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Real Deal Diners

May 6, 2009

There are some advantages to living outside of the big city.  To live in a town where old institutions have not been torn down to make way for newer shinier things.

One big advantage: Diners.

Not those shining palaces of gleaming aluminum off the highway that charge $8 for an omelet.  Not the sit-down restaurant with an obligatory counter where you can order countless numbers of dishes from all over the world.  Not refurbished classic diners that serve all manner of gourmet breakfast specialties.

Real diners.  Where the aluminum may not be as shiny.  With one cook, who runs the show.  And who makes it look easy.  Waitresses with warmth and sass and just enough venom under the surface that you know not to cross them.

Where they serve breakfast.  Traditional breakfast that makes menus almost superfluous.  The food is honest, the food is cheap, and the food is deeply satisfying.

A griddle.  A counter.  A few burners.  A coffee machine.  A toaster.

Where you can sit, drink coffee until your hands shake too much to hold the newspaper and your bladder explodes.

We have a few of these in Albany.  And I love them.  My favorite is Dewey’sJack’s fits the bill when I’m on that side of town.  And in Schenectady, Peter Pause hits all the right buttons.  But I am still exploring.

What kills me, what absolutely kills me, is that most people don’t know how good they have it.  In their annual reader’s choice poll the local alternative weekly called Denny’s the best breakfast in the area.  Bastards.

13 Comments leave one →
  1. Annie permalink
    May 6, 2009 11:55 am

    Amen! Nothing like a real diner with SOUL. Love the line: Waitresses with warmth and sass and just enough venom under the surface that you know not to cross them.

  2. May 6, 2009 2:16 pm

    Have you tried Dirty Dan’s on Washington? Officially it’s called Dan’s Place II. There used to be a Dan’s Place I years ago on Madison, but now it’s long gone. I’d say this place sort of epitomizes “greasy spoon.” They even serve a burger topped with a fried egg. And the “no cursing” signs around the joint crack me up.

    Although not a diner per se, I’ve always wanted to try Sam’s Home Cooking on Lark. It’s been around since way before I was alive….

  3. May 6, 2009 4:03 pm

    Dan’s Place II is on my short list. I’d be up for trying Sam’s Home Cooking too. Although some of the places around Lark street keep ridiculous hours.

  4. Matt permalink
    May 6, 2009 5:22 pm

    What’s your view on the relationship between Diner Quality and Neighborhood Income?

    I have found that you can find good diners in really upscale neighborhoods (like Rittenhouse Square), or in impoverished neighborhood (like Levittown), but that diners (actually, all restaurants, but especially diners) in middle class areas mostly suck.

  5. Mark B. permalink
    May 7, 2009 9:34 pm

    Fussy little blog indeed. I salute you, sir.

    Is it any coincidence that Denny’s and hospitals are both open 24 hours?

    I’d like to hear your opinions on cheese, please.

  6. BenP permalink
    May 12, 2009 8:27 pm

    Did you ever make it to Town Diner in Watertown, MA? (http://www.deluxetowndiner.com) it is no longer a ‘real diner’ in the sense that you’re describing. but folks get very excited about their breakfasts, especially the pancakes. they’re too cakey for me — too far from my grandma’s buttermilk recipe.

  7. Tonia permalink
    May 26, 2009 4:53 pm

    Johnny B’s Glenmont Diner is right near my house. Great in the summer because you can sit out on the deck.

    Denny’s…. no words for that one.

  8. Gretchen permalink
    May 28, 2009 4:57 pm

    Ahh, yes, the wonderfulness that is Dewey’s. From the first time we went there, they knew what we were going to order the moment we walked in the door. Great and colorful people who serve really good food at a great price.

  9. June 4, 2009 2:30 pm

    Daniel —

    I believe it was you who used to wake me up at 2am and beg me to meet you at DENNY’S. You can run from your history, but you cannot hide…Love, David

  10. Luke permalink
    December 30, 2009 11:17 am

    Wow, I’m glad I’m not the only one in Albany that realizes what constitutes a good diner! I was beginning to wonder. Having moved from Syracuse where a few of the popular diners are actually CHEAP and GOOD, I was surprised to see people raving about Miss Albany. For me it left a lot to be desired. At least it’s old feeling I guess. I’ll be checking out your suggestions!

  11. Jessica R permalink
    March 20, 2012 6:16 pm

    Having read this entry and your Diner requirements, have you been to the South End Diner in Troy? It is basically everything you describe here. They usually throw in one or two unique specials each day, which shows the cook is actually thinking back there.

  12. Erin T permalink
    September 19, 2014 11:13 am

    Shady Glen in Turners Falls, MA. Worth the drive, especially if you continue to the Montague Book Mill, one of the best used bookstores around. I just looked it up and it has new owners since 2012, but when I used to go over 10 years ago, it was everything you describe. http://www.yelp.com/biz/shady-glen-turners-falls.

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