Jerry and Daniel O’Mahony founded the Jerry O’Mahony Diner Company in Elizabeth, New Jersey in 1917, sparking a renaissance of New Jersey diner manufacturing. It operated until 1952, churning out around 2,000 prefabricated restaurants. An offshoot called Mahony Diners, Inc. built four more diners before closing in the late 1950s.
“A modern Jerry O’Mahony dining car is more than just a casual eating place, – it’s the kind of place that people enthuse about and return to frequently,” a 1943 company advertisement promised.
Despite being one of the oldest and most prolific diner manufacturers in the country, only a few dozen O’Mahony diners remain. I’ve visited O’Mahonys in New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Vermont, and Virginia. O’Mahony diners have a simple, rectangular design with a ridged stainless steel exterior. Most have single-door, centrally located entrances.
Triangle Diner, at 27 W. Gerrard Street in Winchester, Virginia, is a 1948 O’Mahony with a stainless steel exterior and a storied history. Though currently closed, the Triangle Diner employed future country music star Patsy Cline in the early 1950s. Unlike many diners, it has sat at the same intersection since it opened. It was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2010.
Wolfe’s Diner, 625 N. U.S. Route 15 in Dillsburg, Pennsylvania is a 1952 O’Mahony. Check out the chrome and green trim on this baby.
Eddie’s Paramount Diner, at 414 W. Dominick Street in Rome, New York is a modified 1941 O’Mahony style diner. You can still see the original exterior under the roof.
Tony’s Freehold Grill, at 59 E. Main Street in Freehold, New Jersey, is a 1947 O’Mahony that (unlike many classic diners) has sat at the same location since it opened, making it one of those small town staples. Its current owners/operators, Tom and Peter Iliadis, took the reins from their father, Tony, in 1986. Tony Iliadis started at the Freehold Grill as a cook in 1961, and eventually took ownership and re-christened it after himself.
Springfield Royal Diner, at 363 River Street in Springfield, Vermont, is a rare 1957 Mahony (one of four manufactured by an O’Mahony offshoot called Mahony Diners, Inc.), originally known as the Royal Diner and located in Kingston, New York. Owner Matt Aldrich brought it to Springfield, Vermont in 2002 and restored it to compliment his Corvette Museum.