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Why are Diners So Damn Good?

I’m a sucker for a good diner. In college, I wrote what I thought was a pretty good essay on the allure of the chrome seats and one-of-a-kind cholesterol-ridden burgers I was so attracted to.


On the way to Las Vegas (my husband was attending the Consumer Electronics Show for his startup), we made a pit stop for breakfast.  Ever the diligent Yelper, I forewent the Denny’s and IHOP options for the one called TNT’s Café. It was listed as – you guessed it – a diner.

It was neither a crumbling relic of a  ‘50’s diner nor a remake from that era. It was one that had been last updated in the 1980s when dun brown was all the rage. Brown vinyl booth seats. Brown walls. Brown shelves. A few tschotchkes from Pier One thrown on the walls to try to update the look. Christmas decorations just a week past their prime lent a tinselly festivity to the place.

Hi There, Honey.

I knew I’d made the right choice as soon as I walked in. The waitress, fully fulfilling the stereotype of being middle-aged, boisterous, and seeming to genuinely love her job, greeted us warmly. Speaking of warmly (or not), she asked where we were from. The giveaway? I was shivering. It was 39 degrees outside; 15 degrees or so cooler than it had been in San Diego just 2 hours before.

We were seated and presented with those no-frills menus so prevalent at diners like this. Omelets, skillets, the requisite stack of pancakes. I opted for the Texas skillet: hashbrowns, eggs, beans, chili, cheese and onions. My husband split pancakes with our son. Unfortunately, he ordered the 4-stack, not realizing they’d be enough to feed the Chargers (football was the hot topic at 7 am here).

Flo (give me a break; what else am I gonna call her?) took our order and chitchatted about the weather. She said she used to live “down the hill,” where the weather was more temperate, like in San Diego. I was puzzled over the “down the hill” comment,  but since we were in the high desert of southern California where the high altitude produced cold temperatures, I assumed “down the hill” had a lower altitude where it was warmer.

“One day after I moved up the hill, it was 19 degrees. I told my husband I was about ready to move back down the hill!”

The coffee kept coming, and with the easy banter of the few early-morning customers discussing “wuss football,” (in an enclosed dome), we were well-fed and ready for the next phase of our journey.

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