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.
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.
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.
The Blue Dolphin Diner, off New York State Route 17 in Apalachin, New York west of Binghamton, has a very unique sign and dolphin statue visible from the highway. This place is a travelers’ favorite and opened in 1989.
The Red Robin Diner, at 268 Main Street in Johnson City, New York, is a personal favorite. It’s 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. It was closed several years ago but looks like it’s open again!
Danny’s Diner, at 151 Main Street in Binghamton, New York, is a classic Sterling model from 1939. According to Roadfood.com, “Danny’s is very popular today, due in large part, we’re sure, to the efforts of owner Pam, whose personality is a perfect complement to Danny’s. Danny and Pam were once married, and when that marriage ended, Danny’s became Pam’s (in ownership, if not in name).” Guess she didn’t want to take down this glorious sign!