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Travel Nevada, Flickr // CC BY-NC 2.0

The Best Diner in All 50 States

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Travel Nevada, Flickr // CC BY-NC 2.0

Diners have played a big part in the history of American dining, but they’re not just a relic of the past. Today’s diners serve tasty, inexpensive food that hearkens back to a simpler time. From greasy spoons in small towns to famous restaurants in bigger cities, here are some of the best diners in all 50 states.

1. ALABAMA // SALEM'S DINER

Location: Homewood, Alabama

Famous for its mouthwatering cheesesteak, Salem's Diner has delighted customers with diner staples such as hot cakes and Philly cheesesteak since 2006. Be sure to also get Salem's hash browns, which online reviewers describe as perfectly seasoned.

2. ALASKA // CITY DINER

Location: Anchorage, Alaska

The good food, friendly service, and '50s vibe make City Diner the perfect place to enjoy a relaxing meal. You can chow down on everything from blueberry hot cakes and white cheddar grits to short rib hash and reindeer sausage.

3. ARIZONA // COFFEE POT RESTAURANT

Location: Sedona, Arizona

Named after Coffee Pot Rock, the scenic red rock formation behind the diner, Coffee Pot Restaurant specializes in delicious breakfast and lunch food. Sip a cup of freshly ground Colombian coffee as you decide which of the 101 distinct omelets, from ham and cheese to peanut butter and jelly, you feel like ordering.

4. ARKANSAS // NEIGHBORHOOD DINER

Location: Harrison, Arkansas

If you’re craving simple, down-home diner fare, look no further than Neighborhood Diner. Since 1952, this unpretentious spot has proudly served American staples such as meatloaf, grits, and Frito pie. The chicken-fried steak is particularly popular; it’s hand-battered and comes with hash browns mixed with onions and jalapeños.

5. CALIFORNIA // MARLENE & GLEN'S DEAD FLY DINER

Location: Plymouth, California

Located off of Highway 49 in northern California, this diner will satisfy your breakfast and lunch needs, thanks to its 12 eggs Benedict dishes, dozens of burgers, and addictive jalapeño poppers. The classic diner décor is great, too, with its black and red checkered floor, red booths, and cute counter stools.

6. COLORADO // SAM'S NO. 3

Location: Multiple locations, Colorado

With locations in Glendale, Aurora, and Denver, Sam’s No. 3 boasts a huge menu of tasty dishes that will fill you up. Favorites include the breakfast burritos, Country Fried Steak Skillet, and the Pecan Waffle Sandwich, which is topped with two eggs and your choice of breakfast meat.

7. CONNECTICUT // VERNON DINER

Location: Vernon, Connecticut

Vernon dIner
Yelp, Steven P.

Vernon Diner sells quesadillas, paninis, and wraps galore, but their desserts are in a league of their own. Besides the dozens of cakes, pies, and cheesecakes from which to choose, there’s even an espresso milk shake, made with espresso, chocolate ice cream and syrup, whipped cream, and a maraschino cherry.

8. DELAWARE // SEAFORD EAGLE DINER

Location: Seaford, Delaware

Seaford Eagle Diner is the perfect spot to enjoy an unpretentious, no-frills meal with good friends and family. Open seven days a week, the restaurant excels with simple, down home food such as the Creamed Chipped Beef, Cheese Steak Hoagie, and Homemade Rice Pudding with whipped cream and raisins.

9. FLORIDA // 11TH STREET DINER

Location: Miami Beach, Florida

11th Street Diner
Yelp, Michael U.

At 11th Street Diner, a classic railroad car, breakfast is served all day and (bonus!) there’s a full bar. While the retro diner serves the standard hamburgers, fries, and shakes, customers also rave about the honey grilled barbecue wings and Argentinian skirt steak.

10. GEORGIA // MARIETTA DINER

Location: Marietta, Georgia

This large, bustling, 24-hour restaurant serves upscale specials ranging from veal piccata to chicken fettuccine alfredo to rainbow trout almondine, though you might not guess it from the multi-colored neon lighting outside. Opened since 1995, the diner also has an impressive dessert case with cakes, pies, and cheesecakes galore.

11. HAWAII // DOWNBEAT DINER & LOUNGE

Location: Honolulu, Hawaii

Downbeat Diner
Yelp, Quyen N.

Downbeat Diner serves classic diner food made with high quality ingredients. Start with the Chili Cheese Fries and Pesto Chicken Salad, or try the Teriyaki Burger for a Hawaiian spin on the standard hamburger. The diner is next door to Downbeat Lounge, a bar and live music venue where you can sip cocktails and catch performances four to five times a week.

