New home for Hometown Diner

The Silver Diner Restaurant not showing too much silver (stainless steel)
Note that the sign says “Trailer For Sale” (I hate when people refer to diners
as trailers!) photo courtesy of Steve Harwin & Diversified Diners

Once upon a time there was a place called the Silver Diner located in London, Kentucky. This was a 1947 Silk City Diner built by the Paterson Vehicle Company of Paterson, NJ (actually, it turns out it is a 1949 vintage No. 4931). The Silver diner was a little worse for wear when it closed at the end of 2005. Steve Harwin of Cleveland, Ohio’s Diversified Diners heard about the closed diner and that it was available. Steve went down to Kentucky to inspect the diner and here is his description of what he found…..

It had a front entrance and a side entrance but the vestibule was missing. There were two doors leading out the back of the diner, a center door for the access to an annex kitchen and the door on the right side leading into additional seating area and rest rooms.

Steve also told me in a recent phone conversation that 90% of the original stainless steel facade had been stripped off when the T-111 wooden paneling was added to the facade, (as the photos show). Also, another roof had been built that incorporated the diner with the attached building. Only the stainless steel trim around the windows and the corner pieces were left intact from the diners original facade. When Harwin decided to obtain the diner, he got a crew together to extract it from the remaining structure and remove it from its site for transport back to Cleveland.

The Silver Diner in process of being extracted from the attached building.
photo courtesy of Steve Harwin & Diversified Diners

Interior view of the Silver Diner shows that a huge amount of originality existed on the inside as compared to the outside.
photo courtesy of Steve Harwin & Diversified Diners

Another interior view of the Silver Diner.
photo courtesy of Steve Harwin & Diversified Diners

As Steve Harwin goes on to say….  The diner was configured by the factory to seat 52 but we modified it slightly to allow for more spacious seating and ADA accessibility.  It measures approximately 40 foot long by 15 foot wide. It took 8 months to restore the diner for new owner Matthias Kaplanow.

Steve told me this restoration was a challenge for him. Even though he had restored quite a few Silk City Diners, all of those previous diners had porcelain enameled steel panels and not the stainless steel panels that these slightly newer models had. To assist in the restoration he traveled to Meriden, CT and took numerous photos of  the former New Palace Diner now operating as Cassidy’s Diner, which was a similar model. The photos helped him replicate the stainless steel panels that he then had to figure out how to install properly. The restoration of this was completed in 2010 and Steve was justifiably proud of the outcome. The diner was then moved to Ottawa, Ohio where Kaplanow, a German national had some property. He opened the establishment as the Hometown Diner.

Front elevation of the Hometown Diner after installation in Ottawa, OH
photo courtesy of Steve Harwin & Diversified Diners

Side elevation of the Hometown Diner after installation in Ottawa, OH
This shows the kitchen and dining room addition with matching stainless
steel facade. photo courtesy of Steve Harwin & Diversified Diners

Interior view of the Hometown Diner after installation in Ottawa, OH
photo courtesy of Steve Harwin & Diversified Diners

Unfortunately, Matt Kaplanow was under the mistaken impression that he could run the diner from his home in Germany. This arrangement did not work out and the diner was closed in 2012. Around this same time ironically  I received an email from Evie Goodspeed, (on July 10, 2012 to be exact). Evie works for Tim Halliday, the owner of 202 Truck & Equipment located in Rindge, NH. She told me in this email that they had been looking for the past year for a Diner for sale and have not had much luck. In Evie’s email to me, she basically wanted to know if I was aware of any diners in the Northeast that might be for sale. She went on to say…. we have the ability to move a diner ourselves. Any info you might have would be great.

I got back to Evie and suggested she get in touch with Dave Pritchard of Salisbury, Mass. who had 2 or 3 diners possibly for sale. She immediately answered that they had known about Dave and already checked out what diners he had, basically deciding the diners did not meet their requirements. I also told Evie about Steve Harwin and she immediately said that they had actually been in contact with Steve but communication was moving very slowly. In fact Steve ultimately told them he did not have a diner at that point in time available for sale.

