My Love Affair With Diners
I’ll let you in on a little secret: I’d probably rather dine at a greasy spoon diner than a five-star restaurant.
I’m not entirely sure why I love diners as much as I do. Maybe it’s the cup of coffee that gets magically refilled for free. Maybe it’s the fact that most of them serve breakfast 24/7 and I believe there is never a bad time for breakfast. Maybe it’s because diners are one of the best places in the world for people-watching, which is quite possibly my favourite pastime. As a traveler, it’s also the fact that diners are everywhere.
Whenever I’m driving somewhere, I’d much rather stop for lunch at a diner or local greasy spoon than at a fast food joint, even if it means taking some time to point around. Diners are a great way to get a feel for where you are, and it’s also a way of supporting a local business, even if I’m just driving through. For towns just off the highway, it’s especially important to patronize local businesses instead of national chains like McDonald’s. They are likely losing a lot of business to the cookie-cutter clusters of gas stations and fast food places found around most highway exits, and so I find that it’s not only healthier food-wise, but also soul-wise, to spend an extra 5 minutes to drive into town and find something.
One of these days I’d love to take a roadtrip that focuses on great American diners. I could do interviews, a photo essay, all sorts of stuff. I think it would be a blast. Any takers?
Diners are also one of the only types of restaurants where nobody will bat an eye if you sit down solo. As a solo traveler, this is a godsend. There’s nothing I hate more than the looks of pity that I get from most restaurant waitstaff after I say “table for one, please”, and I’ve never had a diner waitress even blink when I sit down solo. In my experience, diners have a considerably higher than average portion of solitary diners, and it’s nice to know that there’s somewhere I can go where I will be left alone, if I want.
Contrary to what you’d think after what I just said, diners are also some of the most social restaurants out there. If you sit at a booth, you’ll be left alone, but if you choose to sit at the counter, you can learn who’s getting married, who got arrested and whose dog just had puppies before you even get your coffee. If you’re a journalist looking for local stories, there are few places better for leads than the counter of the local diner. If I start to get lonely when I travel, my favourite thing to do is to go to a diner, sit at the counter, and strike up a conversation with the people next to me. Maybe it’s because I’m very personable when I want to be, but I’ve never had anyone give me weird looks for talking to them.