God bless the United States of Breakfast
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Credit: Illustration by Lauren Kolm

The diner is an American breakfast institution. From Connecticut to Hawaii, New York to New Mexico, Tennessee to Oregon, and everywhere in-between, diners are there to provide succor to the weary and hungry at all hours of the day. But it is breakfast where they really shine: toast piled high and proffered with packets of butter and jelly, eggs served however you please, hashes and home fries, stacks both short and not-so-short, melts and wraps of all kinds (if that’s your thing), all anchored by a hot cup of coffee.

In honor of the great American diner, we at Extra Crispy reached out to breakfast lovers across the land for a diner recommendation from every state, plus Washington, D.C. Diners do not exist the same way in every state—the classic New Jersey diner with vinyl booths and a multi-page laminated menu is a scarce commodity in, say, Alabama. So the definition of “diner” here is deliberately loose: It must serve breakfast, can’t be a national chain, and should be somewhere you can get fed an unreasonable number of eggs for under $20. (Like Justice Potter Stewart said about obscenity, you know one when you see one.) Here, from writers, musicians, chefs, and diner frequenters of all kinds, is the Extra Crispy’s diner map of America, from sea to shining sea (of maple syrup).


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Located in the Five Points South neighborhood in Birmingham, Pop's Neighborhood Grill is a family-owned place to enjoy a fried chicken biscuit for breakfast or a patty melt for lunch in a relaxed atmosphere with good people. —Jonathan Tucker, owner, Rusty’s Bar-B-Q


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This place reeks of sourdough. No, seriously, the story I heard was that they use a strain they found in a basement, from 1902. Serving as a base for climbing Denali, Talkeetna has been hosting big breakfasts in the same old house since 1917. The sourdough pancakes are ridiculous and bigger than the plates, the huge-ass cinnamon rolls are legendary, the biscuits and gravy come into my top three best ever. Hint: The thick pepper bacon can be stuffed in your pocket for later as you walk around town (watch out for bears). Their "Rudy in a Parka"—reindeer sausage with cheese baked in potato dough—gets brought back to Seward by the bagful and handed out like candy to all the restaurant-industry folks. Everyone sits family-style so there are always interesting conversations to be had, and I can't think of a better place to eat that kind of breakfast on a -20°F Alaskan winter day after drinking local stouts and IPAs. —Erik Slater, chef/owner, Seward Brewery


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Bobo’s Restaurant is a Tucson institution every bit as goofy and wonderful as its name. Visited by everyone from truck drivers to college students, Bobo’s offers a banana pancake the size of your head (which, bafflingly, costs less with bacon, sausage, eggs, and toast than it does with just one of those items as a side) and line cooks who sometimes belt out Disney songs while frying up your order. I like to wander over on weekday mornings when the crowd thins out and listen to the waitstaff banter. —Adrienne Celt, author,The Daughters


Benson’s Grill, Fort Smith

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At the center of Fort Smith’s three-shift industrial machine lies Benson’s Grill, an always-open orange-and-black diner where workers, college students, and road warriors huddle. Veterans who want to see you drop your fork will suggest ordering the GOT-cha, a gravy-covered pile of various pig pieces to shovel into your face. Shuck off the usual breakfast fare and go for substantially hearty sweet potato pancakes with syrup or a dusting of brown sugar, and silently curse your ancestors for not getting off their posteriors each morning to pound sweet potatoes into this batter-borne mush for your consumption during your formative years. Need a smoke? Benson’s also has you covered with yellow placeholders that tell the server you’re outside so they don’t clear your table. It’s the best place in the state to hover all night. —Kat Robinson, writer


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Swoon. I can't say the name without feeling like I'm in L.A. As old as the city itself, it's like a time capsule of 1930s L.A., with friendly gentleman waiters in white, most of whom started there as busboys. Because it's in the heart of downtown and open 24 hours, you get a total grab bag of clientele, from tourists to bankers to punks. Regardless of who you are, when you cozy up to the counter you're immediately served a hunk of crusty sourdough, softened butter chips, and a dish of the best cole slaw I've every had. Total hospitality. If Waffle House is a Toyota, the pantry is an old Cadillac.—Levon Wallace, chef, Cochon Butcher