So I then mentioned the former Forbes Diner in New Haven, CT which off the top of my head was the only other one I could think of at that time that was available and ready to move.  I gave her whatever contact info I had for that diner and Tim immediately decided to go down to inspect it the next day, ultimately deciding that that particular diner needed too much work. I did not hear from Evie or Tim again after that. It seems their luck would change not too long after this when Steve Harwin called to let them know of the availability of the closed Hometown Diner.

Fast forward to about a month ago…. I read online that a new diner was coming to Rindge, NH. I started reading the piece and then the light bulb went off…. I know who this is and what diner they are buying! I immediately got on the phone and talked with Evie. I said to her (without identifying myself), I see you people got the diner you were looking for! She laughed and I then identified myself and she said they had mentioned my name within the last few days and were going to let me know about the news…. but I beat them to it.

The diner was moved from Ohio to New Hampshire shortly after I spoke with Evie in early June.  Denise and I decided to take a ride this past Sunday to take a look at the diner which was reportedly already installed on a foundation at its new location, the intersection of U.S. Rte. 202 and State Rte. 119. It was a beautiful day for the ride and I was able to take quite a few great photos of the diner ….

Hometown Diner at its new location in New Hampshire
June 9, 2013 photo by Larry Cultrera

Hometown Diner at its new location in New Hampshire
June 9, 2013 photo by Larry Cultrera

Hometown Diner at its new location in New Hampshire
June 9, 2013 photo by Larry Cultrera

Hometown Diner at its new location in New Hampshire
June 9, 2013 photo by Larry Cultrera

Interior photo of the Hometown Diner, June 9, 2013 photo by Larry Cultrera

Looks like I can still rock these thru-the-window interior shots – Thanks
Dick Gutman!!!!!

Hometown Diner at its new location in New Hampshire
June 9, 2013 photo by Larry Cultrera

I tried to get in touch with Tim before I took the ride out to Rindge. I actually spoke to his wife Anne who told me to stop by the 202 Truck & Equipment business as Tim would be there. I did stop but the place seemed closed and no one was there. I called Tim’s house and again spoke with Anne after I got back. I asked her about the entryway and other pieces of the diner. She told me they were in a storage trailer along with that great neon sign it had in Ottawa, OH. So, I did not get a chance to meet Tim or Evie on this trip as it was sort of spur of the moment, but that will come in the future! I did eventually speak with Tim the next morning and he told me that he hopes to have the diner up and running by September. He will not be operating it himself but is in negotiations with interested people who are very experienced in running a food establishment. I certainly will be keeping tabs on this and will update the progress as well as hope to be there when the diner opens!

The Dining Car of Philadelphia, a family tradition!

Close-up of the fantastic sign for The Dining Car in Philadelphia,
July 1, 1985 photo by Larry Cultrera

Growing up in the Boston area, I recall all the various diners we had around thru the 1950’s and 1960’s. Most were built by the local Worcester Lunch Car Company (Worcester, Mass.) as well as more than a few Sterling Diners that were built in nearby Merrimac, Mass. by the J.B. Judkins Company. We also had a handful of  Fodero’s, Mountain Views and O’Mahony’s from New Jersey. There were quite a few Brill diners built in Springfield, Mass. for the J.G. Brill Company based in Philadelphia, PA as well as a couple of Valentine diners out of Witchita, KS.  I personally was also familiar with Swingle diners (another New Jersey company, 1957-1988) having grown up with two of their diners here, Carroll’s Colonial Dining Car of my hometown of Medford (1961) and the Victoria Diner of Boston (1965). These two diners were the most modern diners in the Greater Boston area.

After starting my documentation of existing diners in the early 1980’s, I made the acquaintance of Richard Gutman, a native of Allentown, PA who had relocated to the Boston area in the early 1970’s after graduating from Cornell University’s College of Architecture, Art and Planning. Dick had authored the first real history book on this truly unique type of restaurant known as a diner. The book was titled Amercian Diner (this later was updated to a more comprehensive volume entitled Amercian Diner Then & Now).  From reading his book, I learned that the evolution of diners was an on-going process. Basically from the horse-drawn lunch wagons of the late 1800’s to early 1900’s, to the barrel-roofed and monitor-roofed railroad car inspired designs of the 1920’s, 1930’s and early 1940’s as well as the modern stainless steel streamlined diners of the late 1940’s thru the 1950’s. But from the early 1960’s into the early 1980’s the diner manufacturers had drifted away from the traditional “railroad car” styled diners to the larger multi-section diner-restaurants with their more updated Colonial and Mediterranean influenced designs.

