In his introduction to James Beard's All-American Eats, the prestigious culinary foundation's 2016 cookbook celebrating America's most iconic hometown restaurants, Southern Foodways Alliance director John T. Edge describes the country's classics with the passionate reverence usually reserved for the most elite four-star restaurants.
"Classics turn a mirror on our nation. They broadcast where America eats Tuesday pancake breakfasts. And Thursday lunches of burgers and fries," he writes. "No matter the style of food cooked, no matter the pomp or circumstance of service, Classics are restaurants where humility and excellence abide."
While 150-year-old steakhouses and farm-to-table innovators are all well and good, there's no restaurant more central to the American identity than the diner. From the booths and breakfast counters to the gut-busting comfort food and winking waitresses doling out warm-ups by the dozen, these greasy spoons have been shaping the way we eat for generations, the majority 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Ask anybody about their favorite diner, and no doubt they'll get misty eyed just thinking about those 2 a.m. waffle runs.
These 51 culinary institutions represent our ups and downs, our long nights and early mornings, our Saturday biscuits with Grandpa, and—decades later—Thursday-night grilled cheeses with our own sticky-fingered little ones. And no matter how fine the dining, no matter how many oysters we slurp or Champagne bottles we pop, those diners continue, as if stuck in time, to welcome us home.
Alabama: John's City Diner
When it comes to Alabama diners, it's generally Waffle House or bust. So if any greasy spoon wants to roll tide with the best of them, they better stand out—and that's exactly why John's City Diner, with its curious mix of elevated gastropub fare and downhome country classics, takes the cake. Sure, it's not your standard greasy spoon, but that doesn't keep the hungry hordes from tangy pimento cheese sandwiches and slow-braised, locally farmed pork belly. And the full bar—along with the gorgeous, pristinely preserved landmark digs—don't hurt either.
Alaska: Snow City Cafe
Not only has the Anchorage Press voted this downtown pancake house the city's "Best Breakfast" for upward of a decade, President Obama also gave the place two thumbs up when he stopped by for an armload of cinnamon buns in late 2016. And the pastries aren't the only draw. Snow City offers everything from piping hot biscuits and gravy to fresh sockeye salmon cakes, and every dish served in this sunny, inviting go-to is well worth braving the often-lengthy wait. Hey, if it's good enough for the president, it's good enough for us.
Photo: Courtesy of Snow City Cafe
Arizona: Welcome Diner
Welcome Diner is the brainchild of Michael Babcock and Jenn Robinson, former food truck operators who took the brick-and-mortar leap in 2013. The sleek, fully renovated 1940’s throwback has room for only nine, but don't worry—it opens up to an outdoor patio, which, given Phoenix's perpetual sunshine, is almost always packed. Those lucky enough to snag a spot can feast on reimagined Southern dishes like fried chicken biscuits bursting with cheddar, bacon and gravy, and pulled jackfruit po'boys. If you're jonesing for a hearty welcome but can't find a seat, set out for the Tucson location, newly opened and, thankfully, much bigger.
Arkansas: Ozark Cafe
Burger fans, you've arrived. At Jasper's century-old diner, meat lovers can sink their teeth into the Excaliburger, a chargrilled half-pound patty served between two grilled cheese sandwiches and drowned in a house-made special sauce. If breakfast is more your bag, try the Ozark French toast, crusted with cinnamon and sugar and covered in caramel and pecans, or one of many fresh fruit-flavored pancakes. The rustic, wood-paneled space also hosts weekly live music, just in case you're looking to work off your hulking meal on the dance floor.
California: It's Tops Coffee Shop
In a city of start-ups and Michelin stars, this tiny corner throwback is one of SF's few remaining relics not overrun by tourists and brunching techies. There's no messing around beneath the shop's glowing Market Street marquee, just a sweet-faced waitress (clad in a pink jumper and white apron, of course) manning the jukebox-lined counter, Giants ephemera, red vinyl booths and a single short-order cook slinging award-winning burgers, waffles stuffed with bacon or melted chocolate, and crispy onion rings. The icing on the cake? Hand-dipped milkshakes, blended with fresh fruit (!!!) and topped with generous dollops of homemade whipped cream.
