50 States of Diners
Whether they're housed in a historic building, a train station or a genuine old-school dining car, located smack-dab downtown or on the waterfront, these greasy spoons dish up authentic eats with a dash of charm and a sprinkling of regional flair.
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Texas: Blue Bonnet Cafe
The Blue Bonnet Cafe — named for the hat, not the popular Texas wildflower — originated in 1928 on Main Street in Marble Falls and moved to its current location on Highway 281 in 1946. It has remained a staple for locals and visitors alike, and has been family-owned since 1981, when John and Belinda Kemper took over the operation. Many of the staff have been with them for more than 25 years, and the Kempers' oldest daughter, Lindsay, and her husband Dave, joined the team in 2005. The customers have their own legacy too — one couple celebrated their honeymoon at the Blue Bonnet and have returned every year since during their 60-plus-years of marriage. The Blue Bonnet prides itself on home-cooked dishes like pot roast, chicken-fried steak and liver with onions, but its claim to fame is pie. The diner's two-sided pie box case boasts 14 different pie flavors available daily (don't miss the fan-favorite coconut cream), and the diner even celebrates pie happy hour every weekday from 3 to 5 p.m. The pies are so irresistible that thieves even stole whole pies during a burglary at the diner in 1931 (as reported by The Burnet Bulletin).
South Dakota: Phillips Avenue Diner
When this vintage airstream-trailer-turned-diner was located on the west side of Sioux Falls, from 1997 until, it was known as the Market Diner. At the mayor's behest, the owners agreed to move the diner to Sioux Falls' burgeoning downtown on Phillips Avenue, where it's become a mainstay for locals and tourists alike, and they renamed it the Phillips Avenue Diner. The space is flush with classic diner decor, including fixtures such as pecan-hued wooden booths and a main dining counter, alongside design touches like tiled flooring, neon exterior lighting accents and metal-edged tables. For a side of history with your meal, peruse the dozens of framed photos (taken by a revered local photographer) depicting downtown Sioux Falls over the last 75 years. Popular dishes include banana bread toast, a turkey avocado BLT and the Kitchen Sink Burger, where the patty comes topped with pulled pork, American cheese, cheese curds and a spiked mustard sauce. For a taste of the region, try the poutine, a hearty plate of french fries topped with pulled pork, cheese curds and a rich brown gravy; or Swedish meatballs, a nod to the Mount Rushmore state's Nordic heritage, which consists of meatballs served in a spiced brown sauce over egg noodles and paired with lingonberry jam.
Mississippi: Brent's Drugs
Brent's Drugs was founded in 1946 as a pharmacy with a soda fountain in Jackson's Fondren neighborhood, and has long been a gathering place for locals. The pharmacy entity was sold in 2009, but thanks to Fondren resident Brad Reeves and his local partners, Jonathan Shull and Amanda Wells, Brent's 1940s soda fountain and luncheonette charm still shine bright (as do the original turquoise boomerang tabletops and vinyl booths). There's not a bad seat in the house, but visitors stop in almost daily to see where the diner scene from The Help was filmed and to request the booth that Hilly and Skeeter sat in. Keep your order classic and pair a chocolate shake with the perennially popular Brent's Burger, a classic cheeseburger with all the fixins that's made even better with the addition of bacon and a fried egg. And though it might sound like an unlikely combination, the egg-and-olive salad, which you can order as a side or in a sandwich, has earned a fan following of its own.
Minnesota: Mickey's Diner
When David "Mickey" Crimmons and John "Bert" Mattson founded Mickey's Diner in St. Paul in 1939, they couldn't have dreamed of the legacy they'd leave behind. To say that the diner is steeped in history is an understatement: It has operated nonstop, 24/7 for over 80 years and has been operated by three generations of the Mattson family. In 1983, it was named to the National Register of Historic Places, making it one of the first diners to be designated a landmark. The dining car's iconic chrome facade has appeared in numerous movies, been featured on TV shows like Food Network's Unwrapped, Rachael Ray's Tasty Travels and Alton Brown's Feasting on Asphalt, graced countless magazine and newspaper articles, and been frequented by scores of celebrities. And yet, for all the fanfare, Mickey's stays true to its roots as a neighborhood diner. Depending on the time of day, you might families packed into the cozy booths, churchgoers feasting on fluffy buttermilk pancakes, solo diners washing down a burger with a hand-dipped malt, or concertgoers and hockey fans lining their stomachs during the evening bar rush. Whether it's your first time dining here or your 10th, you'll be swept away by a wave of nostalgia.
Louisiana: Slim Goodies Diner
Since Kathleen "Kappa" Horn and her brother, Raymond, founded Slim Goodies Diner in New Orleans in 2002, it has earned legions of fans near and far for its Creole cooking and Big Easy hospitality. The diner has cemented its status as a bedrock of the New Orleans community; it serves breakfast and lunch daily 363 days a year, and after Hurricane Katrina, it was one of the first (and few) restaurants to reopen. Ask for a window booth at the front of the restaurant for views of Magazine Street and prime people-watching, then take in the funky artwork, family photos and thousands of Polaroid photos of patrons while you peruse the menu. You can't go wrong with any of the "Slammers" — creative breakfast dishes with a Creole twist — like the Creole Slammer, where crisp hash browns are topped with two eggs and a crawfish etouffee (a creamy crawfish sauce) that's perfect for mopping up with freshly baked biscuits. From the secret menu, order the waffle burger, where a waffle stands in for the bun to wrap around a juicy patty. If you find yourself here on a particularly steamy day, head to the open-air back patio, set amid a lush garden and outfitted with outdoor air conditioning and fans, and take the edge off with a frozen boozy lemonade.
North Dakota: Kroll's Diner
Jim and Alvina Glatt founded Kroll's Diner in Bismarck in 1969, and though there are now five locations across the Roughrider State, it has remained a family-owned business. Each location maintains a '60s-throwback vibe, with checkered floors, neon accents and a jukebox cranking out tunes. You can't go wrong with classic diner combos like steak and eggs or a burger and a shake, but don't miss the German specialties for which the diner is known. You'll find staples such as fleischkuechle (meat pies) and kuchen (stuffed and deep-fried savory pastries), but the hands-down favorite is Knoephla Soup, a creamy broth-based soup with potato dumplings bobbing in it. It might not be the prettiest dish (at the diner it's fondly referred to as Lumpy Yellow Soup), but there's no denying the warmth and comfort a bowl brings, especially during North Dakota's notoriously harsh winters, when the Fargo location alone goes through 245 gallons of this soup a month. And even if you think you don't have a sweet tooth, the underrated rhubarb caramel roll, made with local wild rhubarb, is a must-try; it strikes the right balance between sweet and tart.
