Few locations are as distinctly American as the diner. These humble establishments have provided coffee and a hot meal to many generations all across the country. From all-night delis in New York City to stops along lonely stretches of Midwestern highways to converted railroad cars around the country, diners are classic Americana. (They figure large in our list of America’s greatest roadside restaurants.)
Diners have often been immortalized in American art and entertainment, too – as in the iconic 1942 Edward Hopper painting “Nighthawks;” in Edward Kienholz’s walk-in 1965 art work “Barney’s Beanery;” in Monk’s Café (the real-life Tom’s Restaurant), the famous diner where Jerry and his buddies gathered on “Seinfeld;” and in countless classic films (including memorable scenes in “Grease” and “Five Easy Pieces,” among many others, and in Barry Levinson’s 1982 film actually called “Diner”).
24/7 Tempo reviewed pictures in the Library of Congress to compile an assortment of vintage photos of diners through the years, ranging from about 1935 through 1968. The results dot the map from the East Coast to the Southwest and everywhere in between. (Here’s the best diner in every state.)
The years the photos were taken are approximate in many cases, but that’s part of the point. Diners are timeless, and universal (at least within the U.S.)
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