Denver Diner, Denver

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Only one place exists in Denver where morning, noon, and late, late night you can get gooey-yet-crispy cheese fries with a side of cumin-laced enchilada sauce. In the 1990s the Denver Diner was my go-to spot once the goth club closed, and said fries were perfect for soaking up stolen rum-and-Cokes and teen angst. Today my family likes heading there for breakfast to order piles of fluffy biscuits with sausage gravy and the kind of hash browns that are perfect once you drown them in hot sauce. Now, rum-and-Cokes are so passé, but the coffee at this Colfax spot makes you feel like you are about to race, dance, or take on the world. This iconic spot almost closed due to a fire in 2014, but after a $1.4 million renovation it's back and looks exactly the same way it did when I dyed my hair black. Linnea Covington, writer


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Tucked just out of view of the port of New London, in Groton, CT, is Norm's Diner. Groton is also home to General Dynamics Electric Boat, a 117-year-old submarine factory. Norm's itself looks a bit like a runty, rectangular submarine in its boxy, metallic trailer, though at any given hour it’s as likely to be filled with sailors as with families, pre-shift barflies, and liberal arts kids indulging in comfort food too comforting for any campus dining hall. In my junior year, Norm's closed—briefly. The eponymous Norm owed somebody money, we heard, and the diner was out. A friend and I made a farewell visit and, over what seemed would be our last round of grilled blueberry muffins, asked our waitress whether we could buy a pair of mugs. (The only Norm's merch for sale was a T-shirt with two sunny-side eggs like giant breakfast nipples.) She said she'd see what she could do, and returned a few minutes later with two heavy objects wrapped in newsprint. “Don't tell anyone how you got these,” she said, and charged us $5 apiece. Norm’s Diner was ultimately bought out after not too long, and reopened under the same name, with a nearly identical menu, and the same curt warmth of the very best dinner waitresses. It’s still Norm’s, but the Norm’s I knew will always exist in the contraband mug I bought when I wasn’t sure it would always be there. John Sherman, writer and editor


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Arner’s has been a Delaware institution for decades. Settled next to the New Castle County airport, it’s a multigenerational, local go-to where born-and-raised grandparents take their kids and grandkids regularly. I know, my grandpa started taking me there in the ’80s. Best known for the mountainous “mile high” apple, strawberry, and coconut pies that taunt and seduce upon arrival, Arner’s also serves up breakfast dishes that cater to the palates of the First State: salty and rich creamed chipped-beef gravy on toast; crispy, thick-cut slices of scrapple with a few squirts of Heinz; and over-easy eggs served Baltimore-style over a short stack. Chadwick Boyd, food and lifestyle expert


Skyway Jack's, St. Petersburg

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Just outside the front door, a maniacal Humpty Dumpty sits on a wall. The waitresses obligingly wear shirts with the politically incorrect cartoons of two fried eggs strategically over their chests. Philadelphia scrapple and manhole-size pancakes are slung with glee. The words "artisan" and "farm to table" haven't been spoken within 100 yards of the place. A sign over the kitchen pass reads, "DON'T EVEN ASK." This kind of no-nonsense-while-full-of-nonsense approach of Skyway Jack's just makes people happy. The restaurant has done so with heaping breakfasts and belly-busting platters of food since 1976, when former mess hall cook Jack Thomas opened up around the clock to feed fishermen at O'Neill's Marina at the north end of the Sunshine Skyway Bridge spanning the mouth of Tampa Bay. His dress code? Whatever you wanted. Barefoot for scrambled eggs? No problem. Four years after he opened, a ship hit the bridge, killing nearly three dozen motorists and passengers. When the replacement bridge was built, Jack's moved north into town to make way for the expanded highway but kept the name. Joe and Naz are the latest owners. They took over in 2015. They're still slinging hash while updating a few things. (You can now pay with credit or debit.) Don't miss the National Pig Day celebration in March. There was an actual live pig on the premises this year. And lots and lots of byproduct bacon and scrapple. Jack's spirit is alive and fingertip-licking greasy. Jeff Houck, food writer


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Here's the thing: Georgia, and much of the South, abounds with one diner chain: Waffle House. And each WH is special in its own way, while somehow managing to keep things exactly the same whether you're in Atlanta or Savannah. #WHforever. However, if you're in Atlanta anytime soon, I suggest you drop by the Silver Skillet, located just off I-75/I-85. This 49-year-old diner is a local legend, having been featured in a number of Hollywood films and TV shows for its extremely authentic aesthetic, which is all vinyl seating and framed photos hung in a lovingly crooked fashion. As for the fare, visitors should expect to dig into buttery, greasy Southern cuisine, including salty grits, skillet country ham, and fluffy biscuits drowning in sausage gravy. Once you're done with your meal, you can wander right over to the Atlantic Station shopping district, the beloved High Museum of Art, or drive 10 minutes to the heart of Atlanta. Nikita Richardson, editorial assistant, Fast Company


