to break (pita) bread. Tables share inviting dishes of ful, hummus with chickpeas in lush pools of olive oil, fattah with beef tongue, and eggy dishes with mix-ins like sujuk sausage. Cups of tea, Turkish coffee, and refreshing mango smoothies complement the pickle plates — a staple of Lebanese restaurants in the region. Crisp piles of freshly fried pita chips round out an irresistible, family-friendly feast for the eyes and the stomach. — Serena Maria Daniels

Courtesy Diner

Multiple Locations in St. Louis

Formica countertops, vinyl stools, and cash only: Courtesy is everything you expect in a diner. Coffee is poured 24/7 and a jukebox spans the gamut of ’50’s standards to heavy metal, but there’s an honesty here that keeps it from falling into the realm of kitsch. Originally started in the ’30s, it’s home to the Slinger, a St. Louis staple that combines eggs, hamburger, and hash browns, all covered with a mess of local Edmond’s Chile Co. chili, loaded with beans and just thick enough to cling to your fork. While Courtesy Diner didn’t invent the Slinger, it did become synonymous with the dish, offering the notable standard version and variations to late-night diners. There are two locations left — the original on Kingshighway Boulevard has now closed — but either Hampton Avenue or Laclede Station will remind you that some things never really need to change. — Asonta Benetti

Duly’s Place

5458 Vernor Highway, Detroit

The exterior of Duly’s Place is shown in an old brick building next to barbershop Southwest Styles. Duly’s has a green and red sign with an arrow pointing towards the restaurant that says “24 Hours” and a red awning.
Duly’s has all the diner favorites, plus a Detroit classic — coney dogs.
Gerard + Belevender

The roots of the coney island — Detroit’s answer to the classic diner — date back more than a century to a period when Greek and Macedonian immigrants were heading West via New York and its established hot dog culture. Once in the Motor City, these immigrants began opening their own modest lunch counters serving American and Greek fare. The humble coney dog is the star of the menu — made with a griddled beef frank in a steamed bun, topped with a loose, tomato-based, all-meat chili, a ribbon of yellow mustard, and diced onions. While there’s debate over which coney island does their tubed meats the best, locals and out-of-towners alike have a fondness for Duly’s Place in Southwest Detroit; during its 100-plus years in business, it’s earned fans including the late Anthony Bourdain (whose photo hangs on the wood-paneled wall behind the restaurant’s narrow counter) and Southwest Detroit’s own music legend Jack White.

The shotgun-style interior is lined with a counter where you’re likely to rub elbows with Detroiters of just about every walk of life — local brujas, construction workers, out-of-town influencers, and night owls looking for hot dogs and chili cheese fries (order them well-done if you’re taking them to go) after the bars and concert venues let out. It’s all served up 24/7 (except Mondays) in an endearing, staunchly cash-only, no-muss, greasy-spoon atmosphere — with just a hint of seasoned Detroit attitude. — Serena Maria Daniels

Lou Mitchell’s

565 W. Jackson Boulevard, Chicago

The neon and green awning exterior of Lou Mitchell’s on a cloudy day.
Lou Mitchell’s is celebrating 100 years in the diner business in 2023.
Ashok Selvam

If nostalgia were Lou Mitchell’s greatest trait, crews would have boarded up the windows years ago. Instead, Chicago’s famed diner celebrates its 100th birthday in 2023, sheltered from the madness that’s overtaken the trendy West Loop. There’s nothing fancy about the decor. The bacon, mercifully, isn’t thick-cut, and the pork vendor isn’t prominently displayed on the menu, but it’s cooked to order — either crispy or chewy. The line cooks are masters of the egg-and-bacon arts, an overlooked set of culinary skills. The servers greet customers with plates of complimentary fresh doughnut holes and orange slices. During the pre-pandemic years, hosts would hand out mini packs of Milk Duds while guests waited in line.

