These Are the Most Iconic Diners in America

These Are the Most Iconic Diners in America

The diner is a uniquely American eating place, once especially common along the Eastern Seaboard, up into New England. Today there are examples found not only there but scattered around the country, though their numbers have diminished dramatically since the mid-20th century and the rise of cookie-cutter fast-food places.

Diners grew out of horse-drawn lunch wagons — a process equivalent to today’s food trucks spawning brick-and-mortar restaurants. New Jersey, in particular, was a center of lunch wagon manufacturing, and transitioned naturally into becoming the nation’s diner-making capital, producing prefab units that could be shipped around the country and set up almost ready for business.

There are a handful of still-extant diners that were once railroad dining cars (or are built around them), but all classic diners have a shape similar to those conveyances — long and narrow, a configuration that made them easy to deliver by truck or train. Many diners were built in the Art Déco era of the 1920s and early ’30s, and are vivid expressions of that style — which became so firmly associated with these places that even those built later often echoed the look.

Though there are exceptions, traditional diners tend to share a group of characteristics: Most are open only for breakfast and lunch; most have menus featuring a wide assortment of egg and pancake/waffle dishes and burgers and sandwiches, though some also serve heartier fare; they almost never serve alcohol; most have counters, along with at least a few booths; many are found along roadsides. And many are iconic features of their local restaurant landscape.

What makes a diner iconic? Design, longevity, food specialties, associated legend and lore, and its place in the community. To determine the most iconic diners in America, 24/7 Tempo reviewed numerous websites dealing with state or regional dining and commercial history, as well as some sites published by diner candidates themselves, then used editorial discretion to make a final choice.

Though age was not the final determinant in assembling this list, we did find that older diners were the most likely to deserve iconic status. Two date their origins back to the late 19th century, and even the newest one listed here has been around for 66 years. (For more choices, check out the can’t-miss restaurant in every state.)

Angel’s Dining Car

Angel's Dining Car
Source: Courtesy of Edward A. via Yelp

  • Location: Palatka, Florida
  • Year opened: 1932
  • Sample menu items: Clam strip basket, chicken gizzard dinner

Arcade Restaurant

Arcade Restaurant
Source: Courtesy of J.L. P. via Yelp

  • Location: Memphis, Tennessee
  • Year opened: 1919
  • Sample menu items: Harry’s hash brown bowl (with sausage and eggs), fried peanut butter n’banana sandwich

Band Box Diner

Band Box Diner
Source: Courtesy of Jack G. via Yelp

  • Location: Minneapolis
  • Year opened: 1939
  • Sample menu items: Breakfast burger, tuna melt (fresh tuna)

Blue Benn Diner

Blue Benn Diner
Source: Courtesy of Ken C. via Yelp

  • Location: Bennington, Vermont
  • Year opened: 1948
  • Sample menu items: Matheson’s Creation (chocolate chip and raspberry pancakes), roast turkey dinner

Bob’s Diner

Bob's Diner
Source: Courtesy of Daniel P. via Yelp

  • Location: Bainbridge, New York
  • Year opened: 1935
  • Sample menu items: Monte Cristo sandwich, Big Blue Cheese Bacon Burger

Brunswick Diner

Brunswick Diner
Source: Courtesy of RunAway B. via Yelp

  • Location: Brunswick, Maine
  • Year opened: 1946
  • Sample menu items: Sinatra (slow-cooked beef brisket hash with eggs, home fries, and toast), lobster BLT

Casey’s Diner

Casey's Diner
Source: Courtesy of Sagar T. via Yelp

  • Location: Natick, Massachusetts
  • Year opened: 1922 (1927 in current location)
  • Sample menu items: Egg salad melt, chopped ham and cheese sandwich


Source: Courtesy of Angeles W. via Yelp

  • Location: Springfield, Missouri
  • Year opened: 1909
  • Sample menu items: Frito pie, deep-fried “mac & chz”

Clanton’s Café

Clanton's Café
Source: Courtesy of RunAway B. via Yelp

  • Location: Vinita, Oklahoma
  • Year opened: 1927
  • Sample menu items: Belgian waffle, chicken-fried chicken