12. IDAHO // JIMMY'S DOWN THE STREET

Location: Coeur d’Alene, Idaho

Jimmy's Down The Street in downtown Coeur d’Alene may be Idahoans’ favorite diner, bar none. More than 50 years ago, it opened in its current location as a soda shop, and today it serves southern comfort food such as chicken fried steak, pecan rolls, corned beef, and biscuits and gravy. There’s usually a line of people on weekends, so get there early.

13. ILLINOIS // THE 50'S DINER

Location: Peoria, Illinois

When you’re in the mood for Americana nostalgia, head to The 50's Diner, a spot that plays oldies songs and serves bottomless coffee. Daily specials include Swiss Steak and Beef Tips and Noodles, which you can finish off with Funnel Cake Fries or a classic chocolate malt. And, there's an adjoining gift shop so you can shop after eating.

14. INDIANA // EDWARDS DRIVE-IN

Location: Indianapolis, Indiana

Edwards Drive-In has a long history that dates back to 1957. Today, customers can eat burgers, sandwiches, and corn dogs (and wash them down with a growler of root beer) in the retro dining room or opt for curb service (carhops included). The side of Breaded Pickles is always a hit.

15. IOWA // THE BLUEBIRD DINER

Location: Iowa City, Iowa

This Midwestern soul food spot opened in 2008 and has been delighting hungry guests ever since. Highlights of The Bluebird Diner's creative menu include the buttermilk French toast and Green Chili with Smoked Pork soup.

16. KANSAS // PARADISE DINER

Location: Overland Park, Kansas

Paradise Diner provides an upscale, modern take on classic American diner favorites. The Beef Tenderloin Stroganoff and Chicken Fried Steak aren’t too greasy, and recipes are made with local, sustainable meat and eggs.

17. KENTUCKY // RICK'S WHITE LIGHT DINER

Location: Frankfort, Kentucky

Ricks White Light Diner

Christopher, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Built in 1943, Rick’s White Light Diner is the oldest restaurant in Frankfort, and it's stuck around for good reason. Customers chow down on Cajun omelets, beignets, and jambalaya, and the small dining area creates a social, friendly atmosphere.

18. LOUISIANA // LIZ'S WHERE Y'AT DINER

Location: Mandeville, Louisiana

Liz Munson worked as a waitress for 15 years before opening her own restaurant, Liz’s Where Y’at Diner. Favorite breakfast items include three egg scramblers, a variety of Benedicts, and shrimp and grits.

19. MAINE // MOODY'S DINER

Location: Waldoboro, Maine

The story of Moody’s Diner goes way back to 1927, when Percy and Bertha Moody opened three cabins and, the next year, a lunch wagon. Today, the Moodys's great-grandchildren continue their legacy, serving simple meals such as pastrami and Swiss on grilled rye bread. Moody’s chocolate and pumpkin Whoopie Pies are so popular that the restaurant ships them all over the continental U.S.

20. MARYLAND // THE BLUE MOON CAFE

Location: Baltimore, Maryland

Blue Moon Diner
Yelp, Janine T.

Located in Fells Point, The Blue Moon Cafe specializes in creative breakfast dishes, from Captain Crunch French Toast to bacon and apple pancakes. The potato cakes are killer and are served with bacon, peppers, onions, applesauce, and sour cream.

21. MASSACHUSETTS // MIKE’S CITY DINER

Location: Boston, Massachusetts

Mike’s City Diner has served huge portions of delicious grub for nearly two decades. The Pilgrim Sandwich, a Thanksgiving-inspired sandwich with homemade cranberry sauce, is massively popular, but Mike’s also offers an amazing French Toast dish. Diagonal slices of French bread are dipped in a mixture of egg, milk, cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, and vanilla, then topped with bananas, strawberries, and blueberries.

22. MICHIGAN // THE LESLIE DEPOT DINER

Location: Leslie, Michigan

Located next to the Michigan Central Railroad tracks, this converted train depot serves everything from onion straws and chicken strips to deep fried pretzels and country-fried steak. If you have a hankering for a sugary breakfast, get the BTS Waffle, a huge waffle topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, whipped cream, pecans, hot fudge, caramel, and a cherry.

23. MINNESOTA // BAND BOX DINER

Location: Minneapolis, Minnesota

Bandbox Diner
Yelp, Dan C.

This small diner, the last surviving location of a Minneapolis diner chain that was popular in the '50s and '60s, serves fantastic breakfast entrees and burgers. Order the much lauded Lunch Box Burger, a cheeseburger with coleslaw and Shoestring fries.

