Hot! My Love Affair With Diners

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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.

The one problem with diners is that they are largely an American eatery. However, I’m sure that there some are international equivalents. For those of you who have lived in other countries, what was the equivalent of a local diner where you lived?

[Photo Credits: Header, 1, 2]

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  1. A diner roadtrip is an *awesome* idea!

    We definitely don’t have diners in Australia. I guess maybe the closest thing would be the local pub! You can’t always get food, though, and people would look at you strangely if you ordered a coffee.

  2. Great post! I love diners, too. Perfect for solo travelers, and you can’t go wrong with milkshakes and greasy burgers! Do you have any favorites?

    • Glad to see another diner fan! Any good ones up your way?

      I loved the South Street Diner when I lived in Boston, and now I really enjoy the Royal down here in Alexandria (you can see me there most Saturday mornings). I need to find a good one in DC.

  3. I’d *love* to do a diner roadtrip! I have an idea for a photo essay that would involve diners to some extent, or at least a lot of roadtripping through small-town America. Now, to figure out how to fund it…

  4. Have you ever watched the Guy Fieri series on the Food Network, Diners, Drive-ins and Dives?