Diners - An American Icon


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The definition of a diner is typically a narrow structure resembling a railroad dining car with the interior containing a service counter with stools for seating. Food preparation is along the back wall behind the counter.


The first “diners" back in the 1890's were horse drawn wagons on wheels that would park on the city streets and serve their meals similar to today's “fast food" concept.

By the 1920's, diners were manufactured as a permanent structure resembling the original wagon style. The style changed into a more streamlined appearance by the 1930's but business was not brisk until after the depression.

The demand increased after 1945 and spread to the midwest when there were a dozen diner manufacturers making the diners with many modern amenities including air conditioning, stainless steel exteriors and large windows. This surge lasted about 15 years until the advent of the fast food restaurants. Since 1970, there has been a new interest in diners with it's retro appearance and many can be seen and visited across America.


Denny's introduced their new retro style Denny's Classic Diner restaurants in 1999 complete with stainless steel exterior and rounded roof. There are currently 18 diner manufacturers with half of them located in New Jersey. No other state in America can top the number of diners than New Jersey with over 200 diners in operation today!

If you are interested in learning more about the history of diners, you may wish to visit dinermuseum.org and a trip to New Jersey should satisfy your appetite with many styles of today's diners.

Barbara Wangelid along with her husband Tobbe are the owners of JackandFriends.com where you can purchase vintage and retro reproduction signs , enamelware, antique labels, 1950's retro kitchen , and classic pedal cars.


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