I was familiar with the American diner from American T.V. shows, such as Happy Days, that were reruns on Austrian television when I grew up. Diners show up in plenty of movies (think Back to the Future) and of course there is the famous painting Nighthawks by Edward Hopper. For me, a typical American restaurant (if there is anything “typical American” since the country is so vast and diverse) is the diner with its greasy fare and juke box.
So I am always happy to visit an old-fashioned diner, especially if it serves breakfast till lunchtime or longer. American cuisine has great breakfast – greasy and big but satisfying. There is a reason why most Americans turn up their noses at a “Continental Breakfast” of bread and butter, maybe a few croissants with jam, or yogurt and muesli. Breakfast in the diner is large omelets with crispy bacon, hash browns, and toast with butter, and biscuits larger than a fist – and that is without the option of pancakes and syrup or French toast. I have quickly fallen in love with American breakfast but usually eat it as lunch since it has plenty of calories to hold me over for the rest of the day.
A typical American diner has stainless steel features and is long and narrow since originally diners were prefabricated buildings that were trucked to the site, and the long and narrow shape allowed for roadway transportation. The space is usually dominated by a service counter with a preparation/kitchen area behind it and often room for booths opposite the service counter or at the end of the diner. Many diners emphasize breakfast food and items from the grill such as burgers and fries. Of course a diner has at least one juke box, and many actually have small in-booth tableside extension units for the juke box.
Many diners include features that show Art Deco influences and of course neon lights. So often diners are even prettier all lit-up at night than during the day.
A diner might be corny and the food unhealthy (and delicious), but a diner does represent the typical American restaurant for those who did not grow up here. Now, I am just trying to find a diner that still has waitresses on roller skates for the ultimate stereotype of the American restaurant.