I grew up in the Northeast, where diners are almost as common as pizzerias. The diner I grew up near was 24/7, serving breakfast all-day, and classically decorated, with booths and huge menus and a counter. While diners are less prevalent in the South, they still are definitely around and they always remind you of a slice of home. Whenever I was sick or stressed or just couldn’t decide what I wanted to eat, an order of chocolate chip pancakes and a vanilla milkshake from the diner always hit the spot.
Diners mean burgers, breakfast, and milkshakes to me (and the occasional gyro). While diners aren’t everywhere (or may have a different name), this list has establishments that serve those staples. Hopefully you’ve been to, or heard of, the diner from your home state on this list. As an American favorite, there are always so many to choose from. I asked residents from each of the 50 states (and DC) where their personal favorite diner was growing up (and even now). There is even a restaurant in Paris opened by expats that attempts to recreate the vibe of an American diner-the lines are consistently out the door!
While most Alabamans frequent Waffle House as their diner, John’s City Diner in Birmingham is an upscale diner/bar that has three creative takes on mac and cheese, three takes on chicken and waffles, and a cocktail menu that is sure to impress.
An Alaskan staple, Gwennie’s has been on the Anchorage scene for over 30 years. Decorated with knick knacks collected over the years and native art, this place serves reindeer sausage and eggs and a crab sandwich on an English muffin. Only in Alaska.
With an outdoor patio with mismatched chairs and a cocktail menu that isn’t present at most traditional diners, the Welcome Diner reinvents the casual diner into a dinner spot with a whole section of the menu devoted to biscuit sandwiches and inventive burgers topped with peanut butter.
This 100-year-old diner boasts live music every week and ginormous pancakes, as well as their famous Excaliburger – a burger between two grilled cheeses. They also serve biscuits and gravy, or biscuits and chocolate gravy as a dessert option.
Eddie’s is so classic and vintage it doesn’t even have a website. They have an extensive collection of coffee mugs, which they attempt to match to your personality. Being described as the ultimate soul food, their homemade biscuits and grits might be unique in the health-conscious bay area, but can’t be missed.
Their skillet specialties are the stuff of what dreams are made (especially after a night of drinking). A mountain of homefries with toppings and eggs sounds like heaven in breakfast form. They also have a plethora of eggs benedict options, from avocado to corned beef hash.
What it lacks for in breakfast, it makes up for in burgers. Truly, Lucky’s is the classic malt shop you remember from old movies. When I first came here, I was much younger and all-too-fascinated with the straw dispensers. The vibe and food of Lucky’s cannot be missed.
This place truly has everything – mimosas, a brunch burger that comes with breakfast potatoes instead of French fries, and a plethora of meat options – the classics, plus scrapple and Taylor ham. Their famous dish is creamed chipped beef, which can’t be missed.
If you’re looking to splurge, look no further than the ‘Fat Cat Breakfast for Two’ – a New York Strip steak, eggs, toast, grits, and a bottle of Dom Perignon. If you’re not, this extensive menu has plenty of other options, including the ‘Not So Fat Cat’ – same as above, but with cheaper bubbly.
A few hours away from the actual White House, the White House diner serves your simple staples – eggs, bacon, pancakes, French toast. The difference between this and Northeast diners is instead of toast and potatoes, it’s biscuits and gravy with grits. Not that I would be complaining.
This diner takes the meaning of Hawaiian comfort food to new level – omelettes topped with Spam, plentiful Loco Moco plates, and fresh fish poke bowls elevate this spot against your typical American diner. Their servings are so big they donate all of the leftovers to a local farm – extra points.
Moon’s has been around for over 60 years, serving over 20 homemade milkshake flavors and breakfasts with homemade jams. Plus, despite not being an early riser, you still have to love early bird specials at any diner. They make waking up worth it.
The Little Goat Diner does the classics with a twist. Their dark chocolate chip crunch pancakes come with chocolate malt butter, and their different ethnic tastes on breakfast foods add a touch of whimsy – looking at you, kimchi bacon.
Classic red stools, a long counter to read the paper at, and checkerboard floors make this place feel like you’re back in time. The food is just as good as the decor, but come early – this place only has 15 spots and is a local favorite.
Aside from having an adorable name and blue decor to match, the Bluebird Diner is committed to serving homemade and local food, listing their purveyors as often as possible. Their scrambled eggs with truffle butter are calling my name – you can’t go wrong with truffles.
