I love eating at diners. They are not only great places to get comfort food, but also a good way to experience a city’s local culture. Over the years, I have been to many diners at many places throughout the US. Here are my favorites, ordered from most to least.
Around the Clock Diner – York, PA
Sometimes a diner is more than just a place to eat. Sometimes it is THE local hangout. That is the case with Around the Clock Diner in York, Pennsylvania. It is the go to place for special occasions for people of all ages from high school students to senior citizens. As the name suggests, it is open 24 hours a day – perfect for breakfast or a late night celebration.
Around the Clock has the traditional diner fare of pancakes and waffles. It also has a good selection of soup, sandwiches, and subs. I’ve sampled the menu and have yet to have a bad meal.
They also have a wide array of cakes and pies, as you can see in this small part of their display case. I seem to prefer the chocolate cake, as when I went through my photos I realized I had ordered the same one on multiple visits. I’ll have to branch out next time!
Lake Effect Diner – Buffalo, NY
For a truly authentic diner experience, you’ll find one at the Lake Effect Diner in Buffalo. New York. The building itself is a vintage 1952 era Mountain View Diner prefabricated diner. It was scheduled for demolition until Lake Effect purchased it in 2001, trucking it from Wayne, Pennsylvania. The name itself is a reference to the type of snow that Buffalo gets copious amounts of, caused by cold winds blowing over Lake Erie – lake effect snow.
I absolutely love the burgers at Lake Effect Diner and I always get one when I am there. When I took these photos, my companion went for the more healthy option of chicken (less so by the generous topping of cheese). I did get vegetables instead of fries, in order to lower by carbohydrate intake.
But the best reason to go to Lake Effect is for the ice cream. They have excellent shakes and their sundaes are quite good as well. Pictured here is their Brownie sundae.
Plum Crazy Diner – Westminster, MD
I was driving through Westminster, Maryland going to a corn festival. On the way to the festival, I drove past the Plum Crazy Diner. Making note of it, I decided to stop in on my way back. As I was full of corn, I simply did not have room for a meal. But I had space for dessert. I chose peaches and waffles a la mode. Without reservation, I can say that this is the best waffles I have ever had.
Mom’s Savona Diner – Savona, NY
One snowy winter night I was traveling on Route 15 in New York, between Corning and Rochester, hungry and looking for a place to eat. Highway signs showed two places: a Wendy’s and the Savona Diner. I chose the diner. I found a wonderful diner, warm and inviting. The inside had a couple of locals, reminiscing about delivering mail on similar snowy nights.
I don’t remember what I got on that first winter, but I enjoyed it enough to make a point of returning there. The food is decent, but not exceptional. But the warmth and atmosphere is without compare.
Owl Cafe – Albuquerque, NM
Every time I am in Albuquerque, New Mexico I make it a point to stop at the Owl Cafe. I go there for one reason – to get the Green Chile Milkshake.
If you have never been to New Mexico you are probably not aware of the cultural touchstone that is the green chile. It permeates the consciousness like no other food. Made from roasted Hatch Chiles, it is ubiquitous. My local friends theorize that it is celebrated because it is the only food that can flourish and grow in the dessert. The green chile is found as an ingredient not only in New Mexican restaurants, but in all sorts of cuisine, including traditional American fair. Hence the milkshake. It is such a unique and such a tasty combination that I keep going back for it. The first time I ordered one, I didn’t taste the chili and I had to ask if they made the wrong order. Turns out, they had played it safe and only put a small amount in. More chiles were promptly added. Needless to say, I loved the result.
Other items at the Owl Cafe include a Green Chili Hamburger. I have been told is quite good. I have not ordered it (yet). But I have had their traditional New Mexican offerings, such as the Carne Adovada Plate. A regional specialty, Carne Adovada is pork cubes braised in New Mexico style red chili sauce. It is filling and delicious. In addition to food, they also have a good merchandise section. I love the place so much, I could not resist buying a t-shirt.
Brian’s USA Diner – Mount Morris, NY
I had often driven pass Brian’s USA Diner, located on Route 36 in Mount Morris, New York, just north of the town center. Until one day I, when I was shopping at a nearby specialty food store and had a conversation with a local. She ranved about Brian’s, saying it was the best diner around. I had already eaten, so I could not stop there that day. But on my next trip in town, I made it a point to eat there. I was not steered wrong.
Everything I have eaten at Brian’s has been superb. The fried food is fresh and crisp without a hint of grease. The chicken pot pie is thick and hearty. But the real standout is the cake, whose name I unfortunately don’t remember. Sandwiched by the cake are layers of mint and whipped cream, a chocolate mouse layer at the center, and topped with a caramel sauce. It isthe most unique cake I have ever had. And the most delicious. Brian’s is well worth the stop.
Maa’s Diner – Rochester, NY
I was in Rochester, New York visiting a friend. Before going to a movie, we headed out to dinner. Turns out there was a great diner right across the street from the movie theater – Maa’s Diner. They have a great selection of burgers to choose from. I went with the mac-n-cheese burger. It was enormous! So big that I could not fit the whole thing in my mouth. I did my best to finish it. I didn’t succeed, but I came close. Worth every bite.
