11 Must-Visit American Diners for Your Next Road Trip
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- Diner criteria
- The Blue Benn Diner
- La Bonbonniere
- Frank’s Diner
- Travis Coffee Shop
- Arcade Diner
- Brent’s Drugs
- The Pantry
- Bette’s Oceanview Diner
- Highway Inn
- Roadside assistance
We’ve compiled a list of some of the best greasy spoons in the U.S., including Blue Benn Diner, Highway Inn, Deluca’s, and The Pantry. From pancakes to omelets, fish to burgers, egg creams to Coke floats, and more, take a journey through America’s past while enjoying its present bounty by stopping by one of the 11 best diners in the country.
Now, before you go barreling across America in search of gorge-worthy grub, do you have a sound car insurance policy to protect you on your trip?
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Now let’s hit the road and learn about America’s must-visit diners.
What makes a great American diner?
Simple, tasty, affordable comfort food, a gleaming counter-top surrounded by worn-in stools and cozy banquettes, the same family running the place for generations—there doesn’t seem to be much debate about what elevates a greasy spoon to the level of a must-visit diner.
Many of America’s great diners have been around for decades, seemingly frozen in time.
The country might be constantly changing around them, but these classic diners evoke a simple, authentic atmosphere. At the same time, they anchor us in the present with delicious, no-frills meals served from dawn to dusk.
So, without further ado, here are the 11 best diners in America that you should hit on your next road trip.
1. The Blue Benn Diner - Bennington, VT
Bennington’s Blue Benn hasn’t changed much since 1948, and it remains one of Vermont’s most popular diners.
Regulars and tourists alike keep showing up for the delicious food, its classic railcar design—it was built in Paterson, New Jersey and shipped up to Bennington just after the war—and its sumptuous booths, each equipped with their own jukeboxes.
The place can only hold about 40 customers at a time, but thankfully the owners (the same family, since the 1970s) built an entryway where customers can comfortably wait, instead of patiently freezing their behinds off in the Green Mountain winter.
What should you eat at The Blue Benn? Make your pick from the signs above the counter, featuring all the eggs you can eat, the melt-in-your-mouth pot roast, and exquisite puddings for dessert.
Our favorite? The mixed berry pancakes—they’re huge and bursting with berry goodness. Seriously though, can you go wrong with pancakes?
MORE: Road Trip Essentials
2. La Bonbonniere - New York, NY
No list of great American diners would be complete without a New York City hole-in-the-wall, and La Bonbonniere is our entry on this list.
You’ll find a no-nonsense menu full of classic American breakfast dishes. Despite the name, there’s nothing French about this place.
Located in Manhattan’s West Village, La Bonbonniere remains unpretentiously charming amidst this changing neighborhood. Regulars keep coming back for staples, such as the hefty burgers, fluffy omelets, and crispy bacon, not to mention the triple-decker sandwiches.
While you’re there, do yourself a favor and order an egg cream. This classic New York fountain drink of yesteryear features milk, chocolate or vanilla syrup, and carbonated water. It was, and still is, a treat.
La Bonbonniere is cash only. That debit card is no good here.
3. Deluca’s - Pittsburgh, PA
Breakfast is served all day at Deluca’s, stacking plates high with grub since 1950. Deluca’s, a dimly lit, red-and-white-tile floored eatery, is a perfect stop for those who have just finished a hard day’s work.
It’s good for travelers, too! Check out Deluca’s go-to meal The Steel City Breakfast of Champions, a plate piled high with crispy potatoes, sizzling bacon, and perfectly cooked eggs. With a hearty meal like this, you just can’t go wrong.
4. Frank’s Diner - Kenosha, WI
A diner masquerading as a 1926-era rail car, Frank’s is renowned for its old-world, woodgrain style, not to mention its old-school fare.
The interior has been exquisitely maintained to reflect the gorgeous wooden handiwork—don’t forget to look up, the ceiling’s beautiful—that’s mostly disappeared from Midwestern diners.
Oh, right, the food. As classic as they come, so classic that Frank’s go-to dish is known as The Garbage Plate. Make sure you have worked up an appetite before ordering because a lot of food is coming your way. You’ll be slack-jawed when this plate of eggs, onions, peppers, a mountain of hash browns, and a choice selection of piping hot meats is plunked down in front of you.
You said you were hungry, right?