Clover Grill

Clover Grill
Source: Courtesy of Lon D. via Yelp

  • Location: New Orleans
  • Year opened: 1939
  • Sample menu items: Biscuits and gravy, jalapeño and cheese corn dog

Dumont Crystal Diner

Dumont Crystal Diner
Source: Courtesy of Angelica O. via Yelp

  • Location: Dumont, New Jersey
  • Year opened: 1928-1932 (exact date unknown)
  • Sample menu items: Super Omelette (with sausage, ham, cheese, bacon), Dumont Fire Dept. sandwich (breaded chicken, mozzarella, tomato, honey mustard)

Florida Avenue Grill

Florida Avenue Grill
Source: Courtesy of Paul D. via Yelp

  • Location: Washington, D.C.
  • Year opened: 1944
  • Sample menu items: Fish & grits breakfast, steamed pigs’s feet

Franks Diner

Franks Diner
Source: Courtesy of Santino C. via Yelp

  • Location: Kenosha, Wisconsin
  • Year opened: 1926
  • Sample menu items: Frank’s Garbage Plate (eggs, breakfast meat, cheese, homemade toast), Spam sandwich

Fuller’s Coffee Shop

Fuller's Coffee Shop
Source: Courtesy of S L. via Yelp

  • Location: Portland, Oregon
  • Year opened: 1947
  • Sample menu items: Pig in a blanket, Reuben sandwich

Hamburger Inn Diner

Hamburger Inn Diner
Source: Courtesy of Lisa R. via Yelp

  • Location: Delaware, Ohio
  • Year opened: 1932
  • Sample menu items: “World Famous Mighty Cinnamon Rolls,” garlic burger

Haven Brothers Diner

Haven Brothers Diner
Source: Courtesy of Al L. via Yelp

  • Location: Providence, Rhode Island
  • Year opened: 1893 (as a horse-drawn lunch wagon; today it’s a mobile unit pulled by a truck)
  • Sample menu items: Crispy Buffalo chicken sandwich, bacon and cheese fries

Hector’s Cafe & Diner

Hector's Cafe & Diner
Source: Courtesy of Sandi H. via Yelp

  • Location: New York City
  • Year opened: 1949
  • Sample menu items: Greek burger wrap, meatballs and spaghetti

Historic Village Diner

Historic Village Diner
Source: Courtesy of Patrick N. via Yelp

  • Location: Red Hook, New York
  • Year opened: 1927
  • Sample menu items: Arleen’s homemade corned beef hash, homemade diner dunker donuts

The Hole in the Wall

The Hole in the Wall
Source: Courtesy of Raul G. via Yelp

  • Location: Blairsville, Georgia
  • Year opened: 1931
  • Sample menu items: Stuffed N.Y.-style French toast cheesecake with blueberries, Malibu chicken sandwich grilled with ham and Swiss

Jerry’s Main Lunch

Jerry's Main Lunch
Source: Courtesy of Jerry's Main Lunch via Yelp

  • Location: Burlington, Iowa
  • Year opened: 1946
  • Sample menu items: Country-fried steak and eggs, homemade pies

Joe Brown’s Café

Joe Brown's Café
Source: Courtesy of Rayna B. via Yelp

  • Location: Vancouver, Washington
  • Year opened: 1932
  • Sample menu items: The Fried Thing (ham, eggs, and cheddar on sourdough), turkey melt

Kuppy’s Diner

Kuppy's Diner
Source: Courtesy of John H. via Yelp

  • Location: Middletown, Pennsylvania
  • Year opened: 1933
  • Sample menu items: Eggs Benedict, chipped beef on toast

Lindy’s Diner

Lindy's Diner
Source: Courtesy of Alejandro S. via Yelp

  • Location: Albuquerque, New Mexico
  • Year opened: 1929
  • Sample menu items: Pickle fries with ranch dressing, tamale plate

Littleton Diner

Littleton Diner
Source: Courtesy of Al Z. via Yelp

  • Location: Littleton, New Hampshire
  • Year opened: 1930
  • Sample menu items: Littleton buckwheat pancakes, diner steak-cut chili

