I first came across this old diner at the corner of Main and Broad streets in Johnson City, New York last winter. It was closed then, but looks like it’s reopened. 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 love everything about this place, from the vintage 7-Up sign to the neon lights and chrome exterior.
J.R. Diner, at 1208 Wolf Street, was manufactured by the Rochester Grills Company in Rochester, New York in the late 1930s. It was originally called Griffeth’s Swanky Diner.
The Blue Dolphin Diner, off New York State Route 17 in Apalachin, New York west of Binghamton, is a Greek-style diner with a very unique sign and a dolphin statue visible from the highway. This place is a travelers’ favorite and opened in 1989.
On my visit, I ordered blueberry pancakes and a side of their homestyle toast. The toast was great and for 95 cents, you can’t go wrong. A stack of three blueberry pancakes are $6.25. I wasn’t prepared for how large they would be and barely finished. I’d recommend ordering two unless you’re really hungry. My waitress was attentive and the food came out fast. I didn’t put on a white glove, but contrary to some reviews, I found the place clean and well-maintained.
They have a separate menu for breakfast, so I didn’t see what they served for lunch and dinner. The breakfast menu is simple, with one page covering all the classics: eggs, omelettes, French toast (on challah bread – a braided, Jewish bread eaten on the Sabbath), pancakes, and Belgian waffles. Nothing fancy here, but it’s very affordable and the portions are generous.
Blue Dolphin Diner has a 4.3/5 average out of 167 Google reviews and 3.5/5 average on Yelp. Reviews are surprisingly mediocre, which was not my experience. Google-user Scott Bigelow even went so far as to write, “If you’re in a hurry this place will do. Get something fried and avoid the bathroom.” Yelp-user Benjamin V. from Boston, MA said, “I’ve eaten at this diner a few times in my life. Now that I am older, I find the quality of food to be sub-par. Normal diner greasy spoon.”
JJ’s Miss Syracuse Diner is located at 258 E. Water Street in Syracuse, New York. Miss Syracuse Diner, a remodeled Bixler, has been a staple of downtown Syracuse for over 80 years but almost burnt down in 2000. Until 2010, it was known as Galloway’s Miss Syracuse Diner. The Bixler Manufacturing Company built these diners in the 1930s.
Lloyd’s of Lowville is a rare classic diner–an actual train car converted into a restaurant. Opened by Lloyd Rasmussen in 1939 at the juncture of Routes 12 and 26 to serve nearby factory workers, it has been a local favorite ever since. Current owner Blair Sandri bought it in 1985, and it still has its original wood furnishings. It’s so beloved, several of its waitresses have worked there for over 25 years.
The rooftop sign looks a little odd because its neon lights have been removed. They were apparently too expensive to maintain or repair, but their removal is disappointing from an aesthetic point of view.
On my visit, I ordered a grilled bacon and cheese sandwich with a side of potato chips for $5.85. It was tasty and reasonably priced. My soda came in a tiny glass, but refills were regular. My waitress was very friendly. Everyone in the place seemed to know each other, but I didn’t feel left out or snubbed for being a new face.
Lloyd’s serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner, but its menu is paired down to two and a quarter pages. Calling it “no frills” would be an understatement. They don’t have any custom items, but they do offer homemade apple cake. They also serve homemade potato and macaroni salad in the summer and chili in the winter. The most expensive items on the menu, including a fried haddock dinner, are only $12.60.
The original Wade’s, an old Pullman car and service station on 9th Street near Route 104 (Bridge Street), was a historic diner that opened in 1937. Unfortunately, an electric fire in August 2015 destroyed the original structure. It was rebuilt in a more modern style to comply with zoning regulations and “support modern technologies.” That technology apparently doesn’t include a credit card reader.
When Neal Wade purchased the Pullman car in the 1930s, he was told he couldn’t haul it across town without a permit. Being enterprising young Americans, Wade and friends decided to expedite the process themselves and hauled it to 9th Street during the night. Since no one could prove how the train car got there, they got away scot-free. In 1983, Anthony Zappala and Joseph Clark purchased the diner. Clark passed away in 2003 and Zappala’s family runs it to this day.
Wade’s is only open for breakfast and brunch, so they have a stripped-down menu offering French toast, pancakes, omelettes, and an assortment of side items, eggs Benedict, frittata, and a breakfast patty melt. They are known for their homemade cinnamon raisin bread. You can purchase a loaf for $6.00 (they also make white, wheat, and rye).
Everyone seems to praise Wade’s breakfast, especially their omelets. It pains me to say that wasn’t my experience. The raisin roast was excellent, but my omelet was under cooked and runny. It came out as quickly as it went in. Maybe I was just there on an off-day.
Photos from The Star Diner at 849 Princess Street in Kingston, Ontario. This storefront diner’s 1960s Atompunk aesthetic is groovy. I ate a crab omelet (on special), and it came with hash browns, toast, and a slice of watermelon. A hidden gem.