Colorado: Denver Diner
Whether you're in the market for an afternoon burger and beer or midnight chicken fried steak and eggs, Denver's famed hash house has your back. The vintage, neon-lit decor manages to avoid the trappings of kitsch, while a few scattered flat screens—all tuned to local sports, of course—give the place a modern edge without sacrificing authenticity. The coffee's hot, the crowd kind and the lunch counter lined with devoted regulars.
Connecticut: Norm's Diner
Honestly, this legendary diner is the reason most college students in the surrounding area survive their final exams. It's a true greasy spoon housed in an iconic dining car, complete with counter stools, mint-green decor and a friendly chef who always works the night shift, happily doling out extra cheese where needed. A 24-hour Friday and Saturday breakfast menu means meaty omelets and stacks of pancakes are never off the table. Thank goodness for that.
Delaware: Kozy Korner Restaurant
Now in its third generation of family ownership, Kozy Korner has been a proud Wilmington institution since 1922, and, despite an eight-year hiatus and subsequent relocation, not much has changed. The menu (chipped beef on toast, scrapple and eggs) blends Greek-influenced dishes into breakfast favorites, like a gyro omelet overflowing with tender cuts of lamb, tomato and feta.
Photo: Courtesy of Kozy Korner
Florida: Jimmy's Eastside Diner
Step away from South Beach’s glitz and glam, and drive north on Biscayne Boulevard for comfort food that can cure any terrible, life-altering hangover. Serving breakfast all day, every day until 4 p.m., Jimmy’s Eastside Diner reliably offers up huge, delicious portions of diner classics: eggs, hash and potatoes; meat loaf; tuna melts; and chicken noodle soup. Not only is the feel-good food worth the drive, but for under $10, you'll leave full enough to last until nightfall.
Georgia: Ria's Bluebird
As one of the only newfangled diners to make the cut, this homey breakfast spot proves quality doesn't always come with age. ATL's beloved Ria Pell opened the joint back in 2000, and although chef Ria sadly passed away in 2013, the airy Grant Park diner continues to serve up fluffy pancakes (deemed "the world's best" by the New York Times), 14-hour slow-roasted brisket and pimento cheese sandwiches in her honor. Throw in mural-strewn walls and an endlessly sunny waitstaff, and you've got yourself a genuine slice of Southern comfort (hopefully a slice of lemon icebox pie, too).
Photo: Courtesy of Ria's Bluebird
Hawaii: Wailana Coffee House
Honolulu is known for many things: tropical cocktails, pig roasts, refreshing shaved ice, but bacon and eggs? Not so much. Enter Wailana Coffee House, every islander's go-to spot for mainland comforts (mixed with a little local flavor, of course). The ambiance is straight out of central casting—small comfy booths, wraparound counter, all-you-can-eat pancakes—but what sets Wailana apart are its Hawaiian accents, like a teriyaki-glazed Tokyo burger and, believe it or not, a 70s-era tiki lounge, complete with bamboo trim and karaoke, stashed inside. Go for the mahi mahi; stay for the mai tai.
Idaho: Jimmy's Down the Street
Dieters beware: This one is not for the calorie conscious. Famous for massive breakfast platters and sticky buns the size of Guy Fieri's head (a proven fact), Jimmy's has been warming the hearts and widening the waistlines of Idahoans for more than 50 years. The timeless dining room is as homey and inviting as you'd expect, with bright-yellow gingham tablecloths and kind-eyed regulars catching up over mountains of hash browns and hunks of homemade meat loaf at the counter. You know what they say—go big or go . . . further on down the street.
Illinois: Daley’s Restaurant
This Southside institution has been holding its own since 1892, back when Chicago was a metropolis bracing itself for a World's Fair of unprecedented proportions. And as the crowds flocked to the Windy City, Daley's was there to welcome them with chicken and waffles, fried catfish platters, flaky and buttery biscuits, and all the riches of classic home cooking. These days, the cozy family-run spot is still churning out three belly-warming square meals a day, turning newcomers into regulars with each hot plate and keeping that original Chi-town pride alive and well.
