52 ODES TO JOY: S.U.N.S. DINERS

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BendigoArt.com/CullmanTribune.com (Photo: bonappetit.com )

“When do we learn that the world, like any diner worth its salt, is open 24 hours a day?”—Daniel Handler 

American diners are the perfect place to “open up” and share “The S.U.N.S. (Smile-Making, Uniting, Neighboring, Spellbinding) Joyous Aging” wisdom. 

S.U.N.S. DINERS, my selections for each of the 50 united states, are created for SMILE-MAKING from their gleaming, chrome-wrapped counters and happy colors to their familiar comfort foods. The jukeboxes are jam-packed with nostalgic, heart-warming, spirit-lifting music. 

S.U.N.S. DINERS are places for UNITING deeply over time with a buddy, a sweetheart, a dear one, a co-worker, a serendipitous stray. Diners, which in their heyday were made from re-purposed railroad dining cars, are small, metal containers which narrow the spaces between people and encourage sharing. “We’ll just need one milkshake and two straws.” 

S.U.N.S. DINERS are places for NEIGHBORING where everybody knows your nickname and you know theirs. If someone is going through a rough patch in life, they’ll find open doors, open ears, open hearts and an open-faced patty melt with a side of hash browns to help them move toward a smoother path. 

S.U.N.S. DINERS are as habit-forming as cigarettes and Grapico, but their SPELLBINDING rituals are a lot healthier even if your menu choices are not always what your doctor ordered you to eat. Of course, your doctor is in a corner booth with a stack of pancakes high as your waitress’ “beehive” hairdo. 

S.U.N.S DINERS, wonderful ones, are found in every state across the USA. When my diner-purchased lotto ticket wins big, I’m going to start in Maine, crisscross the map, add a quick side trip to Hawaii and end up in Alaska after a visit to each of these jewels again or where friends have convinced me I’ve got a tasty treat in store. 

S.U.N.S. FINER DINERS OF AMERICA (alphabetically by state): 

ALABAMA—(Cullman) The Busy Bee Café, www.thebusybeecafe.com; (Huntsville) City Café Diner; (Orange Beach) Duck’s Diner, “the best breakfast at the beach”; (Mobile) Big Time Diner 

ALASKA—(Anchorage) Judy’s Café is 40+ years old and serves “reindeer sausage” 

ARIZONA—(Tucson) Gus Balou’s 

ARKANSAS—Lucy’s Diner (multiple locations), Bill Clinton didn’t sleep here (maybe), but he did eat here—www.lucysdiner.com 

CALIFORNIA—(La Jolla) Harry’s Coffee Shop, (San Francisco) St. Francis Fountain, “started in 1918, this is San Fran’s oldest ice cream parlor, get the classic banana split and share, (Burbank) Bob’s Big Boy, (Berkley) Betty’s Oceanview, (Inglewood) Serving Spoon, (Hayward) Val’s Burgers, (LA) Swingers, (San Francisco) Pinecrest Diner, (LA) Pann’s, “When I was creating television advertising, this is where I came for fried chicken if I was missing sweet home, Alabama.” www.panns.com 

COLORADO—(Vail) The Little Diner, known for “made from scratch,” apres’ ski breakfast 

CONNECTICUT—(Middleton) O’Rourke’s Diner 

DELAWARE—(Brandywine Hundred) Charcoal Pit (suggested by native son, Joe Biden) 

FLORIDA—(West Palm Beach) Howley’s Restaurant, (Tampa) La Teresita, (Sarasota) Yoder’s, “slurp a cup of Amish noodles” (Miami) Jimmy’s Eastside Diner 

GEORGIA—(Tybee Island) The Breakfast Club, (Savannah) Clary’s Café, “featured in the movie, ‘Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil,’ “get the veggie omelet” www.claryscafe.com 

HAWAII—(Waipahu) Highway Inn 

IDAHO—(Idaho Falls) Dixie’s Diner—www.dixiesdiner.com  

ILLINOIS—(Springfield) Cozy Dog, (Chicago) Lou Mitchell’s, (Chicago) Daley’s (suggested by B. Obama) 

INDIANA—(Indianapolis) Steer-In 

IOWA—(Iowa City) Bluebird Diner 

KANSAS—(Kansas City) Dagwood’s Café, “ask for the Double Decker Dag and a doggie bag” 

KENTUCKY—(Frankfort) Rick’s White Light Diner; (Louisville) Wagner’s Pharmacy, “dates back to 1922 and is part of the Churchill Down’s Derby experience—take home the collectible, julep glass”—www.wagnerspharmacy.com  

LOUISIANA—(Shreveport) Strawn’s Eat Shop, “get the chicken fried steak and extra, homemade soppin’ biscuits” 

