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A road trip across the U.S. isn’t complete without stopping at one or two roadside diners along the way. The diner concept originated in the 1870s and began as horse-drawn wagons serving late-night workers finishing their shifts. The concept evolved over the decades to dining railcars, and finally into permanent structures next to highways across the U.S. Most diners feature simple, classic decor and serve heaping plates of American staples at all hours of the day and night, ensuring that their loyal customer base (which frequently includes shift workers, long-haul truck drivers, and late-night snackers) always have a place to enjoy a meal. On your next road trip, be sure not to miss these six standout diners from coast to coast.
The Blue Benn (Bennington, Vermont)
Right down to the chrome detailing and blue painted accents of the original 1940s Silk City dining car, The Blue Benn embodies the classic diner experience. Named one of American’s Best Diners by Food & Wine, The Blue Benn is a longtime Vermont community staple but now also attracts visitors and road-trippers from around the country. The restaurant — named for its location in the small town of Bennington — opened in 1948 and has been a family-run business since 1973. While the diner is known for its reasonable prices and generous portions of comfort food, like the Blue Been Reuben and patty melt, the restaurant also offers healthy choices like the plant-based nut burger.
Becky’s Diner (Portland, Maine)
This beloved Portland establishment along the commercial waterfront originally opened in 1991 to serve the city’s early-rising fishermen and lobstermen. These days, Becky’s Diner is now one of the most popular tourist attractions in the downtown district. As a local Portlandite and mom of six, owner Becky Rand supports the local community and fishing industry — both of which are a significant part of Portland's heritage. Not only does Becky’s diner source their seafood from the local fishermen, they’re also involved in efforts to preserve the historic waterfront. Must-tries include the lobster Benedict with fresh Maine lobster and the steak “bomblette” omelette.
Strawn’s Eat Shop (Shreveport, Louisiana)
If it’s pie you’re craving, look no further than Strawn’s Eat Shop, which locals simply call “that pie place.” Its founder, affectionately known as Mr. Strawn, opened the eatery in 1944 in the city of Shreveport, and while the restaurant has had several owners since, the honorary name has stuck. Currently run by the Gautier family, Strawn’s is nationally known for its ice boxed pies — the strawberry variety was even featured on The Food Network. Between the Hungry Man Breakfast, Blue Plate Lunch Special, and the five pie options for dessert, you’ll be rolling out of Strawn’s a bit heavier — and a lot more satiated — than when you walked in.
Tom’s Restaurant (New York, New York)
Seinfeld fans will immediately recognize Tom’s Restaurant as the favorite hang-out of Jerry and his crew (though the series only filmed exterior shots at the actual diner). Tom’s — located on the bottom floor of Columbia University’s Armstrong Hall on the corner of Broadway and West 112th street in New York City — has been run by the same Greek-American family of Minas Zoulis since the 1940s. Despite its fame, Tom’s is still a cash-only establishment and continues to serve the no-frills diner cuisine you'd expect — burgers, fries, wings, milkshakes, and a large selection of sandwiches. And of course, some Greek favorites like Gyros and Souvlaki platters make an appearance on the menu, too.
Pann’s Restaurant (Los Angeles, California)
If you're skipping the road trip and just stepped off the plane — or are heading to LAX to leave Los Angeles behind — Pann’s is a necessary pit-stop near the airport. Located off the 405 in Inglewood, Pann’s has been a family-run establishment since 1958. The oversized countertop stools and curved booths coated in red vinyl lend the restaurant an authentic 1950s feel. But it’s their famous Dreamburgers and the decadent waffles and fried chicken and Dreamburgers that draw fans from all over L.A.
Oark General Store and Cafe (Oark, Arkansas)
Surrounded by the Ozark National Forest, Oark General Store and Cafe first opened in 1890 to supply groceries and other provisions to the residents of the isolated town of Oark. Over the decades, it morphed into a full-service restaurant. A popular stop for both locals and those road tripping and hiking through the Ozarks, the restaurant is now listed on the Alabama Register of Historic Places. With inviting rustic decor, the cafe offers up classics like burgers, sandwiches, and pecan pie with a generous scoop of vanilla ice cream for dessert — it all seems to taste even better when surrounded by the natural beauty of the Ozarks.