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Eat Your Way Across The US At America's Best Diners

By Randy Yagi 

An iconic part of American culture for more than 100 years, diners have been described as one of the quintessential culinary experiences in the U.S. Generously portrayed in song, film, fiction and art, the classic American diners are typically defined by traditional late night American cuisine, retro food counters and simple stools, a smattering of tables and a stylish décor that sends customers back to a time when life was much simpler. Although diners are not nearly as popular as they once were and many have more limited hours or sought to place healthier food items on the menu, there remains hundreds of these establishments that continue to offer standard American comfort food, basic seating and a friendly atmosphere. While many if not most of the best classic diners can be found in Northeastern states like Massachusetts, New York and Rhode Island, here is a slightly broader look at just five of the best and most famous diners in America.

Frank's Diner
508 58th St.
Kenosha, WI
(262) 657-1017

Monday-Friday 6 a.m.-1:30 p.m.
Saturday 7 a.m.-1:30 p.m.
Sunday 7 a.m.-12:30 p.m.

"With a limited amount of seating and a featured dish that's known as "Garbage", Frank's Diner might not instantly come off as a recommended place to dine. But make no mistake about it, Frank's is a bonafide landmark institution, housed within a 1926 railroad car diner and considered to be the longest, continuously operated diner in the country. Over its lengthy history, the historic diner has been a popular stop for regular folks and local politicians, as well as legendary celebrities who were in town for appearances at the historic Kenosha Theatre nearby, such as Duke Ellington, Liberace, The Three Stooges and Count Dracula himself, Bela Lugosi. More recently actor Mark Ruffalo has dined at Frank's, as well CBS News correspondent Dean Reynolds and members of the Green Packers, along with Guy Fieri, who featured it on Season 1 of the popular TV series Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives on the Food Channel. Frank's offers several calorie-busting items on its impressive menu, including the famous Garbage Plates, which consists of five eggs, hash browns, green peppers and onions with an option for a choice of meats, along with other recommended dishes like the Gigantic Buttermilk Pancakes, Fluffy Omelets, The Usuals and the Gigantic Burger. Frank's Diner accepts cash only although an ATM machine is available.

Related: Best Afterhours Restaurants In San Francisco

Goody Goody Diner
5900 Natural Bridge Ave.
St. Louis, MO  63120
(314) 383-3333+

Monday – Saturday: 7 a.m.-2 p.m.
Sunday: 8 a.m.-2 p.m.

A St. Louis landmark restaurant since 1948, Goody Goody Diner seems to be as "goody goody" as it gets. As lofty as that claim may be, it's backed by a legion of loyal customers, a growing list of visitors from all over the country and the appearances from several well known people over the years, such as music legend Chuck Berry, former Miss America Debbye Turner, Cedric the Entertainer and former Vice Presidents Al Gore and Joe Biden. Goody Goody Diner even has a very popular local celebrity of its own – the very friendly and entertaining host Sylvester "Sly" Bell, who's also known as the "Rhyming Host". Located on the site of the very first A&W Root Beer stand in St. Louis, this spacious diner is widely known for a number of delicious menu items, which includes the Hobo Breakfast Bowl, The "Slinger", the famous Chicken and Waffles and The Wilbur, an enormous omelet which just so happens to be part of the diner's storefront slogan "Home of the Wilbur". Goody Goody Diner accepts cash and major credit cards.

Original Pantry Café
877 S. Figueroa St.
Los Angeles, CA  90017
(213) 972-9279

Open 24 hours

Backed by the catchy slogan of "never closed, never without a customer", the Original Pantry Café is still going strong after more than 90 celebrated years. Located just a short walk from the Grammy Museum and the world famous Staples Center, this Los Angeles landmark has been called the city's most famous restaurant and has repeatedly appeared in fiction and film, while also drawing several iconic celebrities over the years, like Marilyn Monroe, Lucille Ball, Humphrey Bogart and even Pope John Paul II and Kim Kardashian. Featuring a good-sized counter for about 20 customers and another 20 or so tables, this very Downtown LA restaurant features a wall menu that probably looks a lot like it originated during the Golden Age of Hollywood and with prices that thankfully remain affordable. For breakfast, pancakes, French toast and ham and cheese omelets are hot choices, as are other comfort items like its famous mashed potatoes, pantry burgers, salads and steaks, in addition to cakes and pies for those with a sweet tooth. Insider tip: visit the Café when something isn't going on at the Staples Center. The Original Pantry Cafe does not accept credit cards although there is an ATM machine available.

Tom's Brooklyn
782 Washington Ave.
Brooklyn, NY  11238
(718) 636-9738

Monday-Saturday: 7 a.m.-4 p.m.
Sunday: 8 a.m-4 p.m.

Not to be confused with the more touristy Tom's Restaurant that became a major pop culture attraction after being regularly featured in the hit TV sitcom Seinfeld, Tom's Brooklyn has arguably been the most popular restaurant in New York's most populous borough for more than 80 years. Occupying the same space in Prospect Heights since 1936, Tom's is very well known for giving out free items like coffee, cookies, fries and even milkshakes for customers waiting in the ever-present line out the door. But the real appeal of this old school diner not far from the Brooklyn Museum, is the consistently good level of service and the quality of delicious food items, albeit of the greasy spoon variety. First time customers might want to try out signature dishes like the Fluffy Pancake, Danish Pancake, Cheese Omelet and "Brooklyn's Best Burgers", along with popular beverages like Tom's Famous Egg Cream and Tom's Famous Cherry Lime Rickey. Tom's has a second location along the famous boardwalk at Coney Island. Although the original location is just cash only, the newer Coney Island spot does accept major credit cards.

Tops Diner
5000 Passaic Ave.
East Newark, NJ  07029
(973) 481-0490

Sunday-Thursday: 6 a.m.-1 a.m.
Friday-Saturday: 6 a.m.-2 a.m.

If New Jersey is the "the Diner Capital of the World", then Tops Diner might just be its capitol building. Named last year's best diner in America and a frequent mention as the state's best and most famous restaurant, this popular greasy spoon has been satisfying hungry customers for nearly 75 years. Boasting an extraordinarily large menu, Tops offers a number of signature dishes, like its popular Blueberry Pancakes, Jersey Disco Fries, NY Strip, Famous Jameis Meatloaf and the Lobster Mac, in addition to several BBQ rib dishes and reasonably priced Certified Angus Beef dishes. To cap the meal, customers may also wish to order a dessert or two, with recommended treats like chocolate cake, drug store sundaes, Grandma's Rice Pudding or one of eight different varieties of cheesecake, particularly the famous Original Cheesecake that's made from scratch daily. Visiting during the diner's peak hours may require a wait time of up to an hour, but it's worth it for dining at the best. Tops Diner accepts cash and major credit cards.

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