MAINE—(Biddeford) Palace Diner, Maine’s oldest diner and a favorite of George and Barbara Bush—www.palacedinerme.com (Gardiner) A-1 Diner 

MARYLAND—(Baltimore) Pete’s Grille, “Baltimore’s Best Breakfast”—facebook.com/petesgrille 

MASSACHUSETTS—(South Boston) Galley Diner, “A perfect example of what corned beef hash and eggs should taste like” according to culinary great, Anthony Bourdain. (Worcester) Miss Worcester Diner 

MICHIGAN—(St. Clair Shores) Travis Coffee Shop, (Detroit) Dime Store 

MINNESOTA—(St. Paul) Mickey’s Diner 

MISSISSIPPI—(Jackson) Brent’s Drugs “Eudora Welty wants you to get the onion rings like she did”—www.brentsdrugs.com 

MISSOURI—(St. Louis) The Goody Goody Diner, (Kansas City) Town Topic Hamburgers, (Kansas City) Winstead’s 

MONTANA—(Belgrade) The Mint Café 

NEBRASKA—(Scottsbluff) Scotty’s Drive-In 

NEVADA—(Las Vegas) The Peppermill 

NEW HAMPSHIRE—(Manchester) Red Arrow Diner 

NEW JERSEY—(East Newark) Tops the Diner; (Summit) Summit Diner 

NEW MEXICO—(Santa Fe) The Pantry Restaurant, “ask for the Ali McGraw salsa,”—www.pantrysantafe.com 

NEW YORK—(Red Hook) Historic Village Diner, (NYC) Joe Jr. Restaurant, (Manhattan) La Bonbonniere, “my favorite pre-dawn diner in ‘The City that Never Sleeps,’” (NYC) The Waverly 

NORTH CAROLINA—(Asheville) Five Points Restaurant, (Raleigh) Metro Diner, “Serving Breakfast All Day,”—www.metrodiner.com 

NORTH DAKOTA—(Bismarck) Scotty’s Drive-In 

OHIO—(Cleveland) Big Al’s Diner, (Berlin) Boyd and Wurthmann, (Toledo) Schmucker’s, (Cincinnati) Tucker’s, (Cincinnati) The Echo 

OKLAHOMA—(El Reno) Sid’s Diner 

OREGON—(Otis) Otis Café, (Portland) Fuller’s Coffee Shop 

PENNSYLVANIA—(Pittsburgh) DeLuca’s Diner, (Philadelphia) Dutch Eating Place 

RHODE ISLAND—(Providence) Haven Brothers Diner (on wheels) 

SOUTH CAROLINA—(Greenville) The Clock Drive-In, “Award-winning Chili Cheeseburger Half & Half,”—www.clockdrivein.com  

SOUTH DAKOTA—(Sioux Falls) The Phillips Avenue Diner 

TENNESSEE—(Memphis) Arcade Diner, Memphis oldest café, founded in 1919 by Greek immigrants, “TCB with the French toast Elvis loved,”—wwwarcaderestaurant.com  

TEXAS—(Houston) Tel-Wink, (San Antonio) The Original Blanco Café, “Voted Best Enchiladas in San Antonio”—wwwblancocafesa.com  

UTAH—(Salt Lake City) Ruth’s Diner 

VERMONT—(Bennington) Blue Benn 

VIRGINIA—Warrenton) Frost Diner 

WASHINGTON—(Bellingham) Horseshoe Café, (Seattle) Skillet Diner, (Spokane) Frank’s Diner, (Seattle) CJ’s Eatery 

WEST VIRGINIA—(Huntington) Stewart’s Hotdogs Drive-Thru 

WISCONSIN—(Kenosha) Frank’s Diner 

WYOMING—(Rawlins) Penny’s Diner 

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Florida Avenue Grill, opened in 1944 and according to “The New York Times,” they’ve been serving the town’s “movers and shakers” ever since—www.FloridaAvenueGrill.com 

Recently, I wrote about joy-giving “S.U.N.S. FUN FREEDOMS” in the USA and one of those is hitting the open road for wide, open spaces. When you and Willie Nelson are on the road again, I hope you’ll carry this roster of “S.U.N.S. FINER AMERICAN DINERS” to add even more joy to your journey through life. 

