It was a Tuesday in the middle of winter. Late January or early February.
It was one of those bleak days in the New York area that people who now live in California or Florida reference when you ask if they’re ever moving back. It wasn’t cold, but it was chilly and damp, the grey clouds hanging low overhead all day before the sky became pitch black by 4:30 p.m.
Neither of us felt like cooking so we went to the diner.
I guess everyone else had the same idea because it was packed. On a night like that, you want comfort food and that is exactly what a diner provides, regardless of your mood.
Generally, traditional diners are only a northeast thing and that’s too bad. No, Waffle House is not a diner (though a fine establishment when you’re drunk and starving). Unfortunately, Guy Fieri has adopted the term and morphed “diner” to mean any unique spot that serves good food, but that’s not the case.
According to Wikipedia:
Diners are characterized by offering a wide range of foods, mostly American, a distinct exterior structure, a casual atmosphere, a counter, and late operating hours.
“Wide range of foods” is an understatement because diner menus are amazing. They have no limits. You could have seafood, an omelet, mozzarella sticks, a cheeseburger, coffee, and a milkshake at the same table at 3 a.m. Where else are you going to get that?
I joke that one of the reasons we moved was that our favorite diner — one where my parents used to have their dates — shuttered after fifty-seven years. That’s not true. But it is true that while we were looking at homes, one of the things we did consider was a home’s proximity to the nearest good diner. (Not really.)
We’re becoming a culture of food snobs and although I’m not a foodie, I’ve had some great meals in my life. I’ve eaten at “the toughest reservation in the U.S.” and I’ve had a meal at a restaurant where you need a referral to get a table. They were, without question, two of the greatest meals of my life, but neither of them can compare to the variety and affordability and comfort that we had last night.
There’s nothing like the warmth of a diner.
Christopher Pierznik’s nine books are available in paperback and Kindle. Check out more of his writing at Medium. His work has appeared on XXL, Cuepoint, Business Insider, The Cauldron, Medium, Fatherly, Hip Hop Golden Age, and many more. Subscribe to his monthly newsletter or follow him on Facebook or Twitter.