Serving pecan wood-smoked bacon as a side and chorizo and eggs, this place doesn’t stop at breakfast. They have four cheese grilled cheese and béchamel mac and cheese in addition to flavored coffees with homemade marshmallows.
You know it’s old school when it’s not called a diner, but a pharmacy. Located right near the famed racing stables of Churchill Downs, Wagner’s has been serving the Louisville Area for nearly 100 years. If they’ve been around this long, they must be doing their diner food right.
Such a local establishment it doesn’t even have a website, Camellia’s is open late night for weary Tulane students wandering around after Mardi Gras, as well as serving up its famous chocolate pecan pie to patrons for almost 70 years!
Set up in a former train car, The Palace Diner is a Maine institution. Despite having four sandwiches for lunch and twice as many breakfast plates, this main(e)stay is serving up fancy sides like caramelized grapefruit and brown butter banana bread. You have to love the counter seats too.
With three locations, all with the classic diner decor and architecture, what’s not to love about Tastee? Open all day with free wifi and jukeboxes, Tastee’s offers daily specials like meatloaf, fried chicken, and pot roast. Just like the movies, really.
A Boston suburbs favorite, Mel’s serves the breakfast favorites with a twist – eggs benny on potato pancakes, malted Belgian waffle, and instead of getting your eggs with toast, you can get 3 silver dollar pancakes on the side. A kid’s dream.
You know it’s an authentic diner when the logo is spelled out in Greek-style letters. Despite having an interesting name, they fulfill probably the most important of my diner criteria: breakfast all day. They also have their own assortment of the famous Michigan Coney Island hot dogs.
This place is not only giving good food, it’s giving back. With solar panels, a commitment to improving the land in their backyard for animals, and promoting soil fertility, this place is not just about good eats (and tiny ones, like a single buttermilk pancake). It’s about good people too.
Continuing with the old trend of diners being known as drugstores, Brent’s Drugs in Jackson is a hidden gem to tourists and a famous spot for movie scenes as well. The milkshakes cannot be missed, and their biscuits are GINORMOUS and made of buttery, flaky dreams.
More of a greasy spoon than a diner, Hayes is a classic for chili-topped anything, triple hamburgers, and late night breakfast specials. It competes with other local spots, but time and again locals say Hayes is the place to go, open late and serving up delicious shakes.
With everything on their menu evoking an auto shop or type of car, it’s hard not to smile at the Garage. Their soups are famous, hearty, and the best thing to cure the chills on a cold mountain day. They also have bison burgers, an instant win.
Lisa’s is so popular they serve you free coffee while you wait in line on weekends. This place is simple, no-frills, and will remind you of your mom’s home cooking. The stuffed French toast special changes all of the time, but it is consistently a fan favorite, as are the biscuits and gravy.
Recently renovated and right near the ski resorts by Lake Tahoe, Katie’s serves up a multitude of specials including $6 eggs benny Saturdays and loaded pancakes before 11 AM for $5. Every night of the week there’s a different special, from fried chicken to a Mexicali special.
This village kitchen is as cheap as they come – a three cheese omelette with toast, potatoes and coffee all under $7. Being in New England, they also offer plenty of seafood specialties after breakfast, which is always an advantage in the summer months.
Not the famous Tops Diner of New Jersey, Prestige is lesser-known but arguably better. Serving disco fries (Jersey’s weird way of saying poutine) and a whole section on the menu devoted to challah French toast, the real plus is it serves Taylor Ham/Pork Roll, New Jersey’s best asset.
This place describes itself as “Santa Fe’s Meeting Place” and it’s been around for almost 70 years. Being so close to the border, there are plenty of local and Mexican specials, including a chile relleno omelette and huevos rancheros that are to die for.
Granted, New York is a large state, with many diners, but it would be remiss not to mention my childhood diner (and still my favorite). Despite being slightly expensive, its pancakes are fluffy like clouds, their milkshakes are as thick as pudding, and the pizza is AMAZING for a diner. Truly the taste of home.
Way more upscale than any of the aforementioned diners, Poole’s deserved a mention for that very reason – Ashley Christensen’s new diner venture is attempting to show that diner comfort food can be upscale and classy, and not just greasy. Get the macaroni au gratin – a fancy mac and cheese.