Sam Sato's, Wailuku

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Credit: Photo by Pomai Souza via The Tasty Island

I have to assume that the families, working men, surfers, tourists, and others in Hawaii are eating at Sam Sato's. That's what I would do, if it weren't for the small inconvenience of living 4,100 miles away from the industrial park in Wailuku, Maui, into which it is tucked. Sam Sato's specialty is dry mein—chewy saimin noodles topped with char siu and served with their usual salty broth on the side—but it comes from the Waffle House school of side-dish-accumulation: teriyaki beef on a stick, half a papaya, some Spam or Portuguese sausage, the best pancakes I've ever tasted, maybe some chow mein for kicks—a flotilla of plates on which to sail toward naptime. Brett Martin, author of Difficult Men


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Picture a town, population 910, at the crossroads of two little-used state highways (two lanes each) in the first "city" in the world to be powered by atomic power. Surrounded by hostile jagged-rock mountains, a fenceless expanse of U.S. government-owned scrub desert stretching in most directions 70 or 100 miles, and standing as the entryway to thousands of acres of a national laboratory that at one time claimed over twenty active nuclear-test reactors, is Arco, Idaho. There, not far from one of two gas stations in town, stands Pickle's Place, a genuine, salt-of-the earth public meeting place, a heartbeat-of-a-town diner that may boast the best T-shirts in the country. The diner's slogan: "Home of the Atomic Burger and Famous Fried Pickles." That's right: fried pickles, and what a treat they are. Each and every time we pass through Arco we start our lunch with fried pickles. We order real ice cream milkshakes, burgers, tuna salad, French fries, eggs, and bacon, along with all the trappings of a perfect American diner. We are served by a kind-hearted, occasionally wide-bodied waitstaff, that may include a young kid or a grandmother. Substitutions don't cause a wrinkle of the nose or a sideways glance, and best of all, though locals crowd the tables and seem to make second homes here, passers-by like us, with our golf shirts and blue jeans and Nikes, are welcomed like long-lost family. That, after all, is what a diner should be. —Ridley Pearson, author


Diner Grill, Chicago

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If you are from or spend enough time in Chicago, there's a pretty good chance you have had mornings with a lot of regrets stemming from things you may have had to drink the night before. Thankfully, while the city is great for freezing your ass off and getting really drunk, it's also home to one of the greatest hangover cure-alls you will ever find: The Slinger. Many Northsiders have spent very early mornings wolfing these things down after too many shots of whatever whiskey and pitchers of Old Style, likening it to the feeling one might get being "saved" by religion. If you aren't feeling something beautiful moving inside of you after a plate with two hamburger patties beneath two runny, sunny-side-up eggs, cheddar cheese, hash browns, raw onions, a healthy spoonful of chili, and a side of toast, then I fear there is no hope. Jason Diamond, author, Searching for John Hughes


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Triple XXX may not sound like a family restaurant from the name, but it is a legend near the campus of Purdue University in Lafayette, Indiana. It is named after the “Triple XXX” root beer that has been sold there since the diner opened in 1929. The root beer is delicious, as are their sirloin “chopped steak” burgers (try the “Duane Purvis” featuring peanut butter). But no matter what time of day you venture into the orange-and-brown-striped building with the counter that snakes around the whole restaurant, you will see people of all ages enjoying breakfast. They serve it all day. Erin Day, food blogger


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The Hamburg Inn No. 2 in Iowa City is like that sweet grandmother that cooks you your favorite foods without a lot of fuss. She's been around a long time and you hope she'll live forever. Hashbrown potatoes are cooked crisp, skillet breakfasts without "fusion" inspiration—and the best part of any breakfast experience is a giant frosted Iowan cinnamon roll that works best as a side to anything on the menu. —Mattie Kennedy, Bjarke Ingels Group


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For anyone seeking a doo-wop throwback, look no further than this '50s-styled Wichita diner. Jimmie's Diner feels plucked straight from Grease, with a neon jukebox dominating the entryway and wait staff dressed with polka-dot scarves and poodle skirts. The simple menu doesn't skip any diner classics, but the jumbo-sized portions make perfect sense in the Midwest. My grandma used to flip through the table side juke box until she found her favorite Elvis song—and then we'd dance in the aisle. —Jamie Wiebe, writer


