That which we call a diner

March 21, 2013

What defines a diner? Breakfast all day? Late night burgers and shakes? Counter service with sassy waitresses and grillmen wearing white paper hats?
 
I'm investigating diners for Curious City, the question precisely "Where are the area's oldest diners and what are their stories?" — asked by Rachel Kimura.
 
But hold up, what is a diner? Our friends at Chicagoist listed their favorite diners recently, and while Diner Grill fits the classic bill, why do Daley's Restaurant and even Cozy Corner do too? What separates the diners from the restaurants, coffeeshops, and grills?
 
We'd love to hear what you think, in the comments below or over at Curious City. (BTW did you hear Ira Glass say recently, "I love Curious City."?
 
In the meantime, I'm on the case. Above you see my go-to diner order when available. I have my own Ron Swanson rules when it comes to diner food. I order waffles over pancakes because I can make pancakes at home. I order ham over bacon because only I can make bacon the way I like it, baked to crispy edges and chewy center. Eggs over easy and hash browns, runny yolks broken over hash browns, then seasoned judiciously with ketchup and Tabasco. 
 
When Curious City hits the road in search of the area's oldest diners and their stories, I will be carrying my own personal bottle of real maple syrup, and my own thermally insulated whipped cream.
 
But coffee, I just drink their coffee, cream and sugar, however good or bad it might be. Curious, I know.