View of the left side front elevation of The Dining Car,
July 1, 1985 photo by Larry Cultrera

I would guess it was from Richard Gutman, that I had heard (not too long after I met him) of a new diner being built by Swingle Diners… the first ever retro-styled diner called The Dining Car of Philadelphia, PA. So in my travels on the diner trail, I planned on someday checking this new old-style diner out. I had heard that Swingle in collaboration with the Morozin family (owners of The Dining Car) had loosely based the design of the new Dining Car on the old Monarch model that the Jerry O’Mahony Dining Car Company had built back in the mid-to-late 1930’s. It featured a metal-sheathed monitor roof, not used since the 1950’s as well as a black enameled body (with the name of the diner lettered on) under the windows. It also included stainless steel trim on the corners of the building as well as the window sills. So it was in the middle of  a diner road-trip, July 17, 1984 to be precise that myself and Steve Repucci visited the Swingle Diner factory in Middlesex, NJ. We were given a tour of the plant by Eric Swingle, a nephew of owner Joe Swingle. We met Joe along with his chief designer Joe Montano. I asked Joe Montano about The Dining Car and he actually pulled out the blue prints to show us what it looked like! It wasn’t until July 1, 1985 that we actually set foot in the diner on a subsequent road-trip. We had lunch as I recall and I took quite a few exterior shots of this huge diner (which can be seen here). I found myself at The Dining Car one other time since then…. June 19, 1993 during the Delaware Valley Diner Tour which was part of the Diner Experience, a symposium conducted by the Society for Commercial Archeology. But going through my slide archive, it seems I did not photograph it that time.

View of the full front elevation of The Dining Car,
July 1, 1985 photo by Larry Cultrera

To help with some background for this post, I recently spoke with Nancy Morozin, a friend of mine from Facebook who is the current general manager of the diner started by her dad, Joe Morozin Sr. Nancy runs the business along with her brother Joe Jr. and sister Judy. Joe Jr. oversees all back-of-the-house functions while Judy is responsible for the training of all front-of-the-house personnel. The Dining Car story goes back to Joe Sr’s. early days, basically from a teenager on – running various eateries with names such as the GI Inn, and another called the White Way among others. Jump to the year 1961 when Joe was ready for something new and larger, this is when he bought a brand-new Swingle Diner. Nancy describes it as an “L-Shaped” Colonial-styled diner with large windows and hammered copper hood. From the sounds of it, this would have made it a contemporary of Carroll’s Diner in Medford (the one I grew up with). This diner was known as the Torresdale Diner from 1961 – 1976. In 1976, the family updated the diner with a slight renovation that included some new victorian-styled decorations salvaged from an old Atlantic City hotel and decided to change the name to The Dining Car. It operated as  such until they approached Swingle Diners about building them the new larger diner in 1981. Contrary to some reports I have read (as well as being mentioned by Nancy), The Dining Car was not the last brand-new diner built by Swingle Diners. I know this for a fact because when I visited the factory in 1984, they were just completing the final sections of the Penny II Diner of Norwalk, CT. Ironically while we were there, they received a phone call that the first two sections of the diner, which had left the factory on the previous day, had arrived on site that morning! Also, according to Mike Engle (co-author of Diners of New York), the Country View Diner of  Brunswick, NY was possibly the last diner out of the factory. It was built in 1988 and opened in 1989 as the Stagecoach Inn.

View of the right side front elevation of The Dining Car,
July 1, 1985 photo by Larry Cultrera