Vermont: Handy's Lunch
Even if you're dining solo, Handy's Lunch is the kind of place where you're bound to end up striking up a conversation with someone at the horseshoe counter. In fact, there are regulars who vie for the seat at the end of the counter so that they can chat with Janet Handy, owner Earl Handy's mother, who still comes in to make burgers and shoot the breeze. Earl is the third-generation owner of the venerated Burlington diner, which was founded by his grandparents as a mom-and-pop grocery store in 1945. The food menu began modestly with coffee, doughnuts and eggs, and expanded over the years to include breakfast and lunch. The signature specials have evolved over time too: When Earl was growing up, Handy's was known for specials like meatloaf Mondays and goulash Tuesdays, but he has put his stamp on the menu with a lineup of oversize breakfast sandwiches. Go big or go home with the Chuck Norris, a five-layer behemoth that weighs three-and-a-half pounds and features five pieces of French toast, four eggs, cheese, ham, bacon, sausage, a hamburger patty and corned beef — all held together by a 10-inch skewer (lest it topple over) and accompanied by a side of Vermont maple syrup. It begs to be savored, but there's a friendly competition among local high schoolers to see who can eat one the fastest.
Indiana: South Side Soda Shop
In the town of Goshen, stepping into South Side Soda Shop is like stepping back in time. The spot was founded in 1910 as Dean's Grocery, and in the 1940s, the owners installed a Bastian-Blessing soda fountain, which remains today. On the older side of the diner, you'll find booths and tables underneath the original tin ceiling; in the early '90s, Nick and Charity Boyd, who took over in 1986, added a dining car with booth seating. Generations of families have called South Side their second dining room, but a starring turn on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives really put it on the map, and its location between The University of Notre Dame and Northern Indiana Amish Country make it a perfect pit stop off the I-80/90 Indiana toll road. The menu is sprinkled with touches from Nick's native Philadelphia, and they are some of the most-popular dishes. They include the Philly Cheesesteak Sandwich, served on an Amoroso hoagie roll, and the Philly Chili, in which egg noodles topped with the diner's award-winning beef-and-bean chili, onions, cheddar and sour cream are served in a soda glass like a savory sundae. There's plenty to sate your sweet tooth, too, from the soda fountain specialties like floats and malts to more than 30 flavors of homemade pie, including the fan-favorite lemon meringue.
California: Patrick's Roadhouse
Before Bill Fischler founded Patrick's Roadhouse in 1973 and it became known as Santa Monica's diner to the stars, the building was first a train station, then one of Al Capone's houses of ill repute (these days the rooms upstairs are rented out on Airbnb) and finally a hot dog stand. Scores of celebrities dine here now, but the famous face that put the diner on the map was Arnold Schwarzenegger, who was discovered at the restaurant and cast in his breakout role as Conan the Barbarian. He started dining at Patrick's Roadhouse frequently with his bodybuilder friends, and was known to eat three orders a day of the now-famous Governator, a kitchen-sink breakfast invented by Schwarzenegger's mom that boasts six eggs, red and green peppers, and sausage. If it's lunchtime fare you're after, try one of Patrick's Roadhouse's equally famous burgers. There's the showstopping Kilt Burger, a half-pound Angus beef patty that boasts a plate-size crisp skirt of melty sharp cheddar, or the Feckit Burger, where the patty is mixed with head chef Josesito's famous "Kick Arse" pico de gallo, then topped with a sweet-savory medley of grilled mango, a basted egg, applewood-smoked bacon and maple syrup. Fischler's son Anthony now owns the spot, and though weekend waits can easily reach the 45-minute mark, he shares an insider tip that you don't need a famous last name to take advantage of: You can call ahead to make a reservation.
Virginia: Texas Tavern
"We seat 1,000 people, 10 at a time." It's one of the first signs you'll notice when you step inside the Texas Tavern, a tiny 24/7 joint that's served Roanoke since 1930. The sign is right: There are just 10 red stools along the stainless-steel counter, and the original stainless-steel pipe foot rail is worn halfway through by the decades' worth of shoes that have rested on it. The sign is also a nod to the brand of quirky humor that's become as signature to the tavern as its homemade meat-and-bean chili (whose name is spelled with an "e" here) and the Cheesy Western, a hamburger topped with a scrambled egg, cheese and homemade relish. Texas Tavern is also locally known as Roanoke's Millionaire's Club; everyone is treated like a millionaire here, and food is dished up with a side of banter (and a hearty helping of BS) from the guys behind the counter. Many of them have worked here since the 1980s and know regulars' orders by heart, but it doesn't hurt if you know the shorthand lingo for ordering: A "bowl" simply means chili, while a "bowl with" means it'll come topped with diced onions; "hot" refers to a hot dog, which comes topped with a rich, beanless chili (fourth-generation owner Matt Bollington likes adding it to his Cheesy Western). Ask for your dog "walking" to get it to go, and don't even think about asking for ketchup — unless you want to catch flak for getting "sissy sauce."
Maine: Becky's Diner
Housed in a former fish processing plant on the edge of Portland's Old Port waterfront, Becky's Diner is a staple for locals, fishermen and tourists alike. The diner opens at 4 a.m. to accommodate the fishing community and waterfront workers, so you'll find a dedicated group of regulars lining the counter and swapping stories over corned beef hash and Maine blueberry pancakes. Lobster may not seem like typical diner fare, but given the diner's location, it's no wonder the crustacean figures prominently on the menu — general manager Zack Rand, son of owner Becky Rand, estimates that they go through up to 35 pounds of fresh-picked lobster meat daily and up to 100 lobsters weekly. You could eat lobster for every meal here if you wanted: a lobster omelet or lobster avocado toast for breakfast, a lobster roll at lunch, and for dinner, the baked stuffed lobster that took a starring turn on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. A whole lobster is split down the middle, packed with a seafood stuffing chock-full of scallops, shrimp and haddock, topped with buttery crackers and butter, then baked until brown and crisp. Weather permitting, snag a seat on the outdoor patio for a view of the very fishing and lobster boats that haul in the fresh seafood featured on the menu.
Nevada: The Coffee Cup
When it comes to dining in the Silver State, Las Vegas usually steals the spotlight. But 25 minutes from The Strip, in the town of Boulder City, The Coffee Cup is turning out classic and creative diner fare that locals, celebrities and tourists can't get enough of. Boulder City is near Lake Mead, so many families heading back from the lake make a pit stop at The Coffee Cup, as do road trippers traveling to the Hoover Dam or the Grand Canyon. And Vegas hotel concierges often send guests here when they're craving home cooking. The chile verde omelet, featured on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, is a fan favorite, featuring a fluffy omelet folded with tender pork and a spicy green chile sauce. If you're in need of a hangover cure, get the Godfather Plate, three tostadas topped with hot Italian sausage, peppers, onions and cheese, all crowned with fried runny-yolk eggs. Or if you worked up an appetite water skiing, try the Kahuna Burger, a cheeseburger topped with sliced ham, pineapple and teriyaki sauce. Weekend waits can climb up to 90 minutes or more, so order a Bloody Mary, crafted with local vodka and Coffee Cup co-owner Carri Stevens' homemade mix, and head outside to watch the hot rods and Harleys ride past while you wait.