ODES FROM OTHERS ABOUT DINERS 

“A poet could write volumes about diners because they’re so beautiful. They’re brightly lit, with chrome and booths and Naugahyde and great waitresses.”—David Lynch 

“In New York, I pretty much live in diners—I order French fries, Diet Coke floats and lots of coffee.”—Lana Del Ray 

“I actually find it harder to act in scenes where there’s not much happening, say having a milkshake in a diner. That is far harder to do than straight scenes where there’s a drama going on and you have something to do.”—Chris Hemsworth 

“Never be a food snob. Learn from everyone you meet—the fish guy at your market, the lady at the local diner, farmers, cheese makers. Ask questions, try everything and eat up.”—Rachel Ray 

“There’s a lot of great things to see here in the United States. Those times spent together with maps and old cups from the diner you went to, those are really important as a family.”—Mark Consuelos 

LAFFS ABOUT DINERS 

A tourist stops at an Alabama diner, scans the menu and says, “I don’t eat bacon, eggs, grits nor pecans. What do you recommend I get?” The cook says, “Out!” 

Diner customer to waitress: “May I ask about the menu, please?” Waitress: “The men I please is none of your business.” 

I was at a diner when the waitress asked me, “Do you want to hear today’s special?” I said, “Yes, please.” The waitress said: “Fine, today is special.” 

Reporter: “What do you think about the new diner at the NASA space station?” Astronaut: “The food is good but the place lacks atmosphere.” 

A man in a hurry rushes into a diner and orders one pancake. He asks, “Will it be long?” The cook replied, “No, it will be round.” 

JOY-GIVERS CELEBRATING A BIRTHDAY THIS WEEK: 

July 9—Tom Hanks 

July 10—Arthur Ashe 

July 11—E.B. White 

July 12—Henry David Thoreau 

July 13—Harrison Ford 

July 14—Phoebe Waller-Bridge 

July 15—Arianna Huffington 

                                        AMERICAN DINER APPLE-OAT FRITTERS—MINNESOTA 

                                                                (Source: bonappetit.com) 

Each week, JOY & GERONTOLOGY shares a recipe saluting a healthy food produced in America. The delicious and nutritious collection is called “The S.U.N.S. Longevity Cookbook” and highlights vitamin B-3 (niacin) which many gerontologists believe holds the promise for a long, healthy, joyful life. 

INGREDIENTS—8 servings 

  • ½ cup plus 2 tbsp. sugar, divided 
  • 1½ tsp. cinnamon, divided 
  • Vegetable oil (for frying, about 4 cups) 
  • 1 cup gluten-free, old-fashioned oats 
  • 1 cup rice flour 
  • 2 tbsp. cornstarch 
  • 1 tsp. baking powder 
  • ¾ tsp. kosher salt 
  • 1 large egg 
  • ½ cup club soda 
  • 2 large crisp apples, peeled, cored with an apple corer, sliced into ¼”-thick rings 

DIRECTIONS 

  1. Whisk ½ cup sugar and 1 tsp. cinnamon in a shallow bowl; set aside. 
  1. Fit a large pot with deep-fry thermometer (only special equipment needed) and pour oil in to measure 3”. Heat over medium-high heat until thermometer registers 375 degrees. 
  1. Pulse oats in a food processor to a coarse powder. Transfer to a large bowl and whisk in rice flour, cornstarch, baking powder, salt and remaining 2 tbsp. sugar and ½ tsp. cinnamon. Whisk in egg and ½ cup club soda, adding more club soda by the tablespoonful until the consistency of pancake batter. 
  1. Working in batches and maintaining oil temperature, dip apple rings in batter and fry, turning occasionally until golden brown and crisp, about 4 minutes. 
  1. Transfer fritters to a paper towel-lined plate; let drain briefly, then toss in reserved cinnamon sugar. 

1,070 JOY-GIVING THINGS FROM MY FIRST 70 YEARS (continued) 

619. The Broadway destined musical I co-wrote, “The Original, One-Liner American Diner” 

620. “Diner,” the award-winning movie directed by Barry Levinson 

621. Wall-mounted, diner jukebox at each booth 

622. “Don’t fritter your life away” 

623. Fritter, a great F-word 

624. Cobblers, crumbles, sonkers and every diner’s assortment of pies 

625. “Call Me Maybe” 

626. “Mad Magazine” 

627. “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World” 

628. “Zotz,” the movie and the magic coin 

629. Diner coffee cups with a Greek key motif 

630. Building a treehouse over the creek 

631. “W Magazine” when it was a broadsheet 

632. Pecans from our grove 

633. Lucite anything 

634. York mints at the cash register 

635. Christmas clog-dancing near Bangor Cave 

636. Whoopie Pie from a Maine fillin’ station 

637. The bouncy, Ragtime Jazz of the show-opening song, “The One-Liner American Diner” 

638. Champagne and cold, fried chicken 

639. The swank of Buckhead Diner 

640. Squeezing into a Pit Grill diner booth with college friends 

641. “Nighthawks,” the Edward Hopper painting set in a diner 

HAPPY SUMMERTIME…NOTHIN’ COULD BE FINER THAN AN AIR-CONDITIONED DINER!