The Disappearing Small Town Diner

They used to be every small town’s most treasured institution.  Right there on Main Street.  Regulars starting dropping in as soon as the doors opened, which was early.  Coffee was poured without asking in thick china mugs.  Mabel called you by name and asked about the family.

Who would rather eat an Egg McMuffin on the run?

Most of us, if the truth be known.  “On the run” being the operative word.  A leisurely breakfast?  One Sunday a month, maybe.  Certainly not on a Thursday morning.

Except they’re still out there.  You just have to get away from the freeways a little to find them.  They still have Blue-Plate specials, except maybe they don’t call them that any more.  Except sometimes they still do.

Maybe it’s the people who are the regulars at the small time diners who are the disappearing breed.  They were born before personal computers, much less cell phones.  They didn’t stay connected by starting their morning with Facebook.  The Main Street diner was their social media.

Plus it came with coffee.

Put it on your bucket list.  Get out and away from the city this weekend.  Get an early start — if you don’t get going until 10am they’ll probably still be serving breakfast, but most of the regulars will have gone by then.  Get off the freeway and venture into small town America.

Have yourself some grits.

small town dinerps: want to be mistaken for a regular?  wear a hat, or at least a baseball cap.

small town diner3


9 thoughts on “The Disappearing Small Town Diner

  1. Summer of 2010, I was running around the Gulf Coast dealing with IT issues in three states: Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana. One previous day in particular had been as much fun as taking a shower in a meat-grinder, and I was feeling pretty ragged as I headed for Houma. In some small town – I’m embarrassed to say I do not remember the name of it – on the way, I stopped in a diner and ordered a ‘large coffee, to go.’ The waitress at the counter took one look at me, poured a giant china mug and set it on the counter. “For you, baby, we ain’t got no ‘to go’ cups. If you rushin’ that bad, cain’t stop ten minutes for a cuppa coffee, somethin’ bad wrong. Siddown heah, smoke ’em if you got ’em. Cherry pie good today, I swear on my momma.”

    That coffee and pie was the finest I ever tasted. I will never forget them. And you can believe I will *never* forget that waitress at the counter in that small town diner.

      • Wonder if she remembers the encounter as well as you do? Or does she touch 20 people a day and they all blend together after awhile? I’m betting you stood out — you’re a stand-out-from-the-crowd sort of person (and the tip probably didn’t hurt).

    • Wow. Loved reading that Will. I’m familiar with the name of a town called Houma. Seems waaayyyyyy down south in Louisiana, if I remember my father’s recounting the story to me. A place near the typical waterfront Louisiana country side, is how I kinda remember him describing the place where he stayed. A place with great fishing. I don’t know if Houma was near or right in the marshy area, but I remember the name Houma and I recall his description of the trailer they rented, the local people, and the fishing.

  2. Greenville–the Texas one–was/is larger than White Sands, SC; all of 18,000 in the early 1960’s. Four diners–one in each quadrant–and not a national chain to be found anywhere. Greenville Drive In (no longer a drive in at that time, just a cafe) was home to the best lemon pie, exactly like my mom’s. Bob’s Walker’s Cafe, two doors down from my dad’s grocery store and half a block from the farmers’ market, was the place for chicken fried steak and talk of rain. Queen Ann’s is hard to describe, but great burgers with secret ingredients (crushed saltines and egg) plus long thin fries cut from real potatoes.

    Peterson’s made the best creamy garlic salad dressing. Anywhere. Still. Served on a wedge of iceberg, of course. But my most vivid memory of Peterson’s was on Sunday, November 24, 1963. It had been an emotional weekend, and I was allowed to go out to eat with my boyfriend after church for Sunday dinner aka the noontime meal, instead of going to “the” cafeteria with my family. We’d barely sat down when the news hit the room that Jack Ruby had shot Lee Harvey Oswald. At the time I thought “I’ll remember this” and I still do. I remember vividly where we were seated and what Jim was wearing and how people kept getting up and stopping at other tables to talk. Indeed, the social network of the day.

  3. Oh Rusty!
    Reading that brought home such memories for me. I had a place like that once. Seems a life time ago, though I shut the doors a mere 3-4 years ago. A place where people dined who touched my life in such amazing ways. And incredibly enough—for me—a place where I actually made a difference in people’s lives.

    I miss that.

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