This place is simple, basic, and doing everything right. There’s nothing fancy here, and that’s how a diner should be. If you’re there for breakfast, try the chili omelette. Otherwise, you have to get the double bacon cheeseburger.
Though not diet-friendly, Big Al’s is serving up the staples like their famous corned beef hash and biscuits and gravy. If you like to sleep in, be mindful of the fact that this place closes at 2:30. Nonetheless, its food is still amazing and it is a must-visit if you’re a diner fanatic like me.
Another local haunt that is such a dive it doesn’t even have a website, this place is famous for its take on an Oklahoma classic, the onion burger. Despite being featured on Diners, Drive ins, and Dives, this place is still very much a small town diner and they do a great job keeping it that way.
This place is no restaurant. It is, in every definition of the word, a diner. Their menu is comprised of breakfast, burgers, and shakes (meeting all three of my criteria!). With fruity milkshakes like pineapple and lime and satisfying fried chicken, this place should definitely be on your list.
The Classic Diner of the Main Line is not classic at all. Its bacon is legendary-thick-cut slab bacon (there’s a reason it’s $4.00 for a side) that you can buy by the pound. On top of that, their French toast options are killer and the breakfast sandwich on Italian bread is served with a steak knife because it’s so decadent.
Though it is not a spa, if you are like us, food will relax you just as much as a massage. The Franklin Spa puts a New England twist on classic breakfast dishes with their lobster omelette with hollandaise, Portoguese sweet bread French toast, and smoked salmon eggs benny.
The Early Bird gets the worm, and this place deserves it. Serving up Southern classics like shrimp and grits and chicken and waffles, the Early Bird also offers many sandwiches, burgers, and another Southern staple – delicious country fried steak.
Two words: breakfast poutine. Who knew such a magical thing could exist? Fries with cheese curds and gravy (obviously), but the added bonus of fried eggs and bacon. This is the hybrid of so many good breakfasts – biscuits and gravy, fried eggs with cheese, and bacon of course.
Although it moved further away from its faithful Vanderbilt patrons, Noshville continues to delight with its extensive menu, full-service deli options, and bagel platters. Looking through all the options may seem overwhelming, but most are sure to please the hungriest of humans.
Any Austin native knows Kerbey Lane is the way to go. Their queso with guac is the stuff of dreams and everything else on their 24-hour menu (like bacon wrapped meatloaf) is a Texas staple. It has multiple locations over Austin, too, so there’s no excuse not to go.
A place that serves ‘Mile High Biscuits?’ Am I dreaming? Can someone pinch me? Anywhere that claims to serve such large biscuits has a special place in my heart. Also, it has an outdoor patio which many of the other diners cannot boast. What could be better?
This place is complete with blue counter stools and a jukebox – what more could you need? The menu itself is huge, but that doesn’t include the specials plastered all over the walls of this classic haunt with homemade donuts.
The only other diner on this list that is also known for its pizza, the Villa is special beyond its breakfast food. Serving some other Italian staples like mozzarella sticks gives this place extra points in my book, but it also serves waffles and pancakes with ice cream. Definitely a winner.
Serving piles – eggs on top of hash browns and toppings – and hobos – hash browns mixed in with eggs – the Luna Park Cafe is doing something right putting all of the breakfast foods together instead of side by side.
This place is like an old-fashioned malt shop: homemade ice cream, ice cream sodas, milkshakes, and reminds you of the movies. The food itself is delicious as well, with homemade baked beans and giant burgers (plus plenty of toppings). Their ice cream flavors are to die for.
Home of the garbage plate, a monster special of eggs mixed with hash browns, peppers, onions, and the potential to add in meats and cheese, Frank’s is the best hangover cure you could ask for. Add in a single buttermilk pancake (also known as ‘No Stack’) and you’re on your way to being a functioning human.
Featured on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives, Nora’s is a staple to the ski bums and boarders who come in hungry after the slopes of the Tetons. Their Banana bread French toast is all I need to get on a flight out west.
The diner in Adams-Morgan is DC’s simple take on a classic. Shakes, burgers, and open all day, this place even serves mimosas as a way to lure in the highbrow brunch crowd. The Diner Royale, for those with a bottomless pit instead of a stomach like me, includes eggs, meat, toast, potatoes, and two pancakes. Heaven.