Rhode Island: The Middle of Nowhere Diner
Despite its name, The Middle of Nowhere Diner manages to draw hungry crowds from near and far to the town of Exeter. The cozy diner is full of vintage memorabilia and old photos, including a smattering of Elvis photos adorning the wall above the aptly named "Elvis Table," one of the most-requested seats in the house. The Cheers-like vibe means that the staff likely knows your name (or gets to know it), and custom dishes are often named after the customer who requests them. Crowd-pleasing comfort food classics include fluffy pancakes, meatloaf and lasagna, as well as seafood specialties that befit the diner's location in the Ocean State. Look for perennially popular picks like the fish and chips, clam cakes or calamari, but for a quintessential taste of Rhode Island, opt for the stuffies. They're quahog clam half-shells that are stuffed with a mixture of breadcrumbs, herbs, butter and mixed clams (additional veggies or meats are sometimes added), baked till golden and served with lemon and hot sauce.
South Carolina: Stax Omega Diner
When you step into Stax Omega Diner, the first thing you'll likely notice is the bakery case. This is your tipoff to save room for dessert or get a slice of cake to go (try the maple butter pecan). The 16-page menu offers something for everyone. On the savory side, you can't go wrong with any of the Greek specialties, a legacy that owner George Koumoustiotis, whose father founded the diner in 1988, has upheld. He's put his own fresh, Mediterranean-Greek-inspired twist on the menu, including his personal favorite dish, Tuscan Chicken: All-natural chicken is paired with roasted vegetables, grilled asparagus and mashed potatoes, and it's all topped off with herb-infused extra-virgin olive oil imported from the Koumoustiotis family farm in Sparta, Greece. For a taste of low-country South Carolina, try the shrimp and grits, in which tender shrimp are simmered with andouille sausage, smoked bacon and aromatics, all served on a bed of cheesy grits.
Iowa: Drake Diner
Since it opened in 1987, Drake Diner has earned a reputation for hearty Midwestern fare that's so good servers often hear the ultimate compliment from diners: "It's just like Grandma used to make." The railcar diner retains its old-school charm, with neon accents, an open kitchen, counter seating and banks of booths. Regulars, Drake University students and campaigning politicians can't get enough of the bustling diner vibe and made-to-order breakfast classics, such as the signature omelet folded with local sausage, mushrooms and cheese, as well as "better-than-pie" pumpkin pancakes. At lunch, the half-pound burgers are a sure bet. Try the fan-favorite California, with lettuce, tomato, red onion and mayonnaise or the Rarebit Burger, an open-faced number topped with a spicy cheddar sauce. For a throwback meal, order one of the blue-plate-special sandwiches of roast beef, meatloaf or roast turkey piled onto bread, covered with gravy and served with smashed potatoes and vegetables. Be sure to save room for dessert. Shannon Vilmain, who has owned the diner with her husband Steve since 2001, has garnered a following for her pies, especially fruit pies like apple, cherry or peach-blackberry.
Missouri: Crown Candy Kitchen
Ask any local about Crown Candy Kitchen and they're bound to have a story. It's no wonder — the old-school St. Louis soda fountain has been a local institution since 1913, when Harry Karandzieff and his best friend Pete Jugaloff opened it as a family-friendly eatery to showcase their Greek confectionary skills. Crown Candy remains a family affair — Harry's son George took it over in the 1950s, and his three sons, Andy, Tommy and Mike, now run the place — and little has changed over the decades, from the soda fountain to the old wooden booths built by Harry himself. Fittingly, the first thing you'll notice when you walk in is the candy case, which is lined with old-fashioned candies and chocolates like the signature Heavenly Hash, gooey marshmallows covered in chocolate and pecans. To satisfy the demand for seasonal treats like chocolate Easter rabbits, Andy starts hand-pouring them in January — turning out 10,000 chocolate bunnies a season. Crown Candy makes its own ice cream, too, including flavors like black walnut, a regional specialty crafted with Ozark black walnuts, which are lauded for their rich, nutty-sweet flavor. There's plenty here to sate your sweet tooth, but the place has also earned a reputation for its sandwiches, especially the BLT. It's a monstrous, meaty masterpiece that boasts 15 slices of bacon piled high with lettuce and tomato on Texas toast slicked with Miracle Whip.
Alabama: Duck's Diner
Situated on Alabama's Gulf Coast, Orange Beach is a well-known haven for water-sports enthusiasts and beachgoing tourists. But the spot that locals want to keep a secret is Duck's Diner. It's a casual neighborhood joint that attracts legions of dedicated regulars who can't get enough of the laid-back vibes and homey Southern cooking. A classic "meat and three" is a sure bet — try pairing the country-fried steak with turnip greens, macaroni and cheese, and sweet potato casserole, then mop up the pepper gravy with a cornbread muffin. You'll also find signature dishes to tempt you, whether your tastes skew sweet or savory, like the banana-stuffed French toast, which comes deep-fried, rolled in cinnamon sugar and drizzled with butter pecan sauce, or the Creole grit cakes, where smoked-Gouda-infused grits are deep-fried, topped with grilled tomato slices and smothered in a Parmesan Creole shrimp sauce. Now that the secret is out, here's one more tip: For the best view in the house, snag a seat at the bar overlooking the putting green at Orange Beach Golf Center.
Alaska: Kriner's Diner
Before Andy and Norann Kriner opened Kriner's Diner in Anchorage, they owned Sal's Klondike Diner — and, happily for locals, they brought their friendly hospitality and the family recipe for their famous giant cinnamon roll with them. The Kriner Cinnamon Roll is so beloved that diners travel from across The Last Frontier just to snag one (don't even think about posting a photo on social media unless you're prepared to bring home extras!). The Kriners' baking game is strong — they're also known for their huge loaves of homemade sourdough that they bake in coffee cans and use to craft sandwiches, burgers, French toast and garlic bread. Besides the oversize baked goods, Kriner's Diner is known for creative fare, printed on an equally distinctive menu that's chock-full of fun facts about Alaska, Kriner family stories and more. (It's become something of a collector's item, so don't be shy about asking to take one home as a souvenir.) Opt for Andy's Awesome Burger, a sweet-spicy winner where the patty comes topped with honey BBQ sauce, onion straws, bacon and homemade jalapeno cheese. The diner sells around 10,000 of these burgers every year, and a portion of the proceeds is donated a local charity called The Children's Lunchbox — over $30,000 to date. The diner is also known for its free-to-all Thanksgiving dinner, complete with roasted turkey and all the fixins.