Indiana: Triple XXX Family Restaurant
Opened as a drive-in in 1929 and named after a vintage root beer brand, you can rest assured this roadside diner isn't quite as racy as its moniker might imply. Families still stop by for refreshing sodas, but Triple XXX's real draw is creative, made-from-scratch burgers, like a quarter pound of ground sirloin (i.e., chopped steak) slathered with creamy peanut butter and classic Indiana pork loins stuffed into toasted buns. And though you won't find any milkshake-wielding carhops on-site these days, one sip of the good stuff and you'll be hearing doo-wop in no time.
Iowa: Hamburg Inn No. 2
Each election season, droves of politicians storm through the Hawkeye State, kissing hands, shaking babies and scarfing down all the homespun goodies they can find. And that's where Hamburg Inn, a family-owned Iowa City institution that started offering up 5¢ burgers back in the 30s, comes in. Today, the patties may be a bit pricier, but the house-ground flavors—along with the all-American vibes—remain unchanged. Make sure to keep this snug Midwestern hideaway on your radar every four years or so—you might just catch a glimpse of the next world leader sipping a strawberry shake in the next booth.
Photo: Hamburg Inn No. 2 via Facebook
Kansas: Bobo's Drive In
Topeka's 69-year-old cheeseburger emporium is a far cry from the Sonics and Checkers that dominate today's drive-in scene. Though inhaling your Coney dog and Coke float curbside is definitely an option, we recommend claiming a seat at the U-shaped counter for the full experience. Order the Spanish burger, a traditional patty slathered with Bobo's original seasoned ketchup, followed by a thick slice of apple pie topped with whipped cream. Just make sure you can still fit behind the wheel when it's time to roll out.
Kentucky: Rick's White Light Diner
What happens when you mix a classically trained chef, a full bill of Creole fare, scratch-baked French bread and, yes, a Guy Fieri visit? Chef Rick Paul's lovingly cluttered, one-room monument to all things Cajun, that's what. The thoughtful menu features mouthwatering crawfish pie and étouffée; succulent alligator po'boys; and light, fluffy beignets, as well as a smattering of Southern favorites like Kentucky bourbon pie, cheesy grits and Memphis-style pulled pork. Whether you go Big Easy or belle, every order comes with a heaping side of one-of-a-kind personality.
Louisiana: The Camellia Grill
It doesn't get more bayou than the Camellia, where giant wedges of homemade pecan pie and 10-inch catfish po'boys have been soaking up a night's worth of hurricanes since 1946. The central wraparound counter makes it easy to flag down one of the many cheerful waiters, each sporting a crisp bow tie and perma-smile, and the baby-pink walls and stately, white-columned exterior fit right in with New Orleans' whimsical aesthetic. And while weekend wait times might be lengthy, at least you know a double-scoop chocolate cherry freeze is just around the corner.
Maine: Palace Diner
The mere thought of a blustery New England winter might be enough to keep the average American curled up under a pile of blankets, but this train car-turned-diner's continued success proves nothing stops hardscrabble Mainers from getting their mitts on delicious home-cooked meals. And while it might be Maine's oldest diner, that doesn't mean the husband-and-wife team behind this tiny 15-seat breakfast joint are stuck in the past. The ever-evolving menu is teeming with reimagined, locally sourced gems like blueberry flapjacks doused in pure maple syrup and a lumberjack special—five silver dollars, two eggs, Taylor Ham and the house's signature potatoes—sure to satisfy even the burliest seaman in town.
Maryland: Papermoon Diner
Planning a visit to Papermoon? Don't forget your sunglasses. Eclectic doesn't even begin to describe the kitchy explosion lurking inside this neighborhood diner's Crayola-colored walls. Cheerful B'more locals down Kaptain Krunch-spiked milkshakes, veggie-laden tofu scrambles and plates of creamed chipped beef under a funky treasure trove of knickknacks, vintage toys and off-kilter art. It's no wonder they call it Charm City.