In the late 1980’s Bob Giaimo and Chef Ype Von Hengst of the proposed Silver Diner chain out of the Washington, DC area actually trained at The Dining Car to see how a large upscale diner operated. Giaimo and the Morozins remained friendy since then. In 1989, the Morozins decided they need to do something as the customers queuing up to purchase their baked goods from their in-house bakery were interfering with the other clientele who were attempting to pay for their meals. You see as Nancy explains it, the diner’s bakery is famous for its Apple Walnut Pie, which is similar to a cheesecake, baked in a pie shell with sweet apples folded inside and topped with walnuts rolled in brown sugar and cinnamon. Another popular item is the Jewish Apple Cake which is a European coffee cake baked with apples and cinnamon sugar. The diner received the “Best of Philadelphia” for that. So a new addition was planned to house and sell the baked goods. Looking for advice, Nancy approached Bob Giaimo to consult with as he previously had operated a chain of upscale bakery/cafés (American Café Restaurants). She hoped to get idea’s for the proposed “Market” addition. When all was said and done the new addition was grafted onto the front of the diner’s entryway. It was designed by the noted restaurant designer, Charles Morris Mount who also consulted along with Richard Gutman and Kullman Diners to design the first Silver Diner for Giaimo, located in Rockville, MD. As Nancy went on to tell me…. There are also a few food items that are uber popular that we sell in the “market” which is why she opted to call the new addition a “market” vs a “bakery”.

Joe Morozin Sr. and Nancy Morozin holding a copy of the revised Edition of
Diners of Pennsylvania by Brian Butko, Kevin Patrick and Kyle Weaver
photo courtesy of Kyle R. Weaver

The diner employs a staff of around 130 and with later additions currently seats 260 patrons. Many of the staff have been working at the diner for years and even decades. This is because the staff is treated like family and the same can be said about the regular customers!

Another interesting story Nancy related to me about the regular customers was when the new diner was installed back in 1981, it was placed on the property adjacent to the old diner. They were basically sitting back to back with a fence between the back walls of both the buildings. Apparently there were a handful of these regular customers who wanted to have the official last meal in the older diner and the first one in the newer diner. So to help facilitate this, an opening was made in the fence between the two diners and the customers in the old diner picked up their plates and coffee cups and proceeded to walk thru the kitchen of that diner, out the back door, thru the opening in the fence and into the back door of the new diner. They went thru that kitchen and into the main part of this diner to finish their meals! What a delightful story, to say the least!

Up until a few years ago The Dining Car was one of a handful of family-run diners that had operated under 2 or 3 generations. There was the Melrose Diner operated by the Kubach family, the Mayfair Diner operated by members of the Morrison, Struhm and Mulholland families as well as the Country Club Diner operated by the Perloff family. Within the last 6 years or so all of those diners with the exception of The Dining Car were bought by Michael Petrogiannis.  In fact Nancy says they too were approached by at least two or three parties who were inquiring whether they wanted to sell their diner a number of years ago, but the Morozins were not interested in selling. As far as I’m concerned, I believe I speak for all their regular customers as well as myself when I say that I am glad as well as relieved to know that the Morozin family will continue to operate this long-time Philadelphia institution for many years to come!

More recent view of the left side front elevation of The Dining Car, showing
the 1989 addition of the “Market” off the front of the entryway designed by
the late Charles Morris Mount, photo by Kyle R. Weaver

If you are ever in the Philadelphia area I highly recommend you visit The Dining Car, it is located at 8826 Frankford Avenue. Telephone is 215-338-5113 and you can also check out The Dining Car’s website at…

If you go, tell them Diner Hotline sent you!

flagship Silver Diner reopens at new location

When the Silver Diner opened its flagship location at 11806 Rockville Pike (Rockville, MD) in 1989, it not only marked the beginning of this new venture between restaurateur Robert Giaimo and  master chef Ype Von Hengst but also the rebirth of an old concept…. a chain of Diners.

Silver Diner, 11806 Rockville Pike, Rockville, MD
March 1993 photo by Larry Cultrera

Diner chains had existed sporadically over the years, some examples being the Monarch Diners in Massachusetts and New Hampshire started by the DeCola brothers of Waltham (circa 1940 thru 1970)and more recently the chain of Dempsey’s Diners in Pennsylvania (roughly 1960 thru 1990).

The first Silver Diner was the only outlet of the chain that was built in a factory. A collaboration between diner manufacturer  Kullman Industries, award winning restaurant designer Charles Morris Mount, diner historian Richard J. S. Gutman (as design development consultant), Mike Collier of Uniwest Construction and Cini-Little International, Inc. (food service consultants), this diner brought back and updated the classic look of gleaming stainless steel, porcelain enamel and neon, a trend that caught on universally throughout the diner industry.