Ohio: Hathaway's Diner
Lloyd and Vera Hathaway opened their namesake diner in 1956 inside Carew Tower, which was then downtown Cincinnati's tallest building. The diner itself has gained a larger-than-life reputation by feeding generations of locals, from solo diners to curious foodies to longtime regulars, as well as a long list of famous folks, including Elvis Presley and President Eisenhower. The 1950s diner vibe is palpable: photos from Cincy's glory days on the wall, vibrant red accents throughout and golden oldies on the sound system. One of the waitresses, Geneva, has worked at the diner since 1979. The menu reflects a solid roster of dishes made with love, like the open-faced roast beef sandwich and the slow-smoked brisket. For a hyperlocal dish, order the goetta omelet or the GLT sandwich, both of which feature goetta, a strictly Cincinnati food that reflects the city's deep German roots. It's a meat-and-grain sausage typically made with pork and beef and bound together with pinhead oats, then prepared by mashing, mushing, slicing and frying it. Goetta can be an acquired taste, but those who love it will even eat it plain or doctored up with syrup or ketchup.
Florida: Peter Pan Diner
Since 1979, Peter Pan Diner has been fueling Fort Lauderdale locals and tourists with breakfast at any time of day. In fact, the breakfast offerings here are so popular that the diner goes through more than 1,000 dozen eggs every week. The prices hark back to another era too: Opt for the #4 and you'll get two pancakes, two eggs and two bacon strips for $4.50. If you've got a heartier appetite, get the Paulie Slam, which comes with three eggs, three pancakes, sausage and bacon. Besides the stellar breakfasts, Peter Pan is known for its Greek dishes. Even if the decor doesn't give that fact away, you'll likely notice the frequency of dishes like gyro platters, gyro meat served with Greek salad, fries, pita and a side of tzatziki sauce, and spinach pies being delivered to most tables. No matter the hour, save room for one of the scratch-made desserts. Order a slice of the perennially popular Chocolate Supreme, a chocolate cake with a whole cheesecake stuffed inside, or try the seasonal pumpkin swirl cheesecake, which hits the menu around Halloween and stays until New Year's.
Maryland: Sip & Bite Diner
Olympian Michael Phelps may have put Sip & Bite Diner on the national map when he dined here, but this third-generation, family-run Baltimore diner has been a local fixture since 1948, serving all walks of life, including blue-collar workers, families, lawyers and Towson University students. For a breakfast of champions, try Michael Phelps' namesake French toast, which comes stuffed with Nutella and topped with strawberries, whipped cream and a dusting of powdered sugar, or the hangover-busting breakfast sandwich made with a runny-yolk egg, avocado, bacon, cheese and sriracha. If it's a taste of the region you're after, opt for anything that features crab cakes, crafted with locally sourced crab. You'll find them folded into scrambled eggs, anchoring eggs Benedict, sandwiched on a bun and served as part of a platter. Owners Sofia and Tony Vasiliades have also maintained their family's proud Greek heritage with an extensive roster of specialties like gyros, souvlaki and the best-selling spanakopita, a cheesy spinach pie that Guy Fieri fell hard for on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.
Utah: Idle Isle Cafe
The Idle Isle Cafe was established in 1921 on Brigham City's Main Street. It remains one of the oldest operating restaurants in Utah, complete with original fixtures like handcrafted wood booths, an antique grandfather clock and a marble-and-onyx soda fountain. The diner's homestyle, scratch-made cooking harkens back to a bygone era too, with old-fashioned specials like liver with bacon and onions, meatloaf, and corned beef and cabbage peppering the menu. For a timeless classic, opt for anything starring the diner's slow-roasted pot roast, served as part of a meal with all the fixins, on a chef salad, or piled onto sandwiches like a French dip or hot beef. Some customers travel from miles around on specific days for specials like mountain trout, grilled Reuben sandwiches or turkey dinners served with yeasty, fresh-baked rolls. Save room for desserts featuring idleberries, a sweet-tangy combination of blueberries and marionberries, which find their way into sweet treats such as cheesecake, milkshakes and the diner's signature pie, served warm (pro tip: get it a la mode).
Arizona: Harlow's Café
Before it was known as Harlow's Café, back in the day this Tempe diner was called May West (a play on the names of the original owner, Conrad May, and film star Mae West). In a nod to vintage Hollywood, the diner's wood-paneled walls are filled with photos and posters of classic movies. But you don't need to have a famous last name to get the A-list treatment, so it's no wonder that some regulars dine here twice a day. All walks of life gather here: Settle on a stool and you might share the counter with an Arizona State University student, a city employee or even the town mayor. Not much has changed since the diner's inception in 1976, including its reputation for hearty helpings of scratch-made fare. The menu is as oversize as the portions, but anything with homemade chorizo is a sure bet (the diner goes through about 200 pounds every week). Look for specialties under the South of the Border Breakfast section, like the Chorizo-rito Burro, or Chorizo & Eggs, served with hash browns and your choice of tortillas, toast or biscuits. You can also opt to get chorizo added to your Eggs Maximilian, which has rightfully earned its reputation as a hangover cure. It starts with a flour tortilla that's topped with hash browns, diced green chiles, onions, three large eggs, sour cream and the cafe's own salsa. To add a little hair of the dog, wash it down with a Bloody Mary.
Arkansas: Rolling Pin Cafe
Since the Rolling Pin Cafe opened in 1993 in Fayetteville, it has been a community staple, serving just about everyone from college students to retirees, the suit-and-tie set to blue-collar workers. Travis Freeman has worked at the diner since it opened, his wife Devona since 1997, and together the couple took over operations from Travis' parents in 2007. Since then, the two have worked side by side every weekend at the grill, where many regulars clamor for a seat at the counter for a glimpse of the cooking action. Try the fan-favorite omelet known as The John Wayne (after one of Travis' nicknames), a hearty combination of sausage, ham, bacon, tomatoes, onion, green peppers, jalapenos, sour cream and cheddar. The diner is also known for its biscuits and gravy, both savory (cream or sausage) and sweet (chocolate — don't knock it till you try it!). Save room for one of Devona's sweet treats, like homemade pies made with fruit from local orchards or the weekend-only caramel rolls.
Georgia: The Silver Skillet
The Silver Skillet has been around since the 1950s, but really found its footing in 1967, when George and Louise Decker took over the place. Back in the day, George was a meat salesman and the Skillet was a customer; when it was for sale, he jumped at the chance to own the place. His daughter, Teresa, and her husband Jeff, have run the venerable Atlanta diner for more than three decades, carrying on the greasy spoon's reputation for down-home Southern cooking. Snag a seat in one of the Naugahyde booths or, better yet, sidle up to the counter, where you're just as likely to be seated next to a local politician or Georgia Tech student as you are to a movie star in town for a shoot. If you're here for breakfast, opt for a Southern staple like chicken and waffles or country ham with redeye gravy (made with pan drippings and coffee), perfect for mopping up with a fluffy biscuit. Linger a little longer with another cup of coffee and work up the appetite for a slice of luscious lemon icebox pie, crafted after George's original recipe.
