All-American Diner Tour: The Orange Top Diner in Tuxedo, New York

Along a lonesome highway in the middle of nowhere, in a town that’s seen better days, The Orange Top Diner is a real slice of Americana. It is a country-style diner with limited counter seating but plenty of booths and tables. Diner cartoons hang on the walls and a faded photograph of a family of raccoons rescued from a dumpster hangs over the register.

State Route 17 and Interstate 87 run parallel to Harriman State Park and follow the Ramapo River. East of Tuxedo Lake sits the once prosperous village of Tuxedo. It resembles a ghost town these days, with boarded-up businesses along the highway, but The Orange Top Diner stubbornly hangs on.

The usual diner crowd of old timers drinking coffee was there to greet me on my visit. I ordered the Big Boy Special–two pancakes with one egg and meat for $7.75. They must not have a lot of fat people in town if that’s considered the “big boy,” but it was enough to fill me up. My scrambled egg and bacon was piled on top the pancakes, but the bacon was delicious and the grease didn’t spoil my pancakes like at some other places.

The Orange Top Diner has a typical diner menu. The food is simple and affordable, though dinner items are on the pricey side. Only one breakfast item, steak and eggs, is priced above $10.00. Their signature sandwich special, the “Happy Waitress,” is an open-faced American grilled cheese sandwich topped with bacon and tomato, with French fries, cole slaw, and pickles for $8.25.

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Wild West Town Gunfight

I loved visiting Donley’s Wild West Town in Union, Illinois with my dad as a kid in the late 1980s. My favorite part, aside from panning for fool’s gold, was the live action gunfight. They’ve changed the gunfight into a slapstick routine, but it’s all in good fun. I shot some footage and put together this video in the style of an old black and white silent film.

All-American Diner Tour: Empire Diner in Monroe, New York

Located at the juncture of Highway 17M and Schunemunk Road across from Airplane Park in northern MonroeEmpire Diner is a mix of classic and modern styles. They have a variety of delicious desserts, including four shelves of cheesecake.

Empire Diner serves breakfast all day and has an entire gluten-free menu. Aside from the usual diner fare, they have a nice selection of appetizers, lunches, and dinners, including fifteen different wraps to choose from.

On my visit, I ordered the Belgian Waffle Deluxe, which came with bacon, ham, and sausage for $10.99. The food was great. Although I don’t generally like ham, I ran nine miles that morning and needed the protein. The menu is a little on the pricey side. My whole meal including tip and a drink came to over $17.00.

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Deadwood, South Dakota

I’ve written about the Bullock Hotel, but Deadwood, South Dakota deserves an article all its own. I visited Deadwood on a trip that took me to Sturgis, Custer State Park, the Badlands, Devils Tower, and Mount Rushmore, among other places. I’m a huge fan of the old West, so I loved HBO’s series Deadwood (2004-2006), even if the dialogue was ridiculous. Even today, its population is tiny, but it’s the only city in the country that’s designated a National Historic Landmark District.

It’s rare to find a city with so much history, despite surviving predominantly off tourism. Nearly every hotel, bar, and restaurant in Deadwood doubles as a casino. My friend and I visited in early spring, so it was practically a ghost town. I imagine it’s flooded with tourists in the summer, especially when people come to nearby Sturgis for its annual motorcycle rally.

We stayed at the Bullock Hotel, named for Seth Bullock, the first sheriff of Deadwood. It’s one of the most famous haunted hotels in the United States. In 1992, it was featured on Unsolved Mysteries and is reportedly haunted by a host of spirits. The hotel has an entire guestbook where visitors can share stories of their ghostly encounters, although we didn’t experience anything unusual.

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All-American Diner Tour: Flo’s Diner in Canastota, New York

Located along State Route 31 (Lake Road) near Oneida Lake’s southeastern shore, Flo’s is a country-style diner serving up 10-cent coffee to sportsmen, boaters, and tourists visiting nearby Sylvan Beach. You know you’ve arrived when you see a giant rooster statue. Flo’s has a Canastota address, but is actually located five miles north of town.

I’m not a big coffee drinker, so the 10-cent coffee wasn’t a draw for me. I do appreciate the affordable food and fast service. Flo’s offers an “open menu,” meaning you can order anything on the menu at any time. You don’t have to wait to be seated, but it is cash only. They don’t even take debit cards. While you’re eating, you can enjoy a free copy of The Patriot, an independent conspiracy newspaper detailing things like the Rothschild Globalists’ international pedophile ring.

Flo’s has an extensive, traditional diner menu. It’s seven pages long. They serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner. There are no surprises here, except perhaps for the “Fretta” (frittata?), which they categorize into “Flo’s Slop” w/Meat and “Flo’s Slop” w/Veggies. Mmm.. For lunch, they offer Super Burgers, an 8-ounce hand-shaped ground beef patty. The most expensive item on the menu is a Seafood Platter for $15.75, but that is way outside the average. Most items are below $6. Entrees range from $7.75 to $10.95.

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All-American Diner Tour: Mother’s Cupboard in Syracuse, New York

Located on State Route 290 (James Street) near a cemetery and railroad tracks in northeastern Syracuse, New York, Mother’s Cupboard is a greasy spoon serving up giant frittatas and pancakes in the morning and fried fish in the early afternoon.

Think sizzling bacon, fried fish, fried frittatas, french toast and pancakes covered in bacon grease, a chef sweating over a hot grill in front of you while you eat, and you have Mother’s Cupboard in a nutshell. The diner/red shack is famous for appearing on an episode of Travel Channel’s Man vs Food in 2010. If you can finish a full-plate frittata (6-lbs. of eggs, sausage, pepperoni and hash browns), you win a t-shirt and get your photo on the wall.

This diner has a simple and affordable menu, with some interesting surprises. Have you ever wanted to eat outside the box and try peppers and eggs, pepperoni and eggs, or even broccoli and eggs? Now you can, for less than $5. Or just chow down on a full pound of home fries with or without onions for $2.25. That’s a heart attack waiting to happen. They offer 12-inch pancakes as well.

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All-American Diner Tour: Friede’s Diner in Watertown, New York

Located on Court Street near the Black River in Watertown, New York, Friede’s Diner is a greasy spoon serving up affordable breakfast and lunch to a local clientele.

I had an interesting experience at Friede’s. As I walked in and sat down, I got the feeling I was out of place. The waiter (or owner?) asked me what I wanted without even handing me a menu. It’s on a sketchy street with a rundown bar and a few abandoned buildings, so maybe they’re used to regulars who always order the same thing.

I ended up ordering an omelet with toast. The toast consisted of huge slices of homemade bread, which was delicious, but my soda came in a can (a pet peeve of mine). Friede’s also only takes cash and their ATM was busted, but thankfully the owner let me run to a nearby gas station. I guess I look like a trustworthy guy.

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