Nowadays, the Silver Diner has 16 locations in Maryland, Virginia and New Jersey. Check out their website at …… Last year on the occasion of their 20th anniversary Silver Diner announced their plans to relocate their Rockville headquarters to a brand new on-site built diner at 12276 Rockville Pike. As of November 2, 2010, they closed the old location and opened the new one.

rendering of the new Silver Diner at 12276 Rockville Pike
courtesy of Silver Diner

Good friend Michael G. Stewart had a quick meal last week at the new diner and reported that the place is very clean and the food was good but service seemed a little slow which could be attributed to the staff getting used to the new layout. Check out Michael’s website at…

An interesting sidelight to this story happened around last weeks opening of the new diner. You see I belong to the Silver Diner fan page on Facebook and a few weeks ago they announced a contest where they asked people to share their favorite personal story of the Rockville Silver Diner. They would draw a winner once a week until the November 2nd opening. The winners would receive a Tabletop Juke Box replica.

Masthead on Silver Diners facebook page (Rockville memories tab)

I myself visited the diner twice over the years, once in 1990 and also another time in March of 1993. I decided to share an experience I had during my second visit. Here is what I wrote…….

The last time I was there was either 1992 or 93. I was buying a new t-shirt to replace my first one from 1990. I wanted to get a decent photo of the diner that was not blocked by parked cars so I got up on top of a newspaper dispenser box on the sidewalk next to a light pole to get the shot. A lady customer had just come out of the diner and saw me taking my photo, her car was right there and she went into the glovebox and took out a camera and took a photo of me taking my photo of the diner.

Here is the photo I shot of the Silver Diner from the top of a newspaper dispenser box.
(I believe the lady who took my photo is in the blue mini-van)

Well it was coming up to November 2nd and I thought they did not pick my story as a winner, boy was I wrong! On Wednesday, the 3rd I saw on Facebook that I won the last drawing for the contest! I was surprised!

They contacted me and wanted to make arrangements for me to pick up my prize. I realized this might present a problem as I live in the Boston, Massachusetts area and let them know about this. They asked if I knew someone in their area that might be able to pick the prize up for me as they would not ship it.  

I immediately thought of Michael G. Stewart and contacted him. I gave him the lowdown on my predicament and he said he would do me the favor and pick up my prize. 

The Juke Box replica arrived at my place of employment on Wednesday in good shape and I want to thank Michael Stewart for shipping it, and also Iffat Khan of the Silver Diner and Katie Conlon of the Silver Diner Facebook page for being so helpful and gracious. 

Iffat Khan informed me that the other winners had their photo taken when they picked up their prizes and asked me to send along one of myself with my prize.


Me with the Juke Box replica, photo by Denise Cultrera

Notes from the Hotline, 6-26-2010

A Great article on Richard Gutman
from Smithsonian Magazine online

This 1956 photograph was taken during the short time that two Nite Owls sat cheek-by-jowl in Fall River, MA. Soon the old lunch wagon was carted away and demolished, replaced by the gleaming diner built by the DeRaffele Company of New Rochelle, NY. Collection of Richard J.S. Gutman

A Life Devoted to the American Diner

With a career spent chronicling the best of American diners, curator Richard Gutman knows what makes a great greasy spoon

  • By Sarah Saffian
  •, June 15, 2010

 What Jane Goodall is to chimpanzees and David McCullough is to John Adams, Richard Gutman is to diners. “I was interviewed for a New Yorker article about diners when I was 23 years old,” he says over a meal at the Modern Diner (est. 1941) in downtown Pawtucket, Rhode Island, one recent sunny Monday. “And now, almost 40 years later, I’m still talking about diners.” He’s gradually grown into the lofty title “important architectural historian of the diner” that George Trow sardonically bestowed on him in that 1972 “Talk of the Town” piece, progressing from graduate of Cornell’s architecture school to movie consultant on Barry Levinson’s Diner and Woody Allen’s Purple Rose of Cairo and author of American Diner: Then and Now and other books. But his enthusiasm for his subject remains as fresh as a slab of virtue (diner lingo for cherry pie).