Lou’s leans into its place along legendary Route 66 with walls that wear classic Americana, but nostalgia isn’t the only thing that fuels this legendary establishment. On a blustery April day, look up at the dry-erase board specials. It’s a half-pound burger wrapped in lettuce served with a scoop of cottage cheese and garnished with pineapple and tomato. After a century, it seems carbs aren’t everyone’s friend. Evolve or kindly move out of the way, please. We’re in the Midwest. — Ashok Selvam

Tally’s Silver Spoon

530 Sixth Street, Rapid City, SD

It doesn’t get more Americana than buffalo steak and eggs with a side of Ronald Reagan. In Rapid City, nicknamed the City of Presidents for its presidential statues dotted around downtown, Tally’s Silver Spoon is a self-described “fine diner” that blends classic comforts with culinary ambition. Located behind a cowboy hat-clad Reagan statue and outfitted with a sleek soft-gray motif befitting its contemporary stylings, this all-day restaurant has been slinging pancakes since the ’30s, when it first emerged as the Bright Spot Cafe. Today, that same pancake recipe imparts an air of vintage authenticity to Tally’s, along with homey staples like eggs Benedict. But the surfeit of foie gras on the menu makes clear that current chef Benjamin Klinkel aspires to more than frills-free morning fare. In the evening, the restaurant feels more refined, as guests swirl wine glasses at the central bar and tuck into plates of smoked sweetbreads and bison Marsala. Can’t decide? The Indecision Menu puts multicourse meals into the dutiful hands of the kitchen. — Matt Kirouac


Bendix Diner

464 New Jersey Route 17, Hasbrouck Heights, NJ

Situated smack in the middle of a highway (no, really) and smack in the middle of New Jersey lore, Bendix Diner is straight out of a movie. It’s a stainless steel box with a sporadically functioning neon sign, proudly no-frills and endearingly seasoned — a quintessential diner, if you will, that’s been used in myriad commercials and films from Jersey Girl to a Bleachers music video. Established in 1947, it’s been operated by the Diakakis family since the ’80s (Manager John Diakakis, who is blind, is the subject of a recent documentary). Perhaps you don’t go here expecting a meal that will blow your mind, but you go for the comforting ambiance: leather seats, glass ketchup bottles, and warm staff. Although it’s not 24-hours, it’s a huge spot for truckers; they park outside in rows to get some rest or mosey in to fuel up on the Trucker’s Special: three pancakes, two eggs, and four strips of bacon. The best part is that no matter who you are or what time of day you pop in, they treat you like you’ve been a regular for years. — Stefania Orrù

The Blue Benn Diner

314 North Street, Bennington, VT

The long blue and chrome interior at the Blue Benn Diner.
Vermont’s classically “crunchy” spirit is on full display on the menu at the Blue Benn Diner in Bennington.
The Blue Benn Diner

The first thing you need to know about the Blue Benn Diner is that you’re there to order the crunch berry pancakes. The berries in question are raspberries, and the eponymous crunch comes from oh-so-Vermont granola. Served with Vermont maple syrup and a knob of butter, they’re everything a signature diner dish should be. The Blue Benn menu is studded with other nods to the crunchy Bennington crowd, too: Among the many vegetarian options are tofu scrambles, apple-cheddar omelets, veggie burgers, nut burgers, falafel, and mozzarella-topped grilled portobellos. The dessert menu is also full of New England charm, with pumpkin bread pudding, apple crisp, and slices of pie a la mode. From its 1940s dining car architecture to the colorful menu updates on the wall, the Blue Benn is pure East Coast college-town nostalgia. — Hillary Dixler Canavan

Florida Avenue Grill

1100 Florida Avenue NW, Washington, D.C.

Diner talk in front of a carryout sign next to the counter as a waiter takes a customer’s order at a table at Florida Avenue Grill.
Florida Avenue Grill is a D.C. institution.
Ray Lopez

Around since 1944, Florida Avenue Grill is widely considered the godfather of D.C.’s soul food scene. Founders Lacey and Bertha Wilson purchased the Florida Avenue NW corner with the tips Lacey made as a Capitol Hill shoeshine man and turned it into a neighborhood gathering spot lined with square, white tiles, vinyl bar stools, and signed photos of famous patrons. Today, the breakfast institution remains a go-to greasy spoon for fried catfish and grits, plus French toast, buttermilk biscuits, and other hot cakes that were, as the menu proclaims, “flying off the grill since before you were born.” Hours were drastically downsized during the pandemic and the grill is now a weekend-only fixture — yet patrons still flock here for a homey taste of spot-on Southern cooking. — Tierney Plumb

Golden Diner

123 Madison Street, New York

The chicken katsu club on a plate at a table inside Golden Diner.
The chicken katsu club at Golden Diner.
Joyce Kim/Golden Diner