Hawaii: Rock Island Cafe
Rock Island started as a Waikiki Beach gift shop in 1969, but it's become a fixture for both tourists and locals (including singer Bruno Mars) since it became Rock Island Cafe in 1999. It's got a funky 1950s-diner-meets-tiki-bar vibe, and the whole place is decorated with Elvis Presley and Marilyn Monroe memorabilia and collectibles. It's all for sale too, so the decor evolves over time — staff often joke that if a piece of memorabilia gets too dusty, they just mark down the price instead of cleaning it. The throwback vibe extends to the 45-rpm record that diners receive after they place orders at the counter. Elvis may be king, but on the menu kalua pork reigns supreme. It's prepared in the traditional Hawaiian luau way, cooked in an underground oven called an imu. The smoky pork anchors the signature Porky Pig sandwich, where the shredded strands are bolstered with a sweet barbecue sauce, but it also takes a starring turn topping nachos, hot dogs and pizza, too. Wash it down with a shake or a float from the soda fountain, or if you're feeling tropical, a mai tai.
Connecticut: Georgie's Diner
Georgie's Diner was built in 1956 in New Rochelle, New York. In 1967 it was moved to the coastal town of West Haven, Connecticut, where it's been a fixture ever since, serving neighborhood locals, tourists and students from the nearby University of New Haven. Greek immigrants George and Irene Anthis bought the diner in the early 1970s, and today their children, brother-and-sister team Nico Anthis and Georgette Kapetaneas, run the show. In 2009 they restored the diner to its original 1950s glory, complete with stainless steel fixtures, terrazzo floors, neon accents and red-and-white booths. The focus on food made from scratch is a constant as well: The team mill their own flours, grind their own meat, press their own juice and bake their own bread. Pull up a stool at the counter for the best view of the kitchen action to watch burgers, omelets and pancakes sizzle on the time-worn griddle. Don't miss the fan-favorite Seoul burger. A custom patty — featuring a blend of 60-day dry aged rib eye, sirloin and brisket — comes topped with kimchi, crisp bacon and the house cheese sauce, all piled onto a brioche bun. Dessert here is another must. Try perennial favorites such as Belgian Death Cake or New York cheesecake, or highly sought-after seasonal treats such as homemade toasted coconut ice cream or vegan Key lime tarts. After your meal, take a stroll on the boardwalk to soak up the beach vibes and ocean air.
Idaho: Jimmy's Down the Street
Though Jimmy's Down the Street has gone by many names since it was founded in the 1940s, the diner has retained its mom-and-pop charm. Because of its location in the resort town of Coeur d'Alene, it's a popular stop for water sports-loving tourists and outdoor enthusiasts, but it's locally beloved, too. Inside you'll find an old-school diner vibe, complete with vinyl booths, counter stools and old license plates adorning the walls, all of which are donated by patrons. The nostalgia-inducing menu reads like a roster of classic comfort food favorites, including dishes such as corned beef hash, biscuits and gravy, and chicken-fried steak at breakfast, or burgers, meatloaf and chili at lunch. When Guy Fieri visited for an episode of Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, he was a fan of the chicken and dumpling soup, but the dish that stole the show was the oversize caramel-pecan cinnamon roll. The rolls are baked fresh daily by Gretchen Surber, who owns the diner with her husband Mike, and are so popular that they often sell out before the day's end.
Illinois: The Igloo Diner
The Igloo Diner has been a local institution in the Illinois Valley since 1937, so when Peru natives Rich and Chris Decker bought the place in 2010, they knew they were also buying a slice of history. The pair have continued to run the place as if the original owners, Louie and Stephanie "Pat" Mazzorana, were still in charge, much to regulars' delight. The Igloo, as it's known locally, is often the first stop for folks coming back into town, and is so consistently popular that you might even see four generations of one family dining together (and the older members likely ate here as kids, too). On the menu front, the diner's claim to fame is its pork tenderloin sandwiches, which feature a hand-trimmed, pounded and lightly breaded pork tenderloin that's deep-fried till golden-crisp. Order it with "the works" and it'll come with ketchup, pickles and onions (but no mustard); don't forget to include a side of hand-cut fries. It's worth it to check out the sandwich of the month, like The Carnivore, a triple-patty beast stacked with three cheeses, bacon, lettuce and tomato on a bun slicked with chipotle mayo, or The Oh-La-Laa, a burger inspired by French onion soup. Wash it all down with a glass of homemade root beer.
Kansas: Doo-Dah Diner
"Doo-Dah" is Wichita's nickname, and this diner has a vibe as whimsical as its name — with mismatched thrifted dishware, hipster cocktail party music and an over-the-top menu of creative comfort food. The diner has a fan following that includes ESPN college basketball announcers, Broadway musical stars and even movie star Harrison Ford (who visits a few times a year when he's getting his plane serviced). Perhaps the most-devoted regular is local Richard Holmes, an octogenarian who has eaten at the diner nearly every day and writes the "Counter Chat" blog on the diner's website, chronicling his conversations with people he meets at Doo-Dah's breakfast counter. Don't miss the signature Banana Bread French Toast, slices of homemade banana bread that are fried and then topped with sauteed candied apples, apple butter, whipped cream, candied pecans and housemade vanilla-molasses syrup (as a bonus, it's gluten-free).
Kentucky: Wagner's Pharmacy
Kentucky is synonymous with horse racing, even when it comes to diners. Louisville's Wagner's Pharmacy, located across the street from Churchill Downs (home of the Kentucky Derby), has long been a go-to for jockeys and racegoers. Leo Wagner founded it in 1922 after he purchased Hagen's Pharmacy; looking to expand his business, he sold horsemen cigarettes and weekly goods on credit and then started serving breakfast and lunch to a dedicated group of jockeys and trainers. In 1965, he bought Becker & Durski, a well-regarded supplier of turf goods and tack products, and Wagner's became a go-to spot for horsemen to eat, dress and outfit their stables. (There are even a few horse ties in the parking lot in case a horseman is really in a rush!) The Wagners sold the pharmacy entity in 2014, but the diner remains a staple not just for jockeys, trainers and racehorse owners, but for University of Louisville athletes, tourists and loyal regulars, too. There's loads to love on the homey Southern menu: Try pairing the locally famous vegetable soup with a fried bologna sandwich or Derby sandwich, a toasty honey-glazed ham and Swiss. If you happen to be in town during the Kentucky Derby, don't miss the Kentucky Hot Brown, an open-faced hot turkey sandwich topped with tomatoes and Mornay sauce.