Frank’s Diner, Wisconsin
5. Travis Coffee Shop - St. Clair Shores, MI
This 24-hour breakfast joint has been “slingin sliders since ‘68” so if you like burgers, you best be getting yourself down to Travis Coffee Shop, a classic slice of true Americana.
Known as some of the best hamburgers Michigan has to offer these beauties are served with all the fixin’s and a warm, soft bun—they may be simple, but they sure are delicious.
Meats aside, we do realize it’s called Travis Coffee Shop. So feel free to have your burger with a cup of joe!
MORE: Liability insurance
6. Schmucker’s - Toledo, OH
This old-school ice cream shop, opened in 1948 and still run by the original owners (yes, the Schmucker family), offers a mouthwatering selection of sweet treats, including ice cream and a gob-smacking number of delicious pies.
What goes well with sweet stuff? Savory stuff, of course, and Schmucker’s offers that up in spades. Gorge yourself on Grandma’s Swiss steak, towering, melt-in-your-mouth roast beef sandwiches, and fried lake perch, fried (no surprise there) and breaded to artery-clogging perfection.
You might need to be wheeled out of here when you’re done. Don’t hesitate—it’ll be worth it.
7. Arcade Diner - Memphis, TN
Memphis’ Arcade Diner’s been around for a century and has seen some things in its time, including regular sightings of Elvis Presley, who’d chow down on the same low-key Southern fare that’s kept hungry customers coming back since before the Great Depression.
And what did The King tend to enjoy before being occasionally chased out the Arcade’s backdoor by unruly fans? A thick, toasted, peanut butter-and-banana sandwich. One can only hope Elvis took the sandwich with him before scurrying out the back exit.
8. Brent’s Drugs - Jackson, MS
This old-timey soda fountain, located inside a Jackson pharmacy, has been serving up tried-and-true Mississippi food since 1946.
Chowing down on both savory and sweet cravings won’t be difficult in this local institution. Do yourself a favor and order up one of Brent’s classic breakfast melts—two slices of toasted bread with sizzling bacon, a fried egg, and covered with thick, oozing, American cheese.
Or, scarf down one of Brent’s classic beef burgers, and wash it down with a Coke float—a beverage (if you can call it that) combining vanilla ice cream and coca-cola. A perpetual dentist’s favorite.
Once you’ve stuffed yourself, head-on back to the Apothecary, Jackson’s classic cocktail joint, located right behind Brent’s Drugs.
9. The Pantry - Santa Fe, NM
No diner-dotted road trip would be complete without a taste of the Southwest at The Pantry, a Santa Fe institution since 1948.
Here, American and local New Mexican flavors are combined to create some out-of-this-world, yet very local, dishes.
If you manage to land a spot for breakfast (yes, it gets busy), indulge yourself with the Buenas Dias breakfast, which features golden fries smothered in delicious green chile, two eggs, and some cheese for good measure. If you’re in a spicier mood, try the chorizo-stuffed omelet or the carne adovada, which includes chunks of pork slowly cooked in chile sauce and seasoned with a smorgasbord of spices.
The Pantry, Santa Fe
10. Bette’s Oceanview Diner - Berkeley, CA
Owned and run by a New Jersey transplant, Bette’s Oceanview Diner serves up classic diner fare with a Northern California twist.
While Bette’s isn’t as old as some of the other diners on this list (it was opened in 1982), it’s made its mark by imposing the ethos of fresh, California cooking onto greasy spoon favorites.
This Berkeley mainstay is known for its pancakes, including buttermilk, gingerbread, and even cottage cheese varieties. If you’re not worried about your sugar levels soaring into the stratosphere, try one of Bette’s donut muffins, which are rolled in butter and then doused with cinnamon sugar.
Also, Bette’s gets busy, so you might have to soak up some of that Northern California sunshine while waiting in line. Unless it’s raining, which we hear happens in that part of the country…
11. Highway Inn - Waipahu, HI
While you certainly won’t be able to drive to Hawaii—the Pacific Ocean can really get in the way sometimes—if you make it to the Aloha State, make a point to stop at the Highway Inn for lau lau, which consists of pork, fish, or chicken wrapped in luau leaves, which are steamed for hours.
If you’d rather grab your food and go, opt for some plate lunches, served on cafeteria trays and featuring lomi lomi salmon, kalua pork, and poi, a starchy, sweet-and-sour Hawaiian classic made from taro plant roots.
These items are just the tip of the iceber— volcano, tip of the volcano, we mean. There are plenty of other delicious, Hawaiian dishes being served up at The Highway Inn, which dates back to 1947.
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