Luxury Diner

Luxury Diner
Source: Courtesy of Chad R. via Yelp

  • Location: Cheyenne, Wyoming
  • Year opened: 1926
  • Sample menu items: Red or green chili cheeseburger, chicken club salad

Majestic Diner

Majestic Diner
Source: Courtesy of Jennifer M. via Yelp

  • Location: Atlanta
  • Year opened: 1929
  • Sample menu items: Gyro omelet with feta and mushrooms, fried crispy haddock with tartar sauce

Al’s Breakfast

Al's Breakfast
Source: Courtesy of Bob K. via Yelp

  • Location: Minneapolis
  • Year opened: 1940s (Al’s since 1950)
  • Sample menu items: Grina (scrambled eggs with kosher salami and onions), buttermilk pancakes with corn

Oasis Diner

Oasis Diner
Source: Courtesy of Andrew K. via Yelp

  • Location: Plainfield, Indiana
  • Year opened: 1954
  • Sample menu items: Indianapolis Country Fried Breakfast (Fried tenderloin or chicken breast with eggs, home fries. and toast), Oasis Burger (double burger with pulled pork, bacon, BBQ sauce, coleslaw, pickles and cheddar)

Orem’s Diner

Orem's Diner
Source: Courtesy of Henry F. via Yelp

  • Location: Wilton, Connecticut
  • Year opened: 1921
  • Sample menu items: Brioche French toast, chicken souvlaki on pita

Original Market Diner

Original Market Diner
Source: Courtesy of Kirk I. via Yelp

  • Location: Dallas
  • Year opened: 1954
  • Sample menu items: Chili cheese enchiladas, milky caramel cake

Payne’s Soda Fountain & Sandwich Shop

Payne's Soda Fountain & Sandwich Shop
Source: Courtesy of Seth B. via Yelp

  • Location: Scottsboro, Alabama
  • Year opened: 1869 (counter installed 1939)
  • Sample menu items: Southern pimento cheese sandwich, Grandma’s potato salad


Source: Courtesy of Justin F. via Yelp

  • Location: Santa Monica, California
  • Year opened: 1958
  • Sample menu items: Bacon tidbit waffle, grilled beef liver with onions or bacon


Source: Courtesy of Jenn R. via Yelp

  • Location: San Diego
  • Year opened: 1949
  • Sample menu items: House-made albacore tuna salad, mushroom Swiss burger

Ruth’s Diner

Ruth's Diner
Source: Courtesy of Joyce J. via Yelp

  • Location: Salt Lake City
  • Year opened: 1930
  • Sample menu items: Ruth’s Famous Mile High Biscuits and Country Gravy, peppered pork chop

St. Francis Fountain

St. Francis Fountain
Source: Courtesy of Andrew D. via Yelp

  • Location: San Francisco
  • Year opened: 1918
  • Sample menu items: The Poor Man (chicken-cilantro soup over a biscuit), hot fudge banana split

Snappy Lunch

Snappy Lunch
Source: Courtesy of Aaron B. via Yelp

  • Location: Mt. Airy, North Carolina
  • Year opened: 1923
  • Sample menu items: Breaded cheeseburger, World Famous Pork Chop Sandwich

Virginia Diner

Virginia Diner
Source: Courtesy of J David H. via Yelp

  • Location: Wakefield, Virginia
  • Year opened: 1929
  • Sample menu items: Fried green tomatoes, World Famous Peanut Pie

Summer’s Restaurant

Summer's Restaurant
Source: Courtesy of Nancy C. via Yelp

  • Location: Newberry, South Carolina
  • Year opened: 1954
  • Sample menu items: Flounder dinner, Double Tom Cheeseburger with avocado

The Summit Diner

The Summit Diner
Source: Courtesy of Cindy C. via Yelp

  • Location: Summit, New Jersey
  • Year opened: 1928 (current location since 1939)
  • Sample menu items: Taylor ham and egg breakfast sandwich, Yankee pot roast

White Mana Diner

White Mana Diner
Source: Courtesy of Andy S. via Yelp

  • Location: Jersey City, New Jersey
  • Year opened: 1939
  • Sample menu items: Spicy chicken strips and fries, Big Web burger with cheese and bacon

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