Massachusetts: Corner Lunch Diner
Corner Lunch Diner was built in 1955 in New York. In 1958 it was moved to Worcester, on the corner of Lamartine Street and Lafayette Street, where it has remained a local landmark ever since. You can't miss this old-school diner — it's one of the city's largest and boasts a baked-enamel finish in '60s shades such as pastel yellow and green. Regulars love being treated like family (with a healthy dose of sarcasm included) and snag counter stools early for breakfast specials like Two for the Day, a plate of two eggs, two pieces of bacon (or sausage), home fries, toast, a fluffy buttermilk pancake and coffee that will set you back just $5.59. If you're packing an appetite, opt for The Mess, a breakfast that owner Charles Boukalis whipped up at a customer's request. Seasoned hash browns are folded with onions, peppers and scrambled eggs, plus ham, bacon or sausage (or all three, if you want), then the whole lot is topped with cheddar sauce. On Fridays, locals clamor for New England specialties like fish 'n' chips and clam chowder, and those in the know always save room for scratch-made desserts like summer-ready strawberry shortcake.
Michigan: The Fleetwood Diner
The towns of Ann Arbor and Lansing may make national headlines for their college sports teams, University of Michigan and Michigan State University, respectively, but The Fleetwood Diner has earned local fandom with two locations of its classic 24/7 diner. The throwback vibes are the real deal — the original Ann Arbor location has been around since 1949 — with stainless steel, neon signage, black-and-white checkered tiling and vinyl counter stools. There's something for anyone, anytime of day, but the dish The Fleetwood is most famous for is Hippie Hash. Crispy homemade hash browns are topped with a medley of grilled green peppers, onions, tomatoes, broccoli and mushrooms, and blanketed with feta cheese, adding up to a cheesy, savory bite that's perfect for refueling after an all-nighter (whether from studying or partying; we're not here to judge). Order it "meaty" and it'll come with a hearty helping of homemade corned beef hash, or swap in tempeh if you want to keep it vegetarian.
Wyoming: Luxury Diner
The Luxury Diner opened in Cheyenne since 1926; when it closed for a month in 2015 and rumors circulated that it was going to become a pizzeria, Sherrie Lyle bought it to keep a slice of Highway 30 history alive. One side of the diner is a repurposed trolley car that, local lore has it, ran in Cheyenne from 1894 to 1912. For the best seat in the house, ask for the round table in the front of the trolley for views of the kitchen, dining car and expanded dining room. Some of the recipes are decades old too, like the homemade sausage gravy and the green chili, which is so popular that the diner goes through at least five gallons daily and 10 on weekends. Try it on the popular Santa Fe Burrito, a 12-inch flour tortilla wrapped around refried beans, housemade salsa, scrambled eggs and shredded cheddar, all topped with a large ladle of green chili. For a taste of the region, order the chicken-fried steak, a piece of tenderized round steak that's dredged, fried and covered in sausage gravy to supremely savory effect. Finish sweet with an oversize homemade cinnamon roll for the table — it's so big that just one has been known to feed up to eight people.
Montana: Shellie's Country Cafe
After toiling in the restaurant business for more than 30 years, from serving to bartending to cooking to management, Shellie Mitchell decided to test her grit and open her own place. In 2007, she opened Shellie's Country Cafe in the mountain town of Helena with just seven tables and a small bar. When lines consistently formed around the building (and then some), Mitchell knew it was time to expand and moved to a larger location along Highway 12; in 2018 she opened a second location on the opposite side of town. Open 24/7, the diner is a hub for just about everyone: truck drivers, families, late night-revelers, students, retirees, outdoor enthusiasts and visitors to Yellowstone National Park and Glacier National Park. Shellie's lays claim to the largest short-order menu in the state, turning out dishes that span every meal while abiding by the motto "nothing fancy, just good food." The diner is especially known for its Holy Cow menu, which boasts double-size portions of some of the cafe's signature dishes, including chicken-fried steak, breakfast burritos, omelets and one-pound burgers (try a bison burger for a truly local taste). Save room for a scoop of locally made huckleberry ice cream from Wilcoxson's; the berries grow wild here and taste like a cross between a blueberry and a cherry. Or opt for a slice of the locally famous homemade cream pies. Mitchell's daughter Aimee bakes more than 23 flavors, including the peanut butter chocolate and the fan-favorite chocolate Oreo.
Nebraska: Hi-Way Diner
The Hi-Way Diner is indeed located on a highway — Highway 2, to be exact — making it a popular pit stop for road trippers. But for more than three decades, the 24/7 eatery has also fed generations of Lincoln residents, many of whom eat there as kids and then, years later, return with their own kids. The vibe harks back to another era too, with loads of antiques, porcelain signs and neon accents adorning the space, and a menu of simple, home-style cooked dishes. Given Nebraska's reputation for top-notch beef, you'd be wise to order accordingly. Try the chicken-fried steak with country gravy (particularly popular for breakfast here), or opt for owner Scott Walker's favorite, a hot beef sandwich featuring thick slices of tender chuck roast piled atop a slice of grilled Texas toast, served with mashed potatoes and gravy. But perhaps there's no beefier taste of the heartland than the Gorilla burger, featuring a burger that weighs two-thirds of a pound and is topped with three slices of American cheese and three strips of bacon, all piled onto grilled Texas toast. After hours, the late-night crowd here is partial to a dish with the tongue-in-cheek name the Hot Stripper, featuring a combo of grilled Texas toast, hash browns and three chicken strips, all topped with a ladle of sausage gravy (you can gild the lily by adding eggs and cheese).
New Jersey: Summit Diner
The Summit Diner was built in Elizabeth and dropped off in the town of Summit in 1939, where it has operated continuously to this day. Jim Greberis' uncle and father-in-law bought it from the original owners in 1964, and he and his wife Michelle have run the place since 1980. Not much has changed over the decades: The facade is the same stainless steel with green-and-white enamel lettering, and inside, the mahogany walls, the Italian black marble countertop and the tiling on the floor, walls and counters are all original. You won't hear any music playing, as the intimate space and buzzy chatter provide enough of a soundtrack throughout the day. The menu includes eggs any way by day and hearty fare like roast beef, ham or turkey dinners by night. You'll find a smattering of Greek specialties like moussaka (an eggplant-based dish), spinach pie and pasticcio, which is like moussaka layered with wide spaghetti, chopped meat and a bechamel sauce topper. For a true Jersey breakfast, opt for the Taylor ham (a brand of pork roll), egg and cheese sandwich.
New Hampshire: Four Aces Diner
The Four Aces Diner was manufactured in Worcester, Massachusetts, so it evokes a classic East Coast diner feel, with art deco flair, colorful ceramic tiles and a stainless-steel finish. Since Four Aces arrived in West Lebanon in 1952, it's been a mainstay to generations of Dartmouth students and working-class regulars, so much so that you can see where the countertop has been worn down by people's elbows over the years. Four Aces is best known for its breakfast, including homemade corned beef hash (the diner goes through 250 pounds of it a week), pancakes, malted Belgian waffles and eggs Benedict. Expect nothing less than pure New Hampshire maple syrup to accompany your 'cakes, whether you order buttermilk or the signature pineapple upside-down pancakes. For a taste of New England, try the red flannel hash, a corned beef hash that's studded with diced beets and served with a side of maple baked beans. Save room for a maple-glazed sour cream doughnut, or bag one for the road. If you really want to treat yourself, order it grilled and it'll come sliced in half, filled with whipped cream and drizzled with maple syrup.
