The Diner...A Slice of American Life

The diner is a way of life in America.  From the Norman Rockwell paintings of the past to the nostalgic theme of many modern day commercials when we say “diner” we have a specific type of eating place in mind.  The word is used loosely.  Frequently it refers to ordinary truck stops, luncheonette cafes, and plain old wooden shacks with neon “EAT” signs outside.  These to us, are not true diners.  When we say “diner”, we are referring to a building that was completely prefabricated in a factory to be a diner.  The building was shipped to its site over the highway on its own wheels and when it reached its destination, the diner was slid onto a foundation.  The final process, from shipping to connection of electrical and water, could take as little as 48 hours.  What really cinched the inevitability of the diner growth was the invention of the automobile and its vast network of highways.

The diner presents a real slice of American life.  While it is not our purpose to indulge in instant sociology, we must not that a diner is one of a few places where doctors, lawyers, garbage collectors and factory workers can be found sitting side by side.  Throughout the twentieth century, filmmakers and artists have been fascinated by the diner.  Who can forget the opening scene of “Little Caesar” where Edward G. Robinson sticks up the owner of a cute little diner?  Also, Woody Allen featured a shot of the Empire Diner in New York in the movie “Manhattan” and continued to use the diner as a central prop in the film “The Purple Rose of Cairo”.

In the last decade, diners gave way to many fast food outlets.  Now, as many things have in the past, the diner returns stronger than ever as the nation becomes swamped with fast food outlets.  Now that the American way of life has sustained the incursion of fast food outlets and heralds the return of the diner, diner owners are prouder than ever in their traditions.  Diner men and women are a special breed.  They are not chefs or restaurateurs and they will be insulted if you refer to them as such.  They are Diner Men and Women and proud of their heritage, their traditions, and they fight hard to preserve their way of life.  The next time you’re in a diner, pay particular attention to the person working the grill.  It’s this worker’s organizational skill and grade that determines the success of the operation.  Eating at a diner is an experience that brings us back to an America that had time to sit down for a tasty quick meal.  The service is quick, but you are rarely rushed out unless it’s lunchtime.  The atmosphere is warm, and the food delightful, made with human hands that care.  It’s a diner- with a feel all its own!