Richard J.S. Gutman, diner scholar.
Culinary Arts Museum, photo by Steven Spencer

 Gutman leaps out of the booth—he’s compact and spry, surprising in someone who’s spent decades not just talking about diners, but eating in them—to count the number of seats in the Modern (52). Weighing the classic diner conundrum—“should I have breakfast or lunch?” he asks the grease-and-coffee-scented air—he boldly orders one of the more exotic daily specials, a fresh fruit and mascarpone crepe, garnished with a purple orchid. Before taking the first bite, like saying grace, he snaps a photograph of the dish to add to the collection of more than 14,000 diner-related images archived on his computer. He tells me that his own kitchen, at the house in Boston where he’s lived with his family for 30 years, is designed diner-style, with an authentic marble countertop, three stools and a menu board all salvaged from a 1940s Michigan diner, along with a 1930s neon “LUNCH” sign purchased from a local antique store. “Nobody has a kitchen like this,” Gutman half-confesses, half-boasts over the midday clatter of dishes and silverware. “Nobody.”

Richard Gutman’s dinerized kitchen, Boston, MA.
Photo by Richard J.S. Gutman

We finish our breakfast/lunch—I highly recommend the Modern’s raisin challah French toast with a side of crispy bacon—and head to Johnson & Wales University’s Culinary Arts Museum in Providence, where Gutman has been the director and curator since 2005. The museum hosts more than 300,000 items, a library of 60,000 volumes and a 25,000-square-foot gallery, featuring a reconstructed 1800s stagecoach tavern, a country fair display, a chronology of the stove, memorabilia from White House dinners and more. But it’s the 4,000-square-foot exhibit, “Diners: Still Cookin’ in the 21st Century,” that is Gutman’s labor of love. Indeed, 250 items come from his own personal collection—archival photographs of streamlined stainless steel diners and the visionaries who designed them, their handwritten notes and floor plans, classic heavy white mugs from the Depression-era Hotel Diner in Worcester, Massachusetts, 77-year-old lunch wagon wheels, a 1946 cashier’s booth. “It’s just one slice of the food service business that we interpret here,” Gutman likes to say, but the diner exhibit is clearly the museum’s highlight.

When lunch wagons moved off the streets, they grew in size and menu and stayed open 24 hours. This diner was built by Jerry O’Mahony, Inc. around 1918 and operated in Paterson, NJ. Collection of Richard J.S. Gutman

This is fitting, since the history of the diner began, after all, right here in Providence—with a horse-drawn wagon, a menu and, as they say, a dream. In 1872, an enterprising man named Walter Scott introduced the first “night lunch wagon.” Coming out at dusk, the lunch wagons would pick up business after restaurants closed, serving workers on the late shift, newspapermen, theatergoers, anyone out and about after dark and hungry for an inexpensive hot meal. A fellow would get his food from the wagon’s window and eat sitting on the curb. Gaining popularity, the lunch wagons evolved into “rolling restaurants,” with a few seats added within, first by Samuel Jones in 1887. Folks soon started referring to them as “lunch cars,” which then became the more genteel-sounding “dining cars,” which was then, around 1924, shortened to the moniker “diner.”

One distinction between a diner and a coffee shop is that the former is traditionally factory-built and transported to its location, rather than constructed on-site. The first stationary lunch car, circa 1913, was made by Jerry O’Mahony, founder of one of the first of a dozen factories in New Jersey, New York and Massachusetts that manufactured and shipped all the diners in the United States. At their peak in the 1950s, there were 6,000 across the country, as far-flung as Lakewood, Colorado and San Diego, though the highest concentration remained in the Northeast; today, there are only about 2,000, with New Jersey holding the title for most “diner-supplied” state, at 600-plus. New ones are still made occasionally, though, by the three remaining factories, and old ones are painstakingly restored by people like Gutman, who has worked on some 80 diners and currently has a couple of projects going, like the Owl Diner in Lowell, Massachusetts, in the alley (on the side).