New Mexico: Lindy's Diner
The history behind its name is murky, but Lindy's Diner is well-documented as being one of the oldest restaurants on Route 66 in New Mexico. Since 1929, the Albuquerque diner has welcomed folks of all stripes, including businesspeople, the mayor, TV and movie stars (over 32 movies have been filmed here!), the homeless and even President Clinton (and his Secret Service entourage), who gave a speech at its front door. Even four-legged, furry friends are welcome on the dog-friendly patio. Look for signature dishes like the Cowboy Breakfast (often ordered outside of morning hours), a chicken-fried steak smothered in green chili (made with local Hatch chiles) and cheese and paired with pinto beans, hash browns and eggs, plus a tortilla and a grilled jalapeno. The burgers are as creative as they are huge, like the Green Chile Cheeseburger, a half-pound patty topped with Hatch green chiles and American cheese on a toasted brioche bun. In a nod to the Greek roots of the Vatoseow family, who have owned the diner since 1971, the Spartacus Burger is topped with sliced gyro and feta and served with a cooling side of tzatziki sauce.
New York: The Square Diner
The staff at The Square Diner in New York City's Tribeca often joke that it could be called Square Diner Studios because of all the movie, TV and photo shoots it has hosted. Even if you've never set foot inside it, there's no denying the old-school charm and nostalgic appeal radiating from the vintage train-car-style diner. The timeless vibe is echoed by the oldies tunes, quirky signage and ample booth seating. The clientele is as diverse as the Big Apple, ranging from law enforcement to office workers, tourists to celebrities (like true New Yorkers, the staff don't name names), but most everyone agrees that the homemade corned beef hash makes for a stellar brunch choice (and hangover cure). The buttermilk pancakes, scattered with toppings like berries, chocolate chips or coconut flakes, are a fan favorite among kids (and kids at heart). For a taste of classic New York, opt for one of the signature sandwiches, like a turkey club or the NYC Classic, which stars corned beef, sauerkraut and Swiss on grilled rye (the dairy-averse can opt for corned beef on rye with mustard for an equally nostalgic New York throwback). Snag a seat at one of the sidewalk tables for a side of people-watching with your meal. (33 Leonard Street, New York, NY 10013)
North Carolina: Smith Street Diner
"Country style cooking, eight days a week." Smith Street Diner's tagline, printed on the side of the building, on the door and on the menu, is one of the quirky inside jokes that has stuck since the Greensboro diner's inception in 2005. The place is justly famous for serving the biggest biscuit in the 'Boro: There are about a baker's dozen styles of biscuits in the South, and the one served here is a cathead biscuit (so named because it's as big as a cat's head). The buttery, crumbly rounds are a fine match for all manner of breakfast fixings, like scrambled eggs, bacon or local Neese's sausage with a side of sausage gravy. Doctor up your breakfast biscuit with a glug or two of tangy Boar & Castle sauce (invented by an old-school Greensboro restaurant of the same name) or take things sweet with a side of homemade apple butter. Don't miss the fried chicken special on Thursdays, when owner Beth Kizhnerman (who is a classically trained chef) fries up her signature birds dredged in buttermilk and hot sauce.
Oklahoma: Shortcake's Diner
Glen and Gayla Higgins opened Shortcake's Diner in 1984, and it has remained a family-run restaurant in the heart of Stillwater. All six of their kids and even some of the grandkids have worked at the restaurant, and daughter (and current co-owner) Charley even remembers sleeping under one of the booths while her parents worked the crazy hours required to get a 24/7 diner up and running (they have since reduced the hours). The decor is minimal, but just about everything from the booths to the bar stools is bright orange, a nod to nearby Oklahoma State University's team colors. Scores of students and local regulars clamor for a taste of home cooking, especially hungry athletes. Former OSU and NBA basketball star Bryant "Big Country" Reeves used to order two Country Breakfasts at a time, for a hearty helping of eggs, breakfast meat and pancakes (or waffles or biscuits). Another fan favorite is the chicken-fried steak, featuring hand-breaded and fried cube steak from local meatpacking company Ralph's, paired with eggs at breakfast or on a sandwich anytime.
Colorado: Durango Diner
Durango, a picturesque mountain town in southern Colorado, has earned its reputation as a travel destination with its beautiful summer weather, extended fall leaf-peeping season and superb winter skiing. No matter your reason for visiting, no trip to Durango is complete without a stop at the Durango Diner. Gary and Donna Broad have owned the landmark eatery on historic Main Avenue since 1980 and still pride themselves on cooking everything from scratch, from huevos rancheros to the "biggest and best in the West" hotcakes (a nod to the plate-size pancakes Gary ate at Long Island diners as a kid). Snag a stool counter or one of a handful of tables, then peruse the menu. Anything with Gary's housemade green chili is a solid option; try it in the The Cure, where it's lavished over grated-to-order local potatoes that are covered in cheese and scattered with your choice of toppings. The green chili and the Southwest salsa are so popular that they've been permanent fixtures at local grocery stores for more than 20 years, and Gary estimates the diner ships out at least a case a day.
Oregon: Fuller’s Coffee Shop
When Jack Fuller opened Fuller's Coffee Shop in North Portland in 1947, his aim was to give the working-class neighborhood a place to eat homemade food at a fair price. That ethos has remained a constant throughout the decades, despite inevitable change: In 1960, the diner relocated to Portland’s Pearl District; in 1979, Jack handed over the reins to his son, John; and in 2019, Fuller's became a division of locally owned Urban Restaurant Group. Owners Mark and Carla Byrum have preserved the lunch counter's retro charm with fast, friendly service and a menu of classic American eats, plus signatures like homemade bread and a bottomless cup of joe. Pull up a stool at the counter and sip a cup while you peruse the menu. Breakfast is available all day, and you can’t go wrong with classics such as corned beef hash or golden slabs of custardy French toast, which also take a starring turn in the Monte Cristo, a grilled ham, turkey and Swiss sandwich. If you’re in the mood for lunch, the recommended move is the Fuller's Burger — a perfectly seared thin patty, crisp lettuce, tomato, pickles and secret sauce piled onto a squishy bun — paired with a creamy milkshake.