Photo: Courtesy of Papermoon Diner
Massachusetts: The Little Depot Diner
Located in a repurposed train car, this intimate breakfast spot is well known for its massive, take-no-prisoner portions. Extra-hungry customers opt for the gargantuan classic omelet, while those with a little extra dough splurge on a meaty plate of pastrami Benedict. Pancakes and French toast come topped with the resto's signature special butter, which God help you if you don't instantly want to slather it on every dish. You might have to sharpen your elbows a bit to grab a spot at the cozy 15-seat counter, but trust us, that Nutella-doused short stack is well worth the fight.
Michigan: The Fleetwood Diner
The Fleetwood Diner, based in the college town of Ann Arbor, has been around since 1949 and is loved for its retro, nostalgic vibe, as well as its famous hippie hash, a dish featuring hash browns, grilled veggies and lots of feta cheese. But it’s not just for college students; the Fleetwood Diner (originally called the Dagwood Diner) has also been a hangout for local artists and creatives. There's even a second location in Lansing, and both are open 24/7.
Minnesota: Mickey’s Diner
A dining car for the ages, this little-restaurant-that-could has gotten more screen time over the years than many award-winning actors, including noteworthy cameos in Robert Altman's Prairie Home Companion and all three Mighty Ducks movies (it doesn't get more Minnesota than that). The 24-hour greasy spoon also boasts a shiny aluminum facade, a no-nonsense waitstaff and a menu that's remained wholly unchanged since its 1939 debut, adding to its considerable street cred and proving the old adage, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it."
Mississippi: Brent's Drugs
Originally opened as a pharmacy and soda fountain in 1946, Brent's underwent a top-to-bottom renovation in 2014 but, miraculously, avoided losing an ounce of its midcentury good looks. If anything, the brilliantly executed remodel, with its smooth Formica counters and chirpy turquoise color scheme, only got better. Pair that with a full menu of Southern darlings like fried chicken biscuits, egg and olive salad sandwiches, and fresh-out-the-oven pies, and you've got yourself a winner. And if you're looking to catch a buzz after breakfast-, head back to the Apothecary, a speakeasy-style cocktail bar ready to satisfy all your post-pancake needs.
Photo: Hector Sanchez
Missouri: Town Topic
While many big shots have visited KC's 80-year-old Town Topic in search of its award-winning hamburgers and crispy tater tots, the real star of the show is the pie: cherry, blueberry, lemon meringue, rhubarb, old-fashioned butterscotch cream, you name it. A handful of freshly baked wonders hit the tiny retro joint's chalkboard each day, with a thick, gooey slice going for a mere $3.49, or $3.90 if you'd prefer yours à la mode (pro tip: You do). And because the folks underneath Town Topic's iconic neon boomerang sign know anytime can be pie o'clock, these pretty pastries are available 24 hours a day.
Montana: Stockyard Cafe
Covered in red siding and set in the shadow of massive silos, this diner could be mistaken for a farmhouse itself—except for the steady line of sleepy-eyed students and the bewitching scent of banana bread French toast. Inside, a central breakfast counter encircles shelves of knickknacks, short-order cooks manning a flattop and waitresses happy to keep your cup good and warm. And in case you thought the whole farm thing was just for looks, think again: Everything from the grass-fed burgers to the cornmeal buttermilk pancakes are made from scratch, often with ingredients farmed nearby.
Nebraska: 11-Worth Cafe
At 11-Worth, it's all about the food—and plenty of it. At this no-frills, budget-friendly storefront breakfast joint, a single order could easily span three separate plates, each overflowing with delicious home-cooked staples, so go hungry. Fork over 10 big ones for the country potato casserole, a towering pile of hash browns, onions, peppers, tomatoes, mushrooms, cheese and giant hunks of chicken-fried steak, all covered in country gravy. Now that's some serious bang for your buck.
Nevada: Little Nugget Diner
The Little Nugget Diner in Reno is so famous for its Awful Awful Burger that the dish has become almost synonymous with the diner. (It’s not awful by the way—the name’s short for Awful Big and Awful Good). Located in the Nugget Casino, the diner makes its legendary burger with a half pound of beef and serves it with a full pound of fries on the side. Nothing awful about that.
