Announcements Roadside America

A Celebration of American Diners

Look for a new diner post every Tuesday in 2019.

Longtime followers of this blog may recall my 2017 “All-American Diner Tour“, in which I wrote reviews of over two dozen diners in Upstate New York to indulge my own sense of nostalgia and share my love for diner culture. I’m happy to announce that every Tuesday this year, I will be featuring a new diner. Each post will include a short blurb about the model and history, as well as photos. These posts will focus more exclusively on traditional diners, some of which are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Photo by Michael Kleen

Diners are quintessentially American. They represent affordable dining for the working class, mobility, entrepreneurship, and mass production. The earliest diners were lunch carts pulled by horses. Entrepreneurs parked them outside factories to feed hungry workers as they came on and off shift. Many stayed open 24-hours to accommodate all shifts. Walter Scott began the first lunch cart/wagon service in Providence, Rhode Island in 1872.

Casey’s Diner

Soon, specially designed diner cars could be purchased and sent by rail anywhere in the country. Some of the earliest models still have train wheels attached. Manufacturers like the Worcester Lunch Car Company, O’Mahony, Kullman, and Silk City mass produced hundreds of prefabricated restaurants. The original diners were made of wood, and later, of attractive polished stainless steel.

Photo by Michael Kleen

A Silk City advertisement promised “An all cash business with all cash profits.” High net profits, no experience needed, and most importantly “A Depression-proof Business”! Simply park it in a high-trafficked location, hook up to utilities, fire up the grill, and watch the money roll in.

Three Brothers Diner in Danbury, Connecticut

Diners became so synonymous with American dining that restaurants bearing little resemblance to the classic diner cars began to adopt the name. These fixed structures lack the mobility and modular construction of true diners, but their art deco and stainless steel exteriors, neon lights, counter and stool seating, and tabletop jukeboxes have become characteristic of diners.

I hope you enjoy reading about these interesting and unique places as much as I enjoyed visiting them! Come join me every Tuesday in 2019 as we celebrate this slice of Americana.

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