Around World War II, diners began to be built in more than one section to accommodate more patrons and larger kitchens. This 1946 photograph shows the Tastee Diner being installed in Silver Spring, MD.
Collection of Richard J.S. Gutman

While Gutman is diplomatically reluctant to identify his favorite diner, one of his mainstays is Casey’s of Natick, Massachusetts, the country’s oldest operating diner. “They’ve supported five generations of a family on ten stools,” he says, gesturing to a photograph of the 10-by-20 ½ -half-foot, all oak-interior dining car, constructed as a horse-drawn lunch wagon in 1922, and bought secondhand five years later by Fred Casey and moved from Framingham to its current location four miles away. In the 1980s, when Gutman’s daughter Lucy was little, no sooner had they pulled up to the counter at Casey’s but Fred’s great-grandson Patrick would automatically slide a package of chocolate chip cookies down to Lucy, pour her a chocolate milk, and get her grilled cheese sandwich going on the grill. “If you go to a diner, yes, it’s a quick experience,” Gutman explains “But it’s not an anonymous experience.”

This unidentified diner interior was built by Paramount Dining Car Company of Haledon, NJ, in the late 1930s. The materials and design show diner detailing at its finest: stainless steel, chrome, Formica and ceramic tile. Collection of Richard J.S. Gutman

That intangible, yet distinctive sense of community captures what Gutman calls the ordinary person’s story. “Without ordinary people, how would the world run? Politicians have to go to diners to connect. What’s the word on the street? In diners, you get people from all walks of life, a real cross-section.” And while any menu around the country can be counted on for staples like ham and eggs and meatloaf—and, back in the day, pickled tongue and asparagus on toast—a region’s local flavor is also represented by its diners’ cuisine: scrod in New England, crab cakes in Maryland, grits down South.

The changing times are reflected on the diner menu, too: the Washington, D.C. chain Silver Diner introduced “heart-healthy” items in 1989 and recently announced that it would supply its kitchens with locally grown foods; the Capitol Diner, serving the working-class residents of Lynn, Massachusetts, since 1928, added quesadillas to its menu five years ago; today there are all-vegetarian diners and restored early 20th-century diners that serve exclusively Thai food.

If the essential diner ethos is maintained in the midst of such innovations, Gutman approves. But, purist that he is, he’ll gladly call out changes that don’t pass muster. Diners with kitsch, games, gumball machines or other “junk” frustrate him. “You don’t need that kind of stuff in a diner! You don’t go there to be transported into an arcade! You go there to be served some food, and to eat.”

And there you have the simplest definition of what, exactly, this iconic American eatery is. “It’s a friendly place, usually mom-and-pop with a sole proprietor, that serves basic, home-cooked, fresh food, for good value,” Gutman explains. “In my old age, I’ve become less of a diner snob”—itself a seeming contradiction in terms—“which, I think, is probably a good thing.”

Waterbury, CT’s Silver Diner closed

I got an email from Al Hofer on June 13th and he reports that the Silver Diner of Waterbury, CT is now closed. Here is what he said….

Hi Larry, While traveling through Waterbury, CT yesterday we were going to stop at the Silver Diner for dinner and found it looking like this.

Silver Diner, Waterbury, CT – 2010 exterior photo by Al Hofer

Silver Diner, Waterbury, CT – 2010 exterior photo by Al Hofer

Silver Diner, Waterbury, CT – 2010 exterior photo by Al Hofer

This is the former Lafayette Diner that was in Easton, PA. (I have it as The New Lafayette Diner in my log – LAC). The parking lot was so torn up and scattered with junk and clutter, that I couldn’t even figure out where the driveway was. It looks like the property has been taken over by a gravel processing plant. Surprisingly, the interior still looks to be in real good shape.

Silver Diner, Waterbury, CT – 2010 interior photo by Al Hofer

I thought it would be used for storing a bunch of crap. By the way, we passed Blackies Hot Dogs just up the street from the diner and it was still open.

Here are 2 of my photos of the same diner when I found it back on March 22, 1982. As I noted above, it was called The New Lafayette Diner and was just off Rte. 22 in Easton, PA. This is an early 1950’s Mountain View Diner but it had a Manno Diner “tag”. It looks like the only exterior modification that was done by Manno was the newer flared out roofline. This was removed by Steve Harwin (Diversified Diners) after he bought it in the early to mid 1990’s. He in turn sold the diner in 1994 and it became the Silver Diner in Waterbury.

The New Lafayette Diner, Easton, PA – 1982 photo by Larry Cultrera

The New Lafayette Diner, Easton, PA – 1982 photo by Larry Cultrera