New Hampshire: The Friendly Toast
This adorable Portsmouth hang serves up standard diner food with a twist in the a.m. Think peanut butter-and-jelly-stuffed crepes, meat loaf Benedict, even tofu scramble to keep the veg heads happy. And if you won't be trekking out to New Hampshire anytime soon, there are (thankfully) locations in Cambridge and Boston, Massachusetts.
Photo: Courtesy of The Friendly Toast
New Jersey: Summit Diner
According to local legend, Ernest Hemingway used to frequent this railcar-style diner, where the signature menu item is a prototypical New Jersey "slider," composed of Taylor Ham, egg and cheese. (No word on whether Papa Hemmy was officially a slider man.) Originally opened in 1929 and rebuilt in 1939, the Summit Diner is situated in a silver-and-green structure conveniently located across the street from the NJ Transit Summit station.
New Mexico: The Pantry Restaurant
The Pantry has been a Santa Fe staple since it opened in 1948, delighting both vacationers and homegrowns with a menu of American classics with zesty local twists, like fragrant blue corn cinnamon pancakes and a breakfast sandwich doused in chopped green chiles and served in a soft flour tortilla. The simple, friendly ambiance is also distinctly Southwestern, all warm colors, rounded corners and brightly hued paintings hanging on the walls. Whether it's breakfast, lunch or dinner, The Pantry always has something cheesy, impossibly tender and deliciously spicy on hand just for you.
New York: Eisenberg's Sandwich Shop
New York City
Less than two blocks from Manhattan's gargantuan Eataly complex and sardined between tony Fifth Avenue retailers and the Beaux Arts Flatiron Building, this old-school luncheonette has been proudly "raising New York City's cholesterol since 1929." Satisfyingly greasy tuna melts on rye, egg creams and matzo ball soup forge a classic Gotham mood, as do chrome counter stools and framed photos of famous fans, such as Spike Lee, bleary-eyed Paul Giamatti and Broadway greats your mom will love.
North Carolina: Elmo's Diner
It's an undisputed fact that where college kids go, excellent diners are sure to follow. And between the expansive Research Triangle and the private liberal arts schools dotting the region's western half, this Southern state has more than a few greasy gems. This family-owned hot spot tops the list by serving fresh, impeccably prepared Southern comforts like biscuits and gravy and spicy huevos rancheros on the cheap, and giving Blue Devils young and old good reason to withstand those weekend-morning wait times. Don't forget to leave room for dessert; Elmo's thick-and-gooey hot fudge sundae has the power to crack even Coach K's steadfast diet.
North Dakota: Charlie's Main Street Cafe
Maybe you've never heard of Minot, but that doesn't stop Charlie's Main Street Cafe from completely killing the brunch game. Behind the classic baby-blue marquee and illuminated Homemade Soup sign, loyal customers chat over perfectly seared pork chops and chili-stuffed omelets under rows of framed historical photos. Everything screams Great Plains, especially the freshly baked kuchen, a popular German cake laced with fruit, just $3.50 a slice.
Ohio: Tucker's Restaurant
Tucker's is an Over-the-Rhine staple that's been around since 1946, serving up favorites like the Big Tucker burger and homemade biscuits and gravy to Cincinnati residents for decades. A fire destroyed the neighborhood establishment in 2015, but thanks to the outpouring of support from the community and a GoFundMe campaign, it was back in business one year later to the delight of hungry patrons citywide. Post rebuild, the diner has the same old-school look and feel, minus a little grime on the walls—a design element earned only with time—and still attracts a crowd of "art students, punk rockers, P&G execs, and politicians" alike.
Oklahoma: The Diner
When it comes to its name, we'll admit The Diner deserves little props for originality, but the small town outpost's melt-in-your-mouth fried chicken, perfectly seasoned brisket hash and savory Frito Pie makes up for it. The 100-year-old shotgun shack has a cheeky neighborhood vibe, with a counter full of chili-slurping regulars perched underneath a handmade sign that reads, "Don't try to teach a pig to sing. It wastes your time and annoys the pig." With any luck, The Diner—along with its two-time state champion chili—will follow its own advice and never, ever change.