Cliffside Diner, Frankfort

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Once in a (more politically savvy) galaxy far, far away, I worked in a marble-and-dark-wood tomb known as the Kentucky Capitol. Save for a thimble-sized concession stand in the building’s sprawling basement, dining options were few and far between. On days when I tired of eating foil-wrapped chocolate covered cherries for lunch (or was just plain tired), I’d walk the half-block to Cliffside Diner, a red-and-white building perched overlooking the Kentucky River that seemed permanently on the verge of pitching over the edge. A few fire engine-colored stools and sticky vinyl booths marked it as—more or less—a standard diner, but once the meatloaf or hash browns arrived, I was ready to clink coffee cups with even my most strident opponent across party lines. I like to imagine it, quite possibly, saved democracy in the Commonwealth on more than one occasion, and might be capable of doing it again. —Sarah Baird, author, Kentucky Sweets


Clover Grill, New Orleans

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A little greasy spoon on the far end of Bourbon Street, past the voodoo tourist traps and hurricane stands but not quite out of the French Quarter, the 24-hour Clover Grill has saved the lives and livers of many a reveler, myself included. Fancy, it's not, but when it's after midnight and you need a waffle and a friendly face, you'll find it here. Margaret Eby, culture editor, Extra Crispy


Palace Diner, Biddeford

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For some reason, any time I approach a restaurant located in a dining car I instinctively lower my expectations. I often assume the experience will be about hokey nostalgia rather than quality food and service. Or, even worse, that it is all about irony: the tatted, plaid, and/or bearded interpretation of The Diner. So, despite having heard that there was some seriously good cooking happening at the Palace Diner, I was skeptical. I needn't have been.

There are probably four or five essential diner staples: coffee, eggs, bacon, toast, and pancakes. As far as I can tell, PD uses these ingredients in ways that are creative and exciting without being too precious. For example, the super fluffy buttermilk flapjacks are spiked with a little grated lemon zest. The hash brown potatoes are whole red potatoes that have been blanched, then crushed, then fried so that the skin is crispy and the interior is creamy. The locally-sourced eggs are rich and have yolks the color of saffron. Perfectly crispy strips of thick cut applewood bacon are so long that they snake around your plate (but the Taylor ham is what you really want). The toast is made from bread from local bakeries instead of packaged brands, and they serve it correctly by not stacking the pieces on top of each other so that they steam and get all soggy. I hate that. The delicious coffee is from Tandem Roasters in Portland. Drip only. Four local canned beers are available—even at breakfast. How Maine of them. And then there's lunch (The tuna melt! Oh, god.), but this is all about breakfast. —Scott Tyree, sommelier/wine consultant


Papermoon, Baltimore

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Baltimore’s Papermoon Diner isn’t your average diner. The first thing you notice when you step inside is that every surface seems to be decorated: with purple and yellow and lime green paint, with bedazzled mannequins and neon formica. There are sculptures made of of toy cars and plastic Army men, and there are Pez dispenser collections superglued to the walls. Located within walking distance of Johns Hopkins University, Papermoon’s trippy ambiance and modest prices have been drawing a steady crowd of students and locals since 1994. It also offers breakfast concoctions as wacky as its decor, served all day of course. Standouts include the monte cristo sandwich, the bananas foster French toast, and the bacon milkshake. —Colette Shade, writer and critic


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Located down the street from my grandfather’s nursing home on an unremarkable strip of highway in Canton, Queen Anne’s Sub Parlour is an ideal Massachusetts diner: decidedly unfussy and steeped in tradition. If you’ve never been here, you won’t know that you are supposed to serve yourself coffee and order at the counter. But don’t worry, some regular will politely set you straight and then promptly leave you alone as they return to their MetroWest Daily News. The chili is award-winning (it sweeps the Blue Hills Winter Fest chili cook-off every year), and if you ask about it at the counter, owner Rick Sampson might even give you a taste. But what people usually order are the obscenely large omelets stuffed with every imaginable filling, including the aforementioned chili. Yup, Guy Fieri wishes he’d found this place but my dad got there first and ordered a five-egg omelet filled with three huge meatballs and melted cheese. Which is why it’s the perfect place to dine with someone you love but with whom you don’t have a lot to talk about. You pour a couple cups of coffee, pull up a plastic chair, and with a newspaper in one hand and your fork in the other, you and your companions slowly but surely work your way through the enormous, greasy, delicious pile of food in front of you until you can’t any longer. Then you all hug and slog home to take a huge nap, satisfied but not over-indulged. Sarah Winshall, film producer


The Fly Trap, Ferndale

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It’s quintessentially kitschy, boasting hundreds of rotating salt and pepper shakers (I’ve yet to see the same set twice) and a delightfully cheeky menu. Egg dishes are served with potatoes (when logical), and you’ll feel appropriately shamed for selecting Eggs ala Boring over fan favorites like the Dago Red, Slacker Especial, or A Forager. Locals frequent the Metro Detroit landmark for its daily specials, which always include a new homemade jam option and a milkshake “Flavor of the Moment.” Elana Hopman, writer