Delaware: Kozy Korner
Kozy Korner has been slinging breakfast and lunch to Wilmington families for generations, so it's no surprise that servers know their regulars' orders by heart and have their drinks waiting for them. The family-run diner was founded in 1922 by John Vouras in downtown Wilmington, where it flourished, and was eventually was passed on to his son Nick in 1964, who ran the business for 20 years before the building was replaced by a high-rise hotel. In 1992, Nick revived the diner at its current location in the Hilltop neighborhood, where the photos on the wall proudly pay homage to the original location. Third-generation owner John Vouras maintains the diner's legacy, including the Greek specialties for which it has become well-known. Spanikopita, moussaka and John's personal favorite, marinated-chicken gyros, share the menu with American classics like chipped beef, a throwback dish of dried beef and cream sauce on top of toast. For a taste of the Mid-Atlantic, try scrapple: pork scraps combined with cornmeal, formed into a loaf, sliced and pan-fried. Whether or not you're a vegetarian, the veggie Reuben is a sleeper hit, featuring a satisfying medley of sauerkraut, Swiss, tomatoes, onions and Thousand Island dressing sandwiched between slices of grilled Jewish rye.
Tennessee: Pete's Restaurant
Since opening Pete's namesake Knoxville restaurant in 1986, Pete Natour and his wife Rita have earned a loyal following among locals, tourists and University of Tennessee students for their family-friendly atmosphere and home-cooked meals. The couple started the diner as newlyweds, and the walls reflect the family and diner's history with family photos, pictures of patrons and loads of University of Tennessee memorabilia. Pull up a counter seat and pore over the classic diner menu. If it's morning, opt for Pete's breakfast, which comes with two eggs, bacon or sausage, home fries, and toast or a biscuit (you want the biscuit, with gravy). Each of the family members have dishes named after them too, like Rita's Chicken Salad, or The Joey Burger, a cheeseburger named after one of the Natours' sons (who now co-owns Pete's), which features a patty topped with a duo of American and Swiss piled onto Texas toast. For a taste of down-home Southern cooking, opt for one of the daily meat-and-three specials, like meatloaf or pulled barbecue pork accompanied by sides like coleslaw, mac 'n' cheese or hash brown casserole.
Washington: Marblemount Diner
Because of its location just outside Washington's Cascade National Forest, the historic town of Marblemount is also known as the "entrance to the American Alps," making it a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts and families. After spending summers camping here with their family, Jim and Charlene Mullen loved the area so much that they decided to buy the Marblemount Diner, a local fixture that's especially popular among the hikers, bikers, kayakers and campers looking to fuel up for a day on the trails. The Mullens' motto is "Keep Calm and Eat Pie," and it's fitting, given that many regulars start with a slice of homemade pie (don't miss the locally famous Triple Berry) before deciding what to order. The Marblemount Burger is a sure bet, a beefy masterpiece of a one-third-pound patty topped with sliced ham, thick-cut bacon, cheddar and Monterey Jack cheeses, all crowned with a fried egg and garnished with lettuce, tomato, onion and pickle. If you manage to polish that off but don't have room for pie, take a slice to go — we bet it'd make an excellent post-hike snack. If the weather's nice, snag a spot in the sunny outdoor seating area for alfresco dining with a side of gorgeous mountain views.
West Virginia: Ruby & Ketchy's
Since Ruby and Wilbur "Ketchy" Nicholson opened their namesake Morgantown diner in 1958, they've made it their business to get to know every customer, whether it's the visitor's first time or hundredth (one regular is over 100 years old!). It's an ethos that truly gives the place a Cheers-like vibe, and one that is maintained by its servers, some of whom have worked here for more than 40 years. Snag a seat at the bar to listen to the breakfast regulars swap stories, or slide into one of the wooden booths to study the vintage photos of West Virginia University athletics and of the '60s- and '70s-era stock cars that raced across the street at the Morgantown Speedway. The diner's menu mainstay since day one has been the Silver Star ham dinner, a generous portion (we're talking 12 to 14 ounces, here) of the namesake baked ham, sliced thick and accompanied by classic sides like salad and potatoes. For a taste of the region, opt for the Thursday special of soup beans and cornbread, a hearty dish of slow-simmered beans in a saucy broth that has sustained generations of Mountain State families. It continues to sate comfort food cravings and fuel Morgantown locals; do as they do and crumble the cornbread and the accompanying chopped onions right on top of the beans, or save the cornbread for the end to sop up the bean gravy. The diner is still family-owned and operated, with Ruby and Ketchy's granddaughter Jane Dinardi at the helm. She insists that guests save room for a slice of one of the signature cream pies, which come in flavors such as chocolate, coconut or lemon, each boasting an impressive towering layer of fluffy meringue.
Wisconsin: Delta Diner
Todd Bucher and his wife brought their restored 1940s Silk City Diner — then known as the Chevrolet of diners — from Ohio to Delta in 2003. The Delta Diner has a steady stream of regulars who come from within a 30-mile radius, but it's also a destination eatery for visitors to the nearby Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest. Snag a counter stool to watch the action at the grill while you scan the menu. At first glance, it reads like classic diner fare, but everything is kicked up a notch. Pancakes, for example, are not your average flapjacks. Instead, they're Norwegian-style pancakes, which are thin, a little bit sweet, and ideal with a dusting of powdered sugar and a squeeze of lemon juice. Breakfast is served all day, and there's even a dedicated grill to cook Todd's platonic ideal of a fried egg: over easy, with silky-smooth, cooked whites and a golden-yellow runny yolk. Try one atop stuffed hash browns, paired with local applewood-smoked bacon. For a taste of the region, stop by for a Friday night fish fry or try a PBLT, butterflied, deep-fried yellow perch that's sandwiched with bacon, lettuce and tomato between slices of Delta Diner Bread, a custom-baked sourdough whole-wheat loaf from local outfit Ashland Baking Company.
Pennsylvania: Dor-Stop Restaurant
When Jennifer and Justin Berger met one another after college at Pittsburgh's Eat'n Park, where Jennifer was a waitress, they never dreamed they'd someday own their own greasy spoon. In 2015, they took over another venerated Pittsburgh spot, the Dor-Stop Restaurant, which has been a local fixture since 1986 (the name is a portmanteau of the Dormont neighborhood and the trolley stop one block away). You can't go wrong here, but the diner's pancake game is especially strong. Try the signature hotcakes, dense pancakes that strike a textural balance with a crisp exterior and fluffy interior, and can be customized with different batters (regular, oatmeal or pumpkin) and a medley of toppings like nuts, chocolate chips and fruit. But the Dor-Stop is no one-trick pony. On the savory front, don't miss the Jumbot, a mixed plate of ham, eggs, potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, onions and cheese, or request Guy Fieri's version. When he visited for Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, he swapped in hot sausage for the ham and jalapenos for the peppers. For a hyperlocal taste, try the Pittsburgh Turkey sandwich: turkey, coleslaw, french fries and Swiss cheese, piled together onto Italian bread. Finish sweet with an order of raspberry French toast, filled with raspberry cream cheese and finished with a raspberry drizzle.