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Diner Omelettes

October 12, 2017

When I was growing up as a kid in Miami, there was one place which was central to my high school experience. And that place was Denny’s.

Mostly because it was open 24 hours. And on a Saturday night, I could go there with all of my friends crazy late at night, drink bottomless cups of coffee, order baskets of fries, and settle up the tab without breaking the bank.

Miami didn’t really have a strong diner culture. Or maybe it did, and I just missed it. Sometimes there are great things hiding in plain sight.

Denny’s isn’t inherently a special place. Actually, these days it’s pretty awful. And this is another one of those examples when I don’t know if the chain has gotten worse over time, or if I have just gotten wiser. Maybe it’s a little of both. But those early formative experiences in high school established a deep love of diners.

Except for one thing.

Perhaps you’ve heard the rumor that I’m particular about certain foods. Thankfully I’m able to put most of my concerns about ingredients behind me when I’m heading out to a diner.

I say most, but not all.

Imitation maple syrup is a crime against humanity. Even when it’s not outright lying and labeled “pancake syrup” I still want nothing to do with this poser. Supermarket breads are still a sticking point for me too, as I am convinced they are little more than extruded loaves of goo. Perhaps one day, bread will have a standard of identity. Until then, I’m part of the “no toast” crowd at most diners.

Occasionally diners will make their own bread, or get a specialty loaf from a local Italian bakery. In those cases, it’s toast all the way. I’m not opposed to bread and toast, I’m just opposed to crappy bread and crappy toast.

All of this is to say that my standard breakfast order is typically some variation of two eggs over potatoes. Sometimes they are poached. Basted eggs are fab in those rare old-school establishments that do such a thing. Over easy is the fallback option. Regardless if potatoes are home fries or hash browns, I like them crispy.

Runny yolks coating well seasoned crispy potatoes, and washed down with black coffee are what old man diner dreams are made of. Give me a newspaper, a comfy booth, and a ray of morning sun, and I’m a happy man.

But sometimes, I forget myself, and I feel like eating more veggies. Big mistake.

That impulse leads me down the road of diner omelettes. Surely, there is some magical diner out there in New Jersey or beyond where omelettes are a thing of beauty. But they are few and far between.

Either they are the thin rolled variety, of beaten eggs poured over a flat top and rolled around a filling of vegetables, almost like an egg crepe. Or they can be the stiff, dry, and browned folded omelet that is invariably overcooked with far too many eggs, and far too few vegetables.

Between you and me, the pinnacle of omelette perfection is the classic French omelette. I like how it’s pillowy, with a soft scrambled interior texture, and nothing but golden, tender, butter brushed eggs on the outside. Slice open the top, stuff it with something delicious, and serve it with a glass of wine. It’s a thing of beauty.

But I don’t go to a diner expecting classic French fare.

My hunch is that the biggest part of the problem is that diners feel the need to go large. So that means they are trying to cram too many eggs into any given omelette. Or, they are going for speed. So instead of building an omelet in the pan, and getting some volume to the eggs themselves, they use the flat top grill where the eggs batter cooks almost instantaneously in one thin mass.

Honestly, I prefer these rolled omelets to failed versions of a tender, fluffy omelet. In part because they tend to have more filling in them, which is why I’m ordering an omelet in the first place.

There’s nothing worse than looking forward to a spinach and feta omelet, and finding out you’ve only received a few token leaves of spinach that add a bit of color to the dish.


The secret to ordering omelets in diners is to keep a keen eye on the egg cook behind the line. And if the kitchen is closed off, check out the tables of the people around you. The good news is that substandard egg cooking is easily identifiable with even just a cursory glance.

Happy hunting. And if you find any great diner omelettes, please let me know.

One Comment leave one →
  1. albanylandlord permalink
    October 13, 2017 1:05 am

    Diners are not for omelets. They are for sunny side or over easy eggs, hash browns, and bacon (because even bad bacon is good bacon), Some diners are good for corned beef hash or sausages (Dan’s Place too). Ordering on Omelet is pretty much a bad idea and you deserve having to eat it when it comes. You can put saltpepperketchup on it to help wash it down.

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