Band Box Diner, Minneapolis

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The Band Box diner is a stone’s throw from downtown Minneapolis, and it’s possible that it’s easy to miss–as diners go, it’s a small one, with a cozy interior and a modest red-and-white exterior. Step through the door, though, and you’ll be on your way to trying the Platonic ideal of diner food: tasty burgers, fries, and eggs offered up in a variety of tantalizing, hearty combinations–including a breakfast sandwich served on French toast. —Tobias Carroll, author, Reel


Primos Cafe, Flowood

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First comes the nourishment—a heaping vegetable plate with black-eyed peas, fried green tomatoes, dissolving butter beans, cole slaw to cool the palate, mac and cheese that tastes like an embrace—and then you scoot around the warm wood counter to the sweet end, where you settle on a petit four that turns to a cloud inside your mouth and watch the parade of Jacksonians swing by to pick up their caramel cakes, wondering what kind of weddings or funerals are soon to be blessed, and notice that everyone here smiles at each other, because smiles originate in the belly. —Katy Simpson Smith, author, Free Men


Goody Goody Diner, St. Louis

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The aptly named Goody Goody Diner has been a north St. Louis staple since the 1950s with its eye-catching signage, mouthwatering menu, and an efficient staff who don’t hide the fact that they love what they do. Among the grits, eggs 11 ways, and chicken & waffles lives the savory Hobo Bowl that effortlessly combines the best of breakfast into a single vessel full of sausage, eggs, tomato, onion, potatoes, cheese, and thick, white gravy. Sarah Truckey, writer


The Old Post, Missoula

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The Old Post in Missoula isn't a proper New Jersey-style diner, but it functioned as one when I lived there—the food is eclectic and very occasionally brilliant (order the recession special, whatever Janet Yellen says), the service friendly but lackadaisical. It's the perfect place to meet a friend to gossip about your other friends, only to realize those other friends are sitting in the booth behind you, absorbing every word. —Andrew Martin, fiction writer


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Patron: "I'd like a plain omelet. No potatoes. Tomatoes, instead. A cup of coffee and wheat toast."

Waitress: "No substitutions."

Patron: "Fine. I'll just have the potatoes."

If you can name the movie this deleted scene is from, I'll buy you the largest plate of biscuits and gravy Harold's Koffee Shop—where the scene was filmed—has to offer. A corn cob's throw from the Missouri River, Harold's in Florence, Nebraska, is a diner that sticks in my head. It has everything I demand in a proper breakfast establishment: corned beef hash, biscuits and gravy, and hash browns. Even better, it offers all three on one plate. But what makes it unique to me was the printed "koffee" cups and turquoise (or is it teal?) booths. No mistaking those with diners anywhere else.

Back to that movie, here's a hint: Kathy Bates. Hot tub. Jeremy Harlan, photojournalist, CNN


Vickie's Diner, Las Vegas

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It used to be Tiffany’s Diner at White Cross Drugs before it was sold to one of the waitresses, Vickie Kelesis, who turned it into Vickie’s Cafe at the newly upgraded White Cross Market. The 24/7 restaurant still serves the solid, generous breakfast, lunch, and dinner standards for which it had long been loved by locals. The trout and three eggs are a steal at $11.95. All caught up now?

Good, because we have to talk about That Painting (as it’s fondly dubbed). No one knows. No one. Some speculate it’s Clint Eastwood as The Outlaw Josey Wales, others John Travola in some indeterminate role. Why he’s hanging out in the corner of a Bob-Ross-gone-awry forest scene is anyone’s guess, but one thing is for sure: If the canvas were to suddenly disappear, patrons would be up in arms. No kidding—it was taken down temporarily during filming of a reality show and regulars pitched a fit, both in person and on the painting’s Facebook fan page (yup). Kelesis doesn’t recall who painted it originally, but so long as bemused patrons keep streaming in to snap selfies with That Painting, the mysterious stranger will lurk above the corner booth, both unnerving and somehow reassuring—which seems oddly right for Vegas. Kat Kinsman, senior food and drinks editor, Extra Crispy


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Credit: Photo courtesy of The Roundabout Diner

