Special Report

Vintage Photos of Diners Through the Years

Public Domain / Library of Congress

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.)

Click here to see vintage photos of diner through the years

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.)

Source: Public Domain / Library of Congress

A restaurant cook in Mogollon, New Mexico
> Circa: 1940

[in-text-ad]

Source: Public Domain / Library of Congress

A restaurant worker arranges a menu board in Paterson, New Jersey
> Circa: 1994

Source: Public Domain / Library of Congress

Two Girls Waffle House, Anchorage, Alaska
> Circa: 1910

Source: Public Domain / Library of Congress

K & J Dairy in Detroit, Michigan
> Circa: 1986

[in-text-ad-2]

Source: Public Domain / Library of Congress

A sidewalk restaurant counter, New York City, New York
> Circa: 1953

Source: Public Domain / Library of Congress

Twistee Treat Ice Cream Stand, Saint Joseph, Missouri
> Circa: 1996

[in-text-ad]

Source: Public Domain / Library of Congress

The Parkette, Lexington, Kentucky
> Circa: 2020

Source: Public Domain / Library of Congress

Nan Denton’s Drive-in, Knoxville, Tennessee
> Circa: 1979

Source: Public Domain / Library of Congress

Zorba’s Greek restaurant, Missoula, Montana
> Circa: 1979

[in-text-ad-2]

Source: Public Domain / Library of Congress

Mel’s, Grandy, North Carolina
> Circa: 2017

Source: Public Domain / Library of Congress

The Snow Cap diner, near Seligman along the historic highway in Arizona
> Circa: 2016

[in-text-ad]

Source: Public Domain / Library of Congress

A chef in a North Beach Italian restaurant, San Francisco, California.
> Circa: 1941

Source: Public Domain / Library of Congress

Bailey’s dairy treat stand, Hot Springs, Arkansas
> Circa: 2020

Source: Public Domain / Library of Congress

Washington Street Diner, Athens, Alabama
> Circa: 2010

[in-text-ad-2]

Source: Public Domain / Library of Congress

Coffee Pot Restaurant, Lexington, Virginia
> Circa: 1982

Source: Public Domain / Library of Congress

William Penn Diner on Route 40, Delaware
> Circa: 1939

[in-text-ad]

Source: Public Domain / Library of Congress

La Esquina De La Tama, Miami, Florida
> Circa: 2020

Source: Public Domain / Library of Congress

Peter Pan Diner, Danbury, Connecticut
> Circa: 1978

Source: Public Domain / Library of Congress

Happy News Cafe, Washington, DC
> Circa: 1937

[in-text-ad-2]

Source: Public Domain / Library of Congress

Sushi-Rama restaurant, Denver, Colorado
> Circa: 2016

Source: Public Domain / Library of Congress

Yard Restaurant on the U.S. Naval Base, Pearl Harbor, Honolulu County, Hawaii
> Circa: 2001

[in-text-ad]

Source: Public Domain / Library of Congress

The Mill, Lincoln, Illinois
> Circa: 2019

Source: Public Domain / Library of Congress

The Varsity Grill, Atlanta, Georgia
> Circa: 2017

Source: Public Domain / Library of Congress

Tip Top Drive In, Lewiston, Idaho
> Circa: 2005

[in-text-ad-2]

Source: Public Domain / Library of Congress

Bang’s Drive-In, Chariton, Iowa
> Circa: 1980

Source: Public Domain / Library of Congress

Bert’s 50’s Diner, Mechanicsville, Maryland
> Circa: 2017

[in-text-ad]

Source: Public Domain / Library of Congress

Restaurant and market in Lowell, Massachusetts
> Circa: 1987

Source: Public Domain / Library of Congress

Diner in Clinton, Indiana
> Circa: 1940

Source: library_of_congress / Flickr

Ko-Ko-Mo, Dine In Your Car sign, Bossier City, Louisiana
> Circa: 1979

[in-text-ad-2]

Source: Public Domain / Library of Congress

Sweet Creek Diner and Bakery on Route 66, Galena, Kansas
> Circa: 2021

Source: Public Domain / Library of Congress

Architectural drawing of Monowi Tavern, Monowi, Nebraska
> Circa: 2017

[in-text-ad]

Source: library_of_congress / Flickr

Continental Family Restaurant sign, Jamestown, North Dakota
> Circa: 1987

Source: Public Domain / Library of Congress

The Drive In restaurant, Taylors Falls, Minnesota
> Circa: 2019

Source: Public Domain / Library of Congress

Abe’s Bar B-Q restaurant, Clarksdale, Mississippi
> Circa: 2016

[in-text-ad-2]

Source: Public Domain / Library of Congress

Charlie’s Diner, Leeds, Maine
> Circa: 1984

Source: Public Domain / Library of Congress

Flight G7 Restaurant, McMinnville, Oregon
> Circa: 1987

[in-text-ad]

Source: Public Domain / Library of Congress

Workers at a steel company restaurant, Youngstown Ohio
> Circa: 1941

Source: Public Domain / Library of Congress

Old Nevada abandoned restaurant
> Circa: 1995

Source: Public Domain / Library of Congress

Jade Island Chinese Restaurant, Meredith, New Hampshire
> Circa: 1984

[in-text-ad-2]

Source: Public Domain / Library of Congress

The Meltdown Diner, along historic U.S. Route 66, Tulsa, Oklahoma
> Circa: 2020

Source: Public Domain / Library of Congress

A barbecue place in Luckenbach, Texas
> Circa: 2014

[in-text-ad]

Source: Public Domain / Library of Congress

The Hot Dog Corner restaurant, Seneca, South Carolina
> Circa: 2017

Source: Public Domain / Library of Congress

A modern diner in Pawtucket, Rhode Island
> Circa: 1995

Source: Public Domain / Library of Congress

Melrose Diner, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
> Circa: 1995

[in-text-ad-2]

Source: Public Domain / Library of Congress

Chris’s Diner, Vermillion, South Dakota
> Circa: 1987

Source: library_of_congress / Flickr

The Great Western Espresso Coffee Co., Cody, Wyoming
> Circa: 2004

[in-text-ad]

Source: Public Domain / Library of Congress

A house trailer diner, Wenatchee National Forest, Washington State
> Circa: 2018

Source: Public Domain / Library of Congress

Ross Diner, Quechee, Vermont
> Circa: 1995

Source: Public Domain / Library of Congress

Broiler Cafe, Salt Lake City, Utah
> Circa: 1980

[in-text-ad-2]

Source: Public Domain / Library of Congress

Kütte Swiss Restaurant, Helvetia, West Virginia
> Circa: 2015

Source: library_of_congress / Flickr

Red Wagon Restaurant, Lake Delton, Wisconsin
> Circa: 1988

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