Silver Diner – Maryland
The Silver Diner holds a special place in my heart, as it was one of the first restaurants I ate at when I first moved to Maryland many years ago. It is a chain, with well over a dozen locations in the region and a few beyond.
This is not your average diner, as their ingredients are all sourced locally, from farms that practice sustainable agriculture. They also have a special “Flexitarian” menu which, in addition to vegetarian and vegan options, contains items with hormone free and antibiotic free meats . Their dedication to local farmers was evident in the early days of COVID. When the restaurant was shutdown, the Silver Diner made arrangements with their suppliers to sell fresh produce to the local community.
I normally stick to the main menu which has many options that I like. My favorite is the cookie sundae. The first time I had it I was in the Baltimore airport with a couple of friends waiting for a flight. They must have been out of cookies because they had to bake them fresh. We knew this because we could smell their aroma while they were baking. But the sundae took a long time to come out. So long that we almost missed our flight. We heard our names being called on the airport speaker as we left the restaurant, the final bordering call. It was worth it. Ice cream on a freshly baked cookie? Delicious!
Pamela’s Diner – Pittsburgh, PA
Pamela’s Diner has been an institution in Pittsburgh since it opened in 1979. The original location is in the Squirrel Hill, but they now has locations throughout the city. The photos above are from the Shadyside location. I ordered their signature omelet with Lyonnaise potatoes. The omelet was good but I prefer my omelets French style. The potatoes were great. Pamela’s is also famous for their crepe style pancakes, which I have not had but Barack Obama greatly enjoyed when he was campaigning in town back in 2008.
Pok-A-Dot Diner – Batavia, NY
On Route 63 in Batavia, New York is a diner you cannot miss. Covered all over with pok-a-dots, the Pok-A-Dot Diner certainly lives up to its name. Inside, you’ll find a classic diner. But how is the food?
Since the sign says their Beef on Weck has been famous for 65 years, I normally get that. Beef on Weck is a Buffalo area specialty, roast beef in a kimmelweck bun and served with horseradish. Served with a good portion of beef and with plenty of horseradish to pile on, this is a good sandwich. I’ve had the burger there as well and it was so-so. I would stick with the beef-on-weck.
Pok-A-Dot diner also has several kinds of pies to choose from for dessert. I’ve had both a fruit pie and the cream pie. The chocolate cream pie was standard fair, but the cherry pie was pretty good. I did not care for the crust, as I prefer them to be more flaky, but the filling was excellent.
Gypsy’s Shiny Diner – Raleigh, NC
On a quick trip to Raleigh, North Carolina I stopped in the Gypsy’s Shiny Diner for a bite to eat. I got a burger topped with mozzarella sticks and tater-tots as a side. My recollection is that the food was pretty average, but I really enjoyed the diner ambience. I arrived late at night, and it was hopping with people so they must be doing something right. Maybe someday I’ll be able to give it another shot.
In the time it’s taken me to write this article, several diners I liked have closed. Here they are.
Plato’s Diner – College Park, MD
I don’t have any photos for it, but I would be remiss not to mention an old College Park hangout – Plato’s Diner. A Greek themed diner, one could find not only classic American breakfast fare but also Greek specialties. My favorite was the chocolate mousse. After being in business for over 21 years, it closed due to a fire in 2016 and never reopened.
Mono Diner – Georgetown DC
I made a special trip to Georgetown to eat at the Mono diner, solely because a friend was working there. He was not there the day I visited, but I like the food enough to include it on this list.
As their sign indicates, they have a full array of diner food, from omelets to burgers. I decided to go with one of their Eggs Benedict, a favorite brunch item of mine. Mono’s version was pretty good; I could have used a little more hollandaise sauce, and would have preferred the eggs to be a bit more runny. But overall, a very respectable Eggs Benedict.
Along with the Benedict, I got a shake and a side of fruit.
The shake was delicious, not too sweet and a good chocolate flavor. And it was full of big chinks of chocolate chunks. On top of that, there was very fresh whipped cream. I whole heartily recommend it. The fruit was also fresh, not frozen. It had a good mix of raspberries, strawberries, blueberries, and pineapples.
The Mono Diner closed in 2019 due to illegal withholding of wages.
Old Town Diner – Myersville, MD
On another road trip, I stopped in Myersville, Maryland in order to eat lunch. There were two possibilities: JB Seafood or the Old Town Diner. I ended up eating at JB Seafood (follow the link for the review). But I also really wanted to try the diner. So I saved room for dessert.
I went in and ordered some hot chocolate and a slice of pie a la mode. The atmosphere was warm and inviting and the service was prompt and courteous. The hot chocolate quickly came out, and the pie not too long after that. The warm chocolate was perfect for a cold winter day, and the pie was fresh and tasty.
I enjoyed my dessert and was planning on going back for a meal there. I am sad that it has closed.
Cherry Alley Cafe – Lewisburg, PA
I’m cheating a bit with this one, as it was very much a cafe and not a diner. But Cherry Alley Cafe in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania had a wonderful rustic fell. It was located a bit off the beaten path at the end of, you guessed it, a street named Cherry Alley. It’s been gone now for quite a few years now, but I remember it fondly enough that I want to include it. Gram’s Eatery is now at that location, but I still need to dine there.
These are my favorite diners. Do you have any? If so, please share.