You’ll need to go through the rotary that is the Portsmouth Traffic Circle to get to The Roundabout Diner in Portsmouth, but the Inception-like journey will land you the best banana crème pie going. Before noshing on pie, you can’t go wrong with any menu item that includes their thick cut bacon, maple sausage, or pulled pork (the Cuban is a favorite of mine). Non-pig sourced options also exist, like the lobster club, open-face turkey, and about a half dozen eggs Benedict options (listed on the menu under "Ben'addiction!"). Cocktails can be enjoyed in their lounge. What sets The Roundabout apart from other diners is the desserts, made from scratch on-site. It really comes down to the banana crème pie, which is straight up the best you’ll ever have. Roy Sullivan, DJ, WOKQ


VIP Diner, Jersey City

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The VIP Diner is the perfect spot to slip your caporegime an envelope hidden in a newspaper, or to slip a bribe to a local politician. Conveniently tucked on the West Side of Jersey City near historic and now-gentrifying Journal Square, it has both booze and the prerequisite 20-page laminated menu containing everything under the sun. I usually go for the Western omelet in the morning and the disco fries in the evening. Their iconic sign says “all baking done on the premises,” so you should always take the cannoli. Jim Behrle, writer


Frontier Restaurant, Albuquerque

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An Albuquerque fixture since 1973, the Frontier Restaurant offers not only a cheap, quality egg, hash brown and flour tortilla (or toast) deal, but also has an odd abundance of artistic renderings of John Wayne adorning their walls. Plus, there’s a row of booths along the Central Avenue side window directly facing the University of New Mexico that serves as the perfect perch for diners looking to pensively stare out into the Southwestern night and ponder their entire existence. —Justin Sullivan, musician


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There was a waitress in the West Taghkanic Diner—pronounced tag-uh-nak, she told us, despite its location right off the Taconic Parkway—whom I used to see three times a year when we stopped for lunch. My parents and I would be en route for the four-hour drive between Westchester County and Cooperstown, where my family lived on a working farm. No matter if we were hungry or not, we’d always pull into the Taghkanic for lunch under the hulking, neon head of an American Indian. No matter when we’d arrive, the waitress, a middle-aged woman with puffy brown hair whose name I’ve long forgotten but whose face I can still picture, seemed always to be there. The Taghkanic was the kind of place where one would always be, though: a permanent timewarp to the 1950s with its metal façade, the red vinyl counter seats, and the glowing clock counting time that might as well have never moved at all. Meredith Turits, editorial director, Extra Crispy


Your House, Greensboro

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Credit: Photo courtesy of visitnc.com

Despite the wincing knockoff-of-Waffle-House name, Your House really did feel like my house when I was in college at UNCG in Greensboro, North Carolina. The diner knew my regular order within three visits, always greeted me (and my drunken friends) as if we were visiting dignitaries, and—greatest of all—signed me up for their mimeographed monthly newsletter, which gave updates on employees' personal lives and featured a word jumble with names of menu items. I think of Your House the way I think of those smudged yellow papers that arrived in the mailbox—with the nostalgic veneer of a time gone by. Some people have salad days, but I had grits days. Lilit Marcus, contributing editor, Condé Nast Traveler


Darcy's Cafe, Grand Forks

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Credit: Photo by Kaitlynn Hajicek

Just within smelling distance of the town tater tot factory lies the kind of diner you’d expect to be filled with Carhartt-clad farmers enjoying their pre-sunrise coffee and hash, and chatting about whose fields were planted first or best. At Darcy’s Diner in Grand Forks, North Dakota, the eggs are runny and the bacon is crispy and the farmers at the counter are always familiar. In this part of the country, our crops are grown with rain, sun, and Darcy’s. —Molly Yeh, author, Molly on the Range


Hang Over Easy, Columbus

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Credit: Photo via Flickr user 5chw4r7z

I spent 23 years in the Buckeye state, so I’ve had a lot of breakfast within Ohio’s borders. One diner rises above them all, however. Columbus’ Hang Over Easy will always have a special place in my heart, and not just because of its punny name. Though I spent many a hazy and befuddled morning filling up on this joint’s trademark egg dishes, I didn’t realize until much later that Hang Over Easy actually had the best corned beef hash I’ve ever tasted in my life. Good food is totally wasted on 19-year-olds, as they’ll basically eat anything. It’s comforting to know that amidst Ramen noodles and Easy Mac, I was actually eating something substantial. Yes, I have been back since college. The hash still holds up. 19-year olds? Not so much. —Jordan Posner, writer


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Credit: Photo by Steve Coleman