24. MISSISSIPPI // COUNTRY DINER

Location: Foxworth, Mississippi

Customers rave about the roadside Country Diner as the best spot to find authentic, home-style southern cooking. It’s not fancy, but the otherworldly flavors of the fried chicken, collard greens, and corn bread speak for themselves.

25. MISSOURI // MEL'S HARD LUCK DINER

Location: Branson, Missouri

If music and food go hand in hand for you, head to Mel’s Hard Luck Diner. Waitresses sing as they walk around the restaurant, and customers rave about the chili cheeseburger and onion rings. Pretzel lovers should order Mel’s Hard Luck Pretzel Burger, a half-pound patty with onions, bacon, and nacho cheese that comes on a perfectly cooked pretzel bun.

26. MONTANA // WOLFER'S DINER

Location: Havre, Montana

Wolfer's Diner is a '50s inspired spot complete with a jukebox and posters of old film stars on the walls. Each morning, chefs cut and grind locally sourced beef to make the burgers, and the hand-scooped milkshakes are divine.

27. NEBRASKA // LINCOLN HIGHWAY DINER

Location: North Platte, Nebraska

Locals love the Lincoln Highway Diner, a down-to-earth eatery that prides itself on fast, friendly service. Whether you order the corned beef hash, French toast, or hot roast beef sandwich, you can't go wrong.

28. NEVADA // THE GRIDDLE

Location: Winnemucca, Nevada

Travel Nevada, Flickr // CC BY-NC 2.0

Since 1948, customers have flocked to The Griddle for homemade meals made with quality ingredients. Don’t miss out on the cream cheese-filled Pecan Crepes, which are topped with chopped pecans and a sweet, salty, bacon caramel sauce.

29. NEW HAMPSHIRE // LITTLETON DINER

Location: Littleton, New Hampshire

Since 1930, Littleton Diner has served home cooked meals to customers from all over New England. Politicians including John Edwards, Mitt Romney, John Kerry, and John McCain have visited the diner, which serves specials such as ribs with potatoes and corned beef hash.

30. NEW JERSEY // POMPTON QUEEN DINER

Location: Pompton Plains, New Jersey

New Jersey has tons of great diners, but Pompton Queen might be the best. Opened in 1987, the diner serves breakfast all day and is (thankfully) open 24/7/365. Our recommendation? Start with the Cheddar Jalapeño Poppers, move on to the Crab Cake Sliders, and top it all off with a gooey Fudge Brownie Sundae.

31. NEW MEXICO // THE PANTRY

Location: Santa Fe, New Mexico

Since 1948, The Pantry has put a Southwestern twist on classic American diner food. The family-owned spot makes amazing buttermilk pancakes stuffed with berries and whipped cream, as well as a Huevos Rancheros dish with perfect proportions of eggs, fries, beans, chile, and cheese.

32. NEW YORK // LAKE EFFECT DINER

Location: Buffalo, New York

Lake Effect Diner
Yelp, Kelly K.

Housed in a restored dining car from the '50s, Lake Effect Diner is the epitome of authenticity. The diner smokes and cures meat from local farms, bakes its own baguettes, and even has the Guy Fieri stamp of approval. Don’t miss out on the Berry and Quinoa Granola Pancakes, a stack of three pancakes served with berries, maple butter, and whipped cream.

33. NORTH CAROLINA // TRUE FLAVORS DINER

Location: Durham, North Carolina

This inventive spot near Research Triangle Park offers customers sophisticated twists on classic diner food. Case in point? The house special, Howling Moon French, consists of buttermilk battered French Toast served with vanilla bean ice cream, brown sugar, and a moonshine sauce from North Carolina’s own Howling Moon Distillery.

34. NORTH DAKOTA // THE SHACK ON BROADWAY

Location: Fargo, North Dakota

If you have a hankering for delicious diner grub, look no further than The Shack On Broadway. Order the Hooligan Omelet for a taste of The Shack’s homemade chili, or get a strawberry or blueberry shake or malt. Besides regular breakfast, lunch, and dinner fare, the diner also offers a kid’s menu and a senior menu, so everyone in your party will be happy.

35. OHIO // NUTCRACKER FAMILY RESTAURANT

Location: Pataskala, Ohio

Nutcracker Family Restaurant
Yelp, Giovanna A.

This retro, '50s style diner features great coffee, homemade pies, and a bunch of colorful nutcrackers on display. Although it was once an ice cream parlor, Nutcracker Family Restaurant now serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner. To thank people who have served our country, the restaurant lets veterans eat free each Veteran's Day and the day after Memorial Day.

