If you look up the word diner on Wikipedia, you’ll find that it is defined as “a small restaurant found predominantly in the Northeastern United States and Midwest, as well as in other parts of the US, Canada, and parts of Western Europe. However, the kind of diners we all remember from our childhood are fast disappearing from the American landscape. And that’s a shame. In the past, a good diner was the focal point of many a small town. The food was usually what we referred to as “home cooked,” and included such staples as pot roast, meat loaf, corned beef, and other family favorites. If your mother cooked it, chances are it was also served at the local diner.
Today, when traveling, most of us are forced to eat breakfast or lunch at chain restaurants such as McDonald’s™, Burger King™, Hardy’s™, and Arby’s™. The only thing in favor of these establishments is their ubiquitousness. You can’t go anywhere without running into one. And where there’s one, there are sure to be others. They sit nestled alongside one another like a murder of crows at every off ramp along every Interstate highway. And murder is the appropriate term for what they do to food. The stuff they serve is barely edible (one exception is Chick-Fil-A™, which provides wholesome food at affordable prices). Sadly, we’ve become so used to what they serve that we accept it because it looks and tastes familiar. A good diner, on the other hand, is much harder to find, but doing so is usually well worth the effort.
I guess my love of diners goes way back to two such establishments in New Jersey: Rosie’s at the Route 46 Circle in Little Ferry, and Hagler’s in Oradell. The former was famous for the paper towel commercials shot on its premises, and the latter became famous because NFL legend Bill Parcells frequented it—along with yours truly, who actually knew the Super Bowl winning coach in his youth. Sadly, both diners are long gone.
When traveling through New England about five years ago, we were fortunate to happen upon a real gem, the Littleton Diner, in Littleton New Hampshire. It doesn’t have the classic “diner look” of stainless steel on the exterior. But the interior is authentic, and includes a long counter with swiveling stools, and booths with large windows that overlook the main street on which it is situated. The food was so good that we decided to eat dinner there every night during our four-night stay at a nearby bed and breakfast.
If you’re traveling across the breadth of this land, and you want a good home cooked meal, I urge you to Google a “diner near me,” and point your car in the direction given in the response. Chances are you won’t be disappointed. And if you’re in Littleton, New Hampshire, make sure you try the meatloaf at the Littleton Diner. It rocks!