No New York restaurant is a clearer example of the diner remix moment happening in the city than Golden Diner in Chinatown. Part of a wave of newfangled diners keeping the spirit of family-style dining alive in the city, Golden focuses on inventive comfort foods through an Asian American lens. Helmed by Samuel Yoo, an alum of the Momofuku universe, since 2019 restaurant has been known for dishes like its egg sandwich on a sesame milk bun, honey butter pancakes, katsu club, and cheeseburger with mushroom gochujang. Breakfast for dinner is encouraged and there are plenty of vegetarian-friendly options as well (see: the Vegetalian hero). The narrow dining room fills up fast, especially during brunch. So while it might sound sacrilegious, this may be the only diner on this list we actually recommend making a reservation for. — Emma Orlow

Palace Diner

18 Franklin Street, Biddeford, ME

A thick slice of caramelized french toast on a plate with a pile of butter melting into a puddle.
French toast at Palace Diner.
Bill Addison/Eater

What’s old is new again at Palace Diner. When Chad Conley and Greg Mitchell reopened this restaurant as its sixth owners in 2014 in a 1927 Pollard train car, they captivated critics and catapulted Biddeford, Maine — a former mill town 20 miles south of Portland — into the national dining spotlight. At a glance, the setting and menu read like any other cozy slice of Americana across the country. But you don’t need the fog of nostalgia to fall hopelessly in love with Palace’s tuna melt, layered with an inch of crunchy iceberg lettuce on grilled challah, or its pancakes, unbelievably buttery and light. These days, you can even order takeout online, which is great news since this diner only seats 15. — Adam H. Callaghan

Penrose Diner

2016 Penrose Avenue, Philadelphia

Waitresses with heavy South Philly accents. Vinyl-backed booths and laminated menus. An eclectic crowd that more often than not includes a Phillies or Flyers fan straight from the nearby stadiums. Greek and Italian dishes, down to homemade baklava and chocolate chip-flecked cannoli in the pastry case. Breakfast all day, including corned beef hash and scrapple. Penrose Diner has all the qualities that make it feel uniquely Philly. Having come on the scene more than a half-century ago, the restaurant received a revamp in the ’90s from Pete Dovas, a Greek immigrant with experience operating diners in New Jersey. Dovas died in 2014, and his family continues to run the business.

It has a long history, but the Penrose doesn’t feel frozen in time. Though it wrapped its 24/7 tradition in 2018, the restaurant has evolved to serve a full brunch menu and cocktails situated among the gyros, meatloaf, and mozzarella sticks. Order the excellent French dip, served on bread Philly can be proud of, a cup of homey chicken noodle or cheese-smothered French onion, and don’t forget a plate of gravy-soaked and mozzarella-laden disco fries. — Missy Frederick

Phoenicia Diner

5681 New York State Route 28, Phoenicia, NY

A crowd of people fill the dining room and counter at Phoenicia.
Phoenicia Diner is part of a select list of classic train car-style diners.
Robert Sietsema

Phoenicia Diner was built in 1962 by the DeRaffele Manufacturing Co. in New Rochelle, New York — one of a handful of companies that built made-to-order diners. It moved to its present location in the 1980s outside a resort town in the Catskill Mountains, only to shutter in 2011. Luckily, Brooklyn set designer Mike Cioffi bought the restaurant the following year and set about restoring the premises — a lunch counter with stools and booths lining picture windows with views of the mountain landscape. Reopening what had been a local institution on the highway that bypasses town, Cioffi retained the classic diner menu of buttermilk pancakes, club sandwiches, and burgers, but added locavore fare, too: Produce from area farms, seafood from local fisheries, and the products of a nearby smokehouse round out a menu that appeals to locals as well as folks just passing through. — Robert Sietsema

Summit Diner

1 Union Place, Summit, NJ

A Taylor ham, egg, and cheese sandwich sliced in half on a plate.
Taylor ham is abundant at Jersey diners such as Summit.
Hillary Dixler Canavan

Summit is one of Jersey’s finest and oldest diners, occupying a train car (an increasingly rare artifact of diner architecture) in the middle of one of the more walkable towns in Northern New Jersey. The menu has everything a good diner ought to: all-day breakfast platters with butter-griddled pancakes and bacon or sausage, club sandwiches, cheeseburgers, and random dinner entrees like meatloaf and chicken parm to round it all out. This being New Jersey, you can and should order a Taylor ham, egg, and cheese sandwich. For the uninitiated, Taylor ham is a Jersey specialty of spiced, cured pork roll; for diner-lovers, it’s perfection. — Hillary Dixler Canavan

Fact checked by Kelsey Lannin