El Reno, 25 miles west of downtown Oklahoma City, is well known for its onion burgers, a local specialty where chopped-up onion is mixed into the patty and cooked on the grill. The technique was originated during the Depression to make meat last, but it also creates a delicious hamburger. Johnnie’s Grill, which opened in 1946, serves these onion burgers, which my family has been eating for a long time. Originally serving as a stop along Route 66, it has now expanded from the original counter with barstools into a full restaurant that can accommodate locals as well as those making the onion burger pilgrimage. The same large grill that cooks the burgers also turns out notable breakfast items, including pancakes, waffles, French toast, omelettes, and biscuits and gravy. But the Coney, the second most popular item at Johnnie’s, hits the spot. Served anytime after 10:30 a.m., this delicious chili and slaw covered hot dog is the best I have found anywhere. In fact, the chili here is the best anywhere. Johnnie’s menu indicates that you can order a bowl of chili or get a chili burrito during breakfast, and it's worth waiting until 10:30 to get the Coney—you won’t be disappointed. —Steve Coleman, writer, Steve's Food Blog


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Credit: Photo via Wikimedia

The most classic is Fuller's restaurant in downtown Portland. In a town of pretty precious food (of which I am a huge fan) it's great to have a good old fashioned, nothing-too-fancy, counter-service diner. They make great white bread in-house for toast, as well as all the classics. I love crunchy hash-browns, bacon, and sunny-side up eggs and more cups of just-average coffee than I can handle. —Elias Cairo, owner, Olympia Provisions


Shady Maple, East Earl

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Credit: Photo via Flickr user TruffShuff

Philly and Pittsburgh can have their fussy, cramped, overpriced brunch spots. The best diner in Pennsylvania serves biscuits, scrapple, and “mush.” Off of route 322, which is off of 222, which is off the turnpike, Shady Maple stands tall and wide in PA Dutch country, a behemoth of a building you could confuse for a mega church or an Amazon warehouse. And the breakfast buffet will never cost you more than $12, plus tax. That nothing—even if they did nix the discounts they used to offer for gastric bypass patients. No, really. —Paul Kita, writer


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Credit: Photo courtesy of Cindy's Diner and Restaurant via Facebook

It’s the neon sign that initially draws you in, but you keep coming back for the poached eggs on hash. Or the pumpkin french toast. Or the carved country ham that hangs over the well worn plates. Cindy’s Diner & Restaurant in Scituate, Rhode Island, a town of 10,000 people, has been a staple for decades. The staff is home grown, and the food is cheap, local, and satisfying. Dining under the photo of Betty Boop, totally hungover, scarfing down biscuits and ham? YES. Please. Kate Coyne-McCoy, political consultant


Early Bird Diner, Charleston

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Credit: Photo by Suze S.

Early Bird Diner on Savannah Highway always has a line on the weekends, so I don't like to tell my friends I'm headed there. That way, I can sneak in, grab a seat at the counter, leisurely read and drink cup after cup of coffee as I gorge myself on Chicken and Waffles with a side of a Big Bowl o' Grits topped with mushrooms, veggies and salsa. It's a judge-free zone.—Stephanie Burt, host, The Southern Fork podcast


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Credit: Photo courtesy of Tally's Silver Spoon via Facebook

Operating since the 1930s, Tally's Silver Spoon has always been a go-to spot for locals as well as out-of-towners looking to take in some South Dakota charm. This ain't no greasy spoon. The menu and decor have been updated throughout the years, and you can now find foie gras and gooseberries sharing space on the same menu as their original blueberry pancake recipe and a simple one-egg breakfast. Located in Downtown Rapid City, it’s a perfect spot to take grandma out for Sunday brunch, or to nurse the hangover you earned from slugging cheap whiskey at a saloon the night before. Brooke V. Sweeten


Hermitage Cafe, Nashville

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Credit: Photo courtesy of Granada Tile

The Hermitage Cafe sits on Rutledge Hill in Nashville near the neon glow of bars on Broadway. After last call, it serves as a beacon for soaking up Budweisers with biscuits, bologna sandwiches, and cheese omelets. Then as the sky fades from navy to baby blue, the night owls make way for early birds in office attire or construction vests splattered in spackle. They saddle up to the counter facing the short-order action or take one of the 13 Formica-topped tables. With the doors opening at 10 p.m. and closing at 1 p.m., the Hermitage Cafe removes all sense of time associated with menu items, making patty melts appropriate at breakfast or pancakes perfect after dark. “Menu’s on the wall, hon,” says a waitress as a way of welcome, “and water’s on its way.” —Jennifer Justus, author, Nashville Eats: Hot Chicken, Buttermilk Biscuits, and 120 More Southern Recipes from Music City


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Credit: Photo by Irene Leach