Oregon: Stepping Stone Cafe
The eccentric interior and retro wall decor are just some of the things that make this Portland mainstay the true embodiment of Keep Portland Weird. It doesn't stop there though—it also offers fun menu items like mancakes, which are basically pancakes the size of your head. Known for its friendly, quirky staff and homey feel, this place is open for business seven days a week, 365 days a year, rain or shine (OK, mostly rain—it is the Pacific Northwest after all).
Photo: Courtesy of Stepping Stone Cafe
Pennsylvania: Down Home Diner
Tucked into a calm pocket of Philadelphia's bustling Reading Terminal Market, the Down Home Diner offers just what its name says: down-home comfort food. Think: corned beef hash with two "eyes wide open," floppy pancakes, biscuits and house jam, and Pennsylvania's own scrapple and turkey bacon from Godshall's, a poultry purveyor just a few stalls down. And while this gem of a resto is open all day long, breakfast is definitely the best time to drop by.
Rhode Island: Haven Brothers Diner
The Ocean State proclaims itself the birthplace of the American diner, and bottomless cups of drip coffee runneth over at historic stops like Pawtucket's Modern Diner and Bishop's 4th Street in Newport. The ultimate quirky greasy spoon, however, is arguably Providence's Haven Bros. Diner, an 1893 institution dishing out chili-cheese dogs, foot-long subs and garbage plates (onion rings, fries, mozzarella sticks and chicken tenders topped with nacho cheese sauce) from a mobile rig parked outside City Hall.
South Carolina: Early Bird Diner
If the Early Bird is any indication, Charleston is one foodie town that hasn't yet lost its down-home sensibilities. Proof? Clever signboard quips ("Lord I was born a scramblin' man," for one), pecan-encrusted chicken and waffles, snappy pepperjack grit cakes, tangy rémoulade-drenched fried green tomato sandwiches, and weekend lines that stretch far beyond the joint's roomy West Ashley digs. So remember, if you're hoping to grab a Sunday-morning booth, you better start your chirping as soon as the sun comes up.
South Dakota: Phillips Avenue Diner
Bacon-topped sweet potato poutine, molten mac 'n' cheese fritters and sandwiches packed with hot, tasty pot roast are just a few of the reasons this self-proclaimed "humble little diner" is constantly packed with hungry South Dakotans. The waitstaff are as affable as they are attentive, the wide booths provide plenty of seating, and the iconic linoleum tile floor, old-school marquee and plethora of aluminum only add to the charm. (The $10 bottomless mimosas don't hurt either.)
Photo: Ted Eytan via Flickr
Tennessee: The Arcade Restaurant
Photos of notable Memphians posing with smiling staff members—Elvis, of course, the most notable among them, along with just about any celeb who ever starred in a Grisham novel adaptation—and a smattering of historical memorabilia hint at this sunlit, cheery diner's near century of impeccable service. Settle into a teal-and-eggshell booth with a stack of pillowy hotcakes or a fried PB and banana, and indulge in the bottomless sweet tea (just remember to leave a little extra room for BBQ—nothing wrong with a great diner, but this is Memphis after all).
We'd be hard-pressed to name another café serving 100 percent scratch-made Tex-Mex cuisine out of a working car wash. A wizened kitchen crew fry huevos and pour vibrant green salsa onto platters of enchiladas verdes behind the baby-blue 11-seat counter, while drivers sit back and chitchat to pass the time. The icing on the cake? There's a shoeshine station in case your ride isn't the only thing in need of a buffing.
Utah: Blue Plate Diner
Salt Lake City
Part soda fountain, part family-friendly breakfast joint, this SLC original prides itself on being just that: original. A fleet of crimson-lipped, tattooed waitresses deliver juicy burgers blanketed in seasoned waffle fries and loaded, inventive hashes to Utes of all shapes, sizes and backgrounds, all set to a lively soundtrack of oldies and indie jams alike. The vibe is simultaneously homey and edgy—it's just what this vibrant, modern city, steeped in centuries of staunch traditionalism, didn't even know it needed.
