Roadside America

Diners of New York

New Jersey is often described as the diner capital of the United States, but in my opinion, New York out paces it by far. You won’t find such a large concentration of classic diners anywhere else. In 1895, Patrick J. Tierney, who coined the term “diner”, began a lunch wagon business that grew so fast it inspired him to begin manufacturing the mobile restaurants himself in his hometown of New Rochelle, New York. Two of his former employees went on to create the iconic diner manufacturers Fodero Dining Car Company and the Kullman Dining Car Company.

The DeRaffele Manufacturing Company took over the Tierney factory in New Rochelle in 1933 and continues to operate there to the present day. Two other New York-based diner builders were the Orleans Manufacturing Company in Albion, New York (only built three diners) and Ward & Dickinson in Silver Creek, New York. Ward & Dickinson operated from 1923 to 1940.

The Red Robin Diner, at 268 Main Street, is a classic Mountain View-style diner that originally opened in neighboring Binghamton in 1950 and moved to its present location in 1959. The 35-ton diner took two hours to move. Chris and Pat Anagnostakos ran the business for 37 years until retirement.

I’m not sure what company manufactured Friede’s Diner, at 455 Court Street in Watertown, New York, or when it opened, but from the barrel roof it looks like it was built in the 1930s.

Center Diner, at 13 Bank Street in downtown Peekskill, New York, opened in 1939. This model is called a “National diner,” and it inspired the Sunset Diner in Little Lulu comics.

Photo by Michael Kleen

Swan Street Diner, at 700 Swan Street in Buffalo, New York, is a 1937 Sterling Company diner car, #397. It was originally located in Newark, New York, and successively known as Scofield’s Diner, the Newark Diner, and McBride’s Newark Diner, owned by Paul Scolfield, John Reynolds, and Jim McBride respectively. Scolfield also ran an automotive garage. The diner moved to Ohio in 2013, then to Buffalo, New York for restoration.

Photo by Michael Kleen

Red Line Diner, at 588 U.S. Route 9 (off I-84) in Fishkill, New York, is a DeRaffele model owned by the Vanikiotis Group. It’s become a local favorite since opening in 2012 and is marketed as a healthier alternative to typical diner fare. Its doors are open 24/7 and the red and stainless steel exterior is sharp.

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