From late night bites to catching up with friends, diners provide a familiar setting for so many of life’s moments. Here’s why we love diners.
Everyone has a diner story.
When I present at events for my book Classic Diners of Maine, I often talk about the Imperial Diner in Wappingers Falls, New York, which was a refuge from an actual storm for my family during my childhood.
An October ice storm had knocked out power to much of our town and the Imperial Diner was there with steaming hot cocoa piled high with whipped cream, towering waffles and plates of nachos — foods that took the chill off a challenging time.
But I could equally as well talk about the Olympia Diner in New York, near Fordham University at Lincoln Center. While living nearby, a roommate and I ordered from there on so many evenings — their stuffed grape leaves were my go-to study break dish.
I could also talk about the Rolling Rock Diner where my theatre friends and I gathered after shows. Or maybe the Blue Colony Diner in Newtown, Connecticut, where my grandmother and I would stop when visiting my cousins and where I later slid into a booth with my own kids.
I have so many diner stories, memories and connections. You probably do too.
But regardless of where a diner is located or the life event it aligns to, there’s a commonality to them all — a reason why we love diners so. And that commonality is simple: we love diners because they are familiar, welcoming places where friends and families gather to enjoy familiar foods. They are the places that are always there for us, often open late.
During the pandemic, many classic diners have faced hard times. Some, like the Palace Diner in Biddeford, Maine, are simply too small to invite customers in for safe dining. So they’ve pivoted — turning to curbside pickup to stay afloat. Others, like the Miss Portland Diner, in Portland, Maine, have found ways to offer outside dining. The A1 Diner did as well, in the warmer months.
But others haven’t been as fortunate. In mid-2020, Nicky’s Diner in Bangor, Maine, announced they would be closing permanently. Shortly after, the building was leveled. The Deluxe Diner in Rumford, Maine, hasn’t reopened. The owners have listed the beautiful, small gem of the community for sale. And for the first time, the Brunswick Diner is closed for winter.
I bet wherever you are, there are similar stories of diners facing hard days during these trying times. And I bet many of you, like me, look forward to the day when you can belly up to a counter again and enjoy all the familiar things that make diners special.
Until we do though, there are things we can do to show our support.
As you think ahead to the days after the pandemic is controlled — or perhaps even now as you ready orders for takeout — remember your favorite diners. Make plans to visit, or to place a to-go order. Check their social media profiles and websites. Perhaps they even have swag for you to order from afar now.
And remember: diners have always been there for us. It’s time for us to be there for them.
Oh, and maybe if you enjoyed this musing about diners, consider buying my book, Classic Diners of Maine. It would mean a lot to me.