Vermont: Blue Benn
Husband-and-wife team Sonny and Marylou Monroe bought this iconic train car back in 1974, stocking it with all the short-order staples you'd expect from a New England mainstay (French toast, bacon, crispy home fries, etc.). But it wasn't long before the Blue Benn started cooking up much more than belly-warming breakfast foods. Bennington's humble diner amassed a stalwart family of loving regulars, generations of locals each known by name, ordering "the usual." But don't get us wrong—this is no member's-only club. Even ski-bound city folk are welcomed with hot cups of coffee and a warm, "What'll ya have, honey?"
Virginia: Blue Moon Diner
Blue Moon has been Charlottesville's go-to for all-day breakfast, great live music and a dynamic, quirky atmosphere for nearly 30 years. With UVA just down the road, the crowd skews a bit younger and hipper than the average greasy spoon, and those in the know opt for the breakfast BBQ platter (layers of slow-cooked pork, sunny eggs and fried onions on a chewy English muffin), crowd-pleasing grilled PB&Js or pancakes decorated with powdered-sugar celebrity portraits. Open until 10 p.m., the small, tchotchke-filled diner stocks plenty of booze to keep the college kids entertained long after lunchtime.
Washington: Horseshoe Cafe
This beloved neighborhood spot is about as classic as it gets, a product of Washington State's explosive 19th century, when hordes of rail workers and gold miners flooded the Pacific Northwest in search of wealth and a good scramble. Once known for its dancing, live music and boisterous crowd, the booth-lined storefront has settled down in its old age, trading bar brawls and grisly nightshifters for brunching families and hungry hipsters happily devouring plates of cinnamon chip French toast served hot from an open kitchen. That's not to say purists should be concerned—no amount of gentrification could ever alter the joint's endlessly charming authenticity.
Photo: Courtesy of Horseshoe Cafe
West Virginia: Betty's
Walk inside the grandmotherly facade of Betty's, and you'll find wood-veneer tables crowded with both locals and college students feasting on an array of breakfast platters and oversize hotcakes that hang over the plates' edges. Betty's boasts itself as the "Home of the World's Best Sausage Gravy," smothering it on top of everything from crisp waffles to its signature country skillet, a punch bowl layered with home fries, cheese and eggs. Be sure to go with both an appetite and some Southern Hospitality though, as a warning taped by its cash-only register reads, “If you are grouchy, irritable or just plain mean, there will be a $10 surcharge for putting up with you.”
Wisconsin: Mickies Dairy Bar
Madison’s Mickies Dairy Bar, opened in 1946, is beloved in this college town by locals and students alike for its delicious and supersize breakfast scramblers, which feature piles of fried potatoes, eggs, veggies, cheese and gravy. It’s also become a staple for many UW fans to fuel up at before heading to a Badgers game; hence the line out the door on Saturday mornings (pro tip: Go early).
Wyoming: Luxury Diner
One of many Diner, Drive-Ins and Dives alums to make our greatest hits list, yet unlike the others, this pint-sized diner isn't another 40s prefab train car; it actually functioned as the town trolley from 1869 to 1912 before settling down permanently in 1926. Today, this a.m. spot is adored statewide for its sauce-doused green chile burgers, enormous cinnamon buns and overstuffed Santa Fe breakfast burritos. And, in true diner fashion, it remains completely unchanged inside and out.
Washington, D.C.: Florida Avenue Grill
Located a stone's throw away from long-standing HBCU Howard University, this corner grill has been whipping up heaps of buttery grits and crispy fried pork chops since 1944, making it the oldest soul food restaurant in the country. And judging from the 50+ signed head shots displayed with pride around the narrow restaurant, there are more than a few good reasons it's lasted this long. On weekends, locals in their Sunday best dine on strong coffee and fluffy biscuits next to sleepy coeds, all squeezed into narrow booths or perched along the ample counter. And the staff? They're sweeter than a bottomless cup of, ahem, sweet tea.
Additional research and written contributions were provided by the Tasting Table Edit Team.
Correction: The original Town Topic is located in the state of Missouri, not Kansas.