In anticipation of The Diner, an installation we’re creating with architect David Rockwell and 2×4 at Ventura Centrale during next month’s Salone del Mobile design and furniture fair, we thought it apt to share our choice places to eat when journeying across the country (or to another borough of New York City). From an Austin joint that forgoes fluorescent lights for modern furniture to a graffiti-covered Colorado dive once graced by former President Obama, here are our favorite diners in America.
10 U.S. Diners Worth Taking a Road Trip To
Our editors dish out their favorite roadside restaurants in America.By The Editors March 16, 2018
New York, New York
“Despite rapid development around Manhattan’s High Line park, the Empire Diner remains a neighborhood stronghold. Its warm interior, featuring restored stainless-steel and wood elements, embodies the comfort food of its chef, John DeLucie. The Surface office is nearby, and I occasionally swing by for lunch. I highly recommend the soft scrambled eggs cacio e pepe.” —Spencer Bailey, Editor-in-Chief
Doug Fir Lounge
“If you put the Pacific Northwest’s music scene, Modernism, and a log cabin into a blender, you’d get something like the Doug Fir. Part restaurant, part venue (located in the basement), it’s a classy, casual place to grab one of the tastiest burgers in town. Its all-wood interior, silver pendant lights, and half-circle booths made the spot a favorite of mine during college.” —Tiffany Jow, Design Editor
Brooklyn, New York
“Andrew Tarlow, often credited as the godfather of Brooklyn’s culinary revolution, opened this canteen of a restaurant, tucked inside a 1920s Pullman car, beneath the Williamsburg bridge in 1999. It remains a local favorite thanks to a changing menu of grass-fed cuts and offal dishes scrawled on each booth’s butcher-paper tablecloth, and a distinctive atmosphere the rivals any place to eat in New York.” —Nate Storey, Travel Editor
Phoenicia, New York
“On weekends in Upstate New York, Phoenicia Diner is a favorite of mine. While the crowd’s vibe may occasionally skew a bit too bearded-hipster for my taste, the food and atmosphere at the restaurant itself is special.” —S.B.
North Bend, Washington
“In 1990, David Lynch was scouting locations to film a new series. Washington State’s Snoqualmie Valley, including Twede’s Cafe, became the setting for “Twin Peaks,” and the rest is history. Built in 1941, the family-owned Twede’s is an imperative pit stop when driving through the mountain pass to get—what else?—cherry pie and a damn fine cup of coffee.” —T.J.
La Cienega, California
“As one of the last-remaining restaurants with a Jetsons-esque Googie design, Norms remains an institution in L.A., a city known for its love of retro diners. The firm Armet & Davis conceived the hamburger joint in 1957, its glowing pennant-shaped sign a fixture along the highly trafficked La Cienega. It avoided a demolition scare in 2015 and was designated a Historic-Cultural Monument, preserving a local treasure that still gets packed with patrons tucking into breakfast staples like steak and eggs.” —N.S.
“The Sink, while not necessarily a traditional diner, is a Boulder staple that comes close to the archetype. Both my brothers went to the University of Colorado, and when I visited them there in the mid-2000s, we would often stop here for pizza or burgers (one time, getting beyond-intoxicated there before a CU football game against Nebraska—we still call that day ‘Hurricane Bailey’). The place feels rather dingy—the walls are covered in illustrations, the ceiling in signatures—and that’s part of the fun. It’s also got some great lore: President Obama ate there in 2012, and back in 1955 Robert Redford mopped its floors as a janitor.” —S.B.
“Built in New Jersey in the 1950s, the Hi-Lo Diner’s silvery structure was designed to be uprooted: most recently it traveled from Gibsonia, Pennsylvania (where it was known as the Venus Diner) to Minneapolis, Minnesota, split down the middle and strapped onto two flatbed trucks. Walk inside, and prepare to be transported into the fifties.” —T.J.
Brooklyn, New York
“I still haven’t been to MeMe’s, but it’s on my list of restaurants in New York City to try next. It’s refreshing to see that—at least in neighborhoods like Brooklyn’s Prospect Heights—creative restaurant concepts like Meme’s continue to open in a city that seems to have fewer and fewer novel places to eat.” —S.B.
“Austin’s 24 Diner forgoes jukeboxes and fluorescent lights in favor of midcentury furniture and industrial fixtures. Texas native Andrew Curren, who has worked with Danny Meyer and Jonathan Waxman, heads the kitchen, putting a posh twist on Southern comfort food.” —T.J.