by Chrysa Smith
Whether it was Al’s from Happy Days or Mel’s from Alice, one of the tastiest pieces of American culture has got to be the ‘Great American Diner.’ The authentic ones–with vinyl floors and formica tabletops are increasingly difficult to find. But if you’re a child of the 50’s, 60’s or 70’s, you know nobody does breakfast better or cheaper—or with that slap it on the table action served up with a friendly ‘Can I get you anything else hon?’ Don’t you just love it?
So, this weekend, while heading down to the shore, my husband and I stopped for breakfast at Daddypop’s–an authentic diner in Hatboro, PA. I say authentic because from the outside, it looks a lot like an Airstream: those silver metal trailers that resemble some kind of weird alien spaceship. But step inside and you’ve got the memorabilia you just love to find in this age of electronic tethers: an old telephone booth, counter height barber chairs, a juke box and a wall full of mismatched mugs. But best of all is a menu that allows you to eat a hearty breakfast for about $5; served to you in about five minutes.
Traditionally, diners were modular buildings set along roadsides. Along with the Great American Road Trip came the need for a quick roadside meal. And through the years, they’ve become larger, more glamorous; serving more menu items like Gyros and Stuffed Grape Leaves rather than Sunnyside Up Eggs and a Cheeseburger.
To me, the original diners are the classics–not only because they were first, but because they represent what America has always been about—welcoming strangers with good, down home food, a smile and a unique personality that provides a snapshot of Americana. I don’t want rows of standard issue restaurant booths set up to look almost identically to every other diner with almost identical menus. Give me a funky train set to look at, a clock made of a carved tree trunk and waitresses bustling with smiles on their faces. Now that’s America. And that too is classic ‘Good Eats.’
My other favorite diner, without the metal exterior, is Cross Keys Diner on Rt. 313 in Doylestown. They do have formica tables and matching chairs, lots of neat stuff to look at on the walls, a bustling staff and chatty crowd and a large menu selection.
Are you a diner buff? Check out more of the history at:
http://www.silverdiner.com/american-diner-history or tell us about your favorite diner/diner memory.