Emblazoned across the top of the pie menu at the Koffee Kup in Hico is the phrase “Pie Fixes Everything,” a notion that, while not scientifically incontrovertible, is easily believed once you try the Black Forest, Banana Blueberry, or any of the meringue pies Koffee Kup bakes daily. The quaint limestone cafe has been making true believers of its pie-based faith since 1968, and like any good diner, it traffics in kitsch: Perhaps the only thing more impressive than the pie (or the cobbler, or the donuts) is the world-class collection of salt and pepper shakers. Phillip Pantuso, writer


Ruth's Diner, Salt Lake City

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Credit: Photo via Flickr user Aaron Gustafson

Ruth's Diner, in a refurbished trolley car at the mouth of Emigration Canyon here in Utah, is a living tribute to its founder, the eponymous Ruth—a hard-drinking, hard-smoking ex-cabaret star who first went into business to feed the sex workers at a bordello across the street. She died in 1999 at the age of 94, and every time I bite into a Mile-High biscuit, I like to think of her sheer cussedness. The food is great too. —Nicole Cliffe, co-founder ofThe Toast


Henry's Diner, Burlington

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Credit: Photo courtesy of Henry's Diner via Facebook

Burlington's Church Street is the center of town, with all the farm-to-table eateries and craft beer tastings you'd expect (and, yes, a Ben and Jerry's). But venture half a block off the main stretch to find the more unassuming Henry's Diner, which for 91 years has served breakfast and lunch—no dinner, in classic diner fashion. Though locals can chart the minute menu changes over the decades—it counted as news when its latest owner added a couple of Greek items—it mostly ignores whatever fads currently hold this food-obsessed town in thrall, a welcome respite whenever you want eggs without having to learn the chicken farmer's family history. —Ray Padgett, founder/editor of Cover Me


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Credit: Photo by Epione Kappatos

There aren't many reminders that before World War II, Vienna—a bustling Washington, DC, bedroom community—was the gateway to a vast, sleepy agricultural landscape. The Virginian Restaurant, wedged into a busy strip mall just off Route 123—Vienna's main commercial corridor—is one of those reminders. Replete with a traditional American breakfast menu (served all day), simple decor (formica countertops and a drop ceiling), and very reasonable prices, the restaurant's atmosphere lends itself to reverie about a quieter time when oak trees and peach groves outnumbered office buildings and tract homes. Although the Virginian opened in 1965, a few years after developers had begun transforming soil into progress, its spirit is rooted in the bygone days when a farmer could drive into town, order up a plate of biscuits and gravy, or, for lunch, liver and onions, and relax with friends for a bit. Now, of course, the multi-national, multi-ethnic cast of characters that calls Northern Virginia home these days can dig into this slice of Americana, too. —Benjamin Preston, Writer-at-Large, The Drive


Skillet, Seattle

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Credit: Photo by Sarah Flotard

If you’re looking for a diner in Seattle, Skillet is the obvious answer. It’s a textbook modern diner—the kind of food that you'd expect from an old school joint with Pacific Northwest tweaks. You'll find the unhealthy beloved treats of your dream diner, but there are definitely dishes that include kale and fennel-seed-crusted items. In short, it's delightful. Try the bacon jam. You won’t be sad. Rachel Apatoff, costume designer

Washington, D.C.

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Credit: Photo via Wikimedia

Early-to-bed and early-to-rise Washington, D.C. is a place where late-night eats are hard to come by. After bars close only a few spots in the city draw a wide cast of characters to their doors. Places like Steak and Egg thrive because they are rare, and because they provide a haven for revelers after bars close, at 2 a.m. most nights. It's outlived whole political movements, right and left, but its walls have heard all of them. The pancakes have remained good throughout. Wilson Dizard, reporter and photographer


Hometown Restaurant, Peterstown

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Credit: Photo by Matt Sharp

Peterstown, West Virginia (population 650), which is about a stone’s throw from the Virginia border and right smack in the heart of the Appalachian mountains, has one seriously tasty claim to fame, and that’s Hometown Restaurant. Linda Fox, who opened Hometown nearly 31 years ago, makes nearly everything from scratch, from her signature biscuits and gravy to one of West Virginia’s finest creations: a big bowl of pinto beans topped with chow chow relish served with a wedge of crumbly cornbread. (We don’t call West Virginia “Almost Heaven” for nothing.)

Breakfast is a testament to true soul-satisfying mountain cooking and it’s served all day. Country ham, grits, fried potatoes, and biscuits are always on the menu, as are three different kinds of pan-seared steak to go with your eggs: rib-eye, crispy fried steak, or chopped steak. For something different, get the fried apples over a biscuit, a sweet and savory delicacy that pairs especially well with salty bