Ah, the diner. Whether you’re stopping for a classic cheeseburger, strawberry milkshake, or a nice hot breakfast joined with coffee, you are met with the nostalgic atmosphere of noisy conversations and oversized menus. You are all too familiar with the diners in your town, but when you travel or go on vacation you still want to hit up the local diner. That’s why it is good to know the best diners in the U.S. for when you need a familiar meal in an unfamiliar place during your travels.
What makes a place a diner? “The True American Diner is a casual sit-down restaurant that serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner — all three meals — all day, often for all twenty-four hours of it. Time has no meaning in the presence of eggs, steak, and hash browns. Portions are large but not obscene; sides are available with nearly everything,” says The Awl.
If you’re one who orders just for the picture, then a diner isn’t the place to go. They’re known for their casual atmosphere and comfort food, not the aesthetic. That is, unless you’re going for a retro diner look. This may not seem like a priority when choosing where to get dinner, but it is for most people today. In fact, a third of social media users order menu items just for the picture to post and don’t actually eat it, according to a recent study.
Leather booths, jukeboxes, Formica countertops, and terrazzo floors. These are all things you can expect from the classic look of a diner. No matter the atmosphere you are craving, we have assembled five of the best diners in the U.S. according to experts. If you have experienced a diner that knocked your socks off, let us know in the comments below.
The List: Best Diners in the U.S., According to Expert Reviews
1. Brent’s Drugs in Jackson, Mississippi
With all of these popular diners, one was bound to have made an appearance in a movie. Budget Travel informs us, “Movie buffs may remember Brent’s Drugs from its star turn in ‘The Help,’ but the historic Fondren district diner/soda fountain inside the pharmacy has actually been in business since 1946. Snag a vintage turquoise vinyl booth or a seat at the counter and order up some classic Southern pimento cheese, biscuit sandwiches with a side of cheese grits, or a signature Brent’s Burger washed down with a classic Coke float.”
Guess what? It’s not only a popular diner. From Thrillest, “If the menu’s overwhelming, just keep sampling until it’s time to drink… Brent’s may look like it could host a sock hop.” Despite its 70-year reign, “it’s also hiding Jackson’s best cocktail spot, speakeasy-style, in the back.”
Cool Material feels its history, “it becomes apparent the moment you set foot inside. Retro décor, original soda fountain, and the best burger in Mississippi separate Brent’s Drugs from the competition.” Sounds like a step into “Back to the Future“.
2. The Blue Benn in Bennington, Vermont
Fifty Grande raves about the interior, “This barrel-roofed dining car was one such diner, and rating a meal within the stainless steel walls feels like a time warp. The lazuline-blue-tiled counter with matching stools and the vintage sky-blue booths with wall-mounted jukeboxes will make you feel as if The Beatles might release a new single any day now. While you’re bopping to the music, make sure to try Matheson’s Creation — pancakes packed with chocolate chips and raspberries covered with real Vermont maple syrup.”
“Some of the country’s best diners are found in college towns, and Bennington’s Blue Benn is a noteworthy example,” says The NY Post. They elaborate on the diner’s cuisine, “its hot open-faced sandwiches, fryer treats, and homey desserts have been favorites ever since. Its roast beef sandwich with mashed potatoes and gravy is a must-order, as is a comforting dessert of pumpkin bread pudding.”
Since 1948 the prices are still reasonable. Pure Wow shares, “Step into this old dining car and find a long lunch counter, booths, and jukeboxes to play your favorite old-time songs for 25 cents. Three generously sized blueberry pancakes will cost you only about $5 at this cash-only establishment.”
3. Palace Diner in Biddeford, Maine
All are welcome at the Palace Diner, and they want you to know it. Thrillest says, “Painted on Palace Diner’s facade in yellow letters are the words ‘Ladies Invited,’ which should help illustrate the fact that, as Maine’s oldest diner — founded in 1927 — it was around during a time where that might be the answer to a plausible question. With 15 stools, the space is small and features an equally diminutive menu: eight breakfast items, four sandwiches, and some side dishes. But once you taste the bacon, egg, and cheese deluxe with jalapeños, or the brown butter banana bread, and wash it down with a red birch beer, you won’t need anything else. Satisfied sighs are also invited.”
Some fun facts from Country Living: “Built by the Pollard Company in 1927, Palace Diner is one of three surviving Pollard diners left in America. The cozy eatery only has seating for 15 people, and is often described as one of the best diners in the country despite its equally small menu: It offers seven dishes for breakfast, and four sandwiches for lunch.”
Despite its small size, Fifty Grande says the menu is full of classics, “like corned beef hash, made with grass-fed, brined and braised Maine beef and served with two eggs and toast. There are some modern additions, like caramelized grapefruit sprinkled with sugar that has been brûléed to a honeyed crisp. Some parting wisdom — plastic isn’t accepted at the cash-only spot, so make sure to prepare accordingly, lest ye leave without a slice of brown butter banana bread.”
4. Tom’s Restaurant in New York City
You’re probably not surprised to see the “Seinfeld” diner on the list. “Seinfeld fans will immediately recognize this Morningside Heights corner spot where Jerry, George, and Elaine frequently hung out, but the family-owned joint has actually been in operation since the 1940s. Hearty lumberjack breakfasts, traditional Greek salads, and gravy-drenched hot turkey sandwiches keep loyal customers coming back again and again,” says Budget Travel.
Yahoo mentions, “Tom’s Restaurant serves up plenty of classics like omelettes, burgers, and sandwiches. While you won’t find Elaine’s Big Salad here, you will find a pretty large (and delicious!) Greek salad.”
Tripadvisor shares a customer experience, “What a great breakfast! Great staff! Good, fresh food! Service was exceptional. Easy to find and there was no line when we arrived. I kept expecting Jerry, George, Kramer, and Elaine to walk in any moment!”
5. Ruth’s Diner in Salt Lake City, Utah
Country Living encourages a visit, “If you find yourself in Salt Lake City, a trip to Ruth’s Diner is a must. As the second oldest restaurant in the state, the diner is a treasured eatery. While it’s not open 24 hours, its menu and beautiful space more than make up for it.”
“This Salt Lake City tradition has been around for nearly 90 years, making it Utah’s second oldest restaurant. It’s one of few diners that can boast canyon views, but the real reason to visit is for the fluffy ‘Mile High Biscuits,‘” writes Pure Wow.
That being said, the real star is Ruth herself. Tasting Table gives us a little Ruth history: “Ruth was a character whom people flocked to see, with no regard for the law and always a story at the ready. According to company info, Ruth was a cabaret singer from 1912 to 1916 before becoming a burger-joint owner in 1930. Her restaurant, Ruth’s Diner, opened in 1949 and still operates today. It is said that Ruth would feed the girls in the brothel across the way — not just hot meals, but with stories and warmth as well. As an example of her fierce independence, the diner’s website shares this tidbit: “One of our waitresses visited Ruth after her shift. She sat down on the couch but felt something hard. She reached between the cushions and found a gun. She said, ‘Ruth, this gun is loaded!’ Ruth replied, ‘Well, it wouldn’t do me any good if it wasn’t.’”
You might also be interested in:
- Budget Travel
- Cool Material
- Fifty Grande
- The NY Post
- Pure Wow
- Country Living
- Tasting Table
Note: This article was not paid for nor sponsored. StudyFinds is not connected to nor partnered with any of the brands mentioned and receives no compensation for its recommendations.