36. OKLAHOMA // SID'S DINER

Location: El Reno, Oklahoma

This greasy spoon outside Oklahoma City is serious about burgers. Specifically, Sid's is serious about the Fried Onion Burger, a beef patty with caramelized onions cooked into the beef and topped with pickles and mustard. Enjoy a thick milkshake and handful of piping hot fries with your burger, and marvel at the hundreds of old photos of life in Oklahoma that are on display.

37. OREGON // PATTIE’S HOME PLATE CAFE

Location: Portland, Oregon

When you dine at Pattie’s Home Plate Cafe, you’ll feel like you’re in a small town where everyone knows one another. Besides their heavenly biscuits and gravy, Pattie’s is famous for the quirky mannequins positioned throughout the restaurant.

38. PENNSYLVANIA // DINER 248

Location: Easton, Pennsylvania

Diner 248
Yelp, Starvos G.

With its rotating menu of daily specials, Diner 248 keeps guests’ taste buds and stomachs satisfied. Try the egg and cheese sandwich, served with fresh cut home fries, and save room for a slice or two of the chocolate peanut butter pie.

39. RHODE ISLAND // THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE DINER

Location: Exeter, Rhode Island

The best diners promise good comfort food and friendly service, and The Middle of Nowhere Diner is no exception. Its impressive menu offers tasty burgers and sandwiches, but don’t overlook the Belgian waffles. They come with your choice of toppings including blueberries, strawberries, peaches, chocolate, and bananas.

40. SOUTH CAROLINA // EARLY BIRD DINER

Location: Charleston, South Carolina

Locating on the Savannah Highway, Early Bird Diner serves southern comfort food such as steak and eggs, a catfish po' boy, and country fried steak. Be sure to check out the diner’s walls, which feature cool artwork from local artists.

41. SOUTH DAKOTA // PHILLIPS AVENUE DINER

Location: Sioux Falls, South Dakota

Phillips Avenue Diner

Richie Diesterheft, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

Phillips Avenue Diner in downtown Sioux Falls is all about fun. Monday nights are Burger Night, Wednesdays are Waffle Wednesdays, and you can watch milkshakes being made if you sit at the counter. Don’t miss the Banana Bread French Toast, which comes with bananas and a sweet whipped topping.

42. TENNESSEE // ELLISTON PLACE SODA SHOP

Location: Nashville, Tennessee

At Elliston Place Soda Shop, which has been open for more than 75 years, the biscuits are warm and the service is friendly. Grab a seat at the counter to enjoy a butterscotch malt, or get the tuna melt and chili cheese fries for a more filling meal.

43. TEXAS // ORIGINAL MARKET DINER

Location: Dallas, Texas

Since 1954, Original Market Diner has morphed from a drive-in to a burger shop to a sandwich spot. Today, the diner serves simple, classic food to hungry Texans. Order an Old Fashioned Sugar Cane Soda, and don’t miss out on the Chocolate Hazelnut Banana Bread French Toast.

44. UTAH // RUTH'S DINER

Location: Salt Lake City, Utah

Ruths Diner
Yelp, Gina S.

Started in 1930 by a cabaret singer named Ruth, Ruth's Diner has become the best spot to grab diner chow. The outdoor patio has plenty of shade and seating, but the menu is equally impressive. Try the Pulled Pork Benedict, Cinnamon Roll French Toast, or Reuben sandwich.

45. VERMONT // CHELSEA ROYAL DINER

Location: West Brattleboro, Vermont

You’ll eat like royalty at Chelsea Royal Diner, a vintage diner near Vermont’s Green Mountains. The menu features eggs and vegetables from the restaurant’s own backyard garden, and you can’t go wrong with the homemade ice cream, which comes in flavors such as Key Lime Pie and Rum Raisin.

46. VIRGINIA // METRO 29

Location: Arlington, Virginia

Since 1995, Metro 29 has given customers the delicious food and friendly service that befits a great diner. Whet your appetite with a basket of onion rings before moving on to the Triple Decker Chicken Salad Sandwich. The restaurant is open daily from 6 a.m. to midnight, and the on-site bakery offers a variety of pastries, cakes, and pies.

47. WASHINGTON // BIG AL'S DINER

Location: Blaine, Washington

Located in northern Washington, Big Al's Diner puts the joy into simple, comforting breakfast and lunch fare. As you eat everything from French toast and pancakes to omelets, burgers, and sandwiches, make sure to save room for a slice of apple pie or a root beer float.

48. WEST VIRGINIA // MOUNTAIN VIEW DINER

Location: Charles Town, West Virginia

Owned by a Greek family, Mountain View Diner serves omelets and corned beef hash alongside Spanakopita and Moussaka. And thanks to the diner’s in-house bakery, you can pick up decadent chocolate, red velvet, and carrot cakes on your way out.

49. WISCONSIN // MISS KATIE'S DINER

Location: Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Named after the owners’ grandmother Katherine, Miss Katie's Diner is a '50s themed diner that serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner seven days a week. Located near the I-94, the diner has hosted politicians including Hillary Clinton, Howard Dean, and John Kerry. You can’t go wrong with the Corned Beef Hash Skillet, vanilla shake, or the cinnamon roll.

50. WYOMING // JOHNNY J'S DINER

Location: Casper, Wyoming

With two locations in Casper, Johnny J’s is your best bet for an authentic '50s diner experience. Sip a French Vanilla Cappuccino between bites of Banana Pecan Pancakes, and take in the colorful, retro vibe of the place.

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Big Questions
What's the Difference Between Vanilla and French Vanilla Ice Cream?
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iStock

While you’re browsing the ice cream aisle, you may find yourself wondering, “What’s so French about French vanilla?” The name may sound a little fancier than just plain ol’ “vanilla,” but it has nothing to do with the origin of the vanilla itself. (Vanilla is a tropical plant that grows near the equator.)

The difference comes down to eggs, as The Kitchn explains. You may have already noticed that French vanilla ice cream tends to have a slightly yellow coloring, while plain vanilla ice cream is more white. That’s because the base of French vanilla ice cream has egg yolks added to it.

The eggs give French vanilla ice cream both a smoother consistency and that subtle yellow color. The taste is a little richer and a little more complex than a regular vanilla, which is made with just milk and cream and is sometimes called “Philadelphia-style vanilla” ice cream.

In an interview with NPR’s All Things Considered in 2010—when Baskin-Robbins decided to eliminate French Vanilla from its ice cream lineup—ice cream industry consultant Bruce Tharp noted that French vanilla ice cream may date back to at least colonial times, when Thomas Jefferson and George Washington both used ice cream recipes that included egg yolks.

Jefferson likely acquired his taste for ice cream during the time he spent in France, and served it to his White House guests several times. His family’s ice cream recipe—which calls for six egg yolks per quart of cream—seems to have originated with his French butler.

But everyone already knew to trust the French with their dairy products, right?

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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Little Baby's Ice Cream
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Food
Pizza and Cricket Cake Are Just Some of the Odd Flavors You'll Find at This Philadelphia Ice Cream Shop
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Little Baby's Ice Cream

Ice cream flavors can get pretty out-there, thanks to the growing number of creative scoop shops willing to take risks and broaden their customers’ horizons beyond chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry. Intrepid foodies can cool off with frozen treats that taste like horseradish, foie gras, and avocado, while Philadelphia's Little Baby’s Ice Cream is pushing the boundaries of taste with chilly offerings like everything bagel, Maryland BBQ, ranch, and cricket cake.

Cricket-flavored ice cream, created by Philadelphia-based Little Baby's Ice Cream
Little Baby's Ice Cream

Everything Bagel-flavored ice cream, created by Philadelphia-based Little Baby's Ice Cream
Little Baby's Ice Cream

As Lonely Planet News reports, Little Baby’s Ice Cream launched its first signature “oddball” ice cream—Earl Grey sriracha—in 2011. Since then, its rotating menu has only gotten quirkier. In addition to the aforementioned flavors, customers who swing by Little Baby’s this summer can even try pizza ice cream.

The store created the savory flavor in 2011, to celebrate neighborhood eatery Pizza Brain’s inclusion into Guinness World Records for its vast collection of pizza memorabilia. The savory, Italian-esque snack is made from ingredients like tomato, basil, oregano, salt, and garlic—and yes, it actually tastes like pizza, Little Baby’s co-owner Pete Angevine told Lonely Planet News.

Pizza-flavored ice cream, made by Philadelphia-based Little Baby's Ice Cream
Little Baby's Ice Cream

“Frequently, folks will see it on the menu and be incredulous, then be convinced to taste it, giggle, talk about how surprised they are that it really tastes just like pizza … and then order something else,” Angevine said. “That’s just fine. Just as often though, they’ll end up getting a pizza milkshake!”

Little Baby’s flagship location is in Philadelphia's East Kensington neighborhood, but customers can also sample their unconventional goods at additional outposts in West Philadelphia, Baltimore, and a pop-up stand in Washington, D.C.’s Union Market. Just make sure to bring along a sense of adventure, and to leave your preconceived notions of what ice cream should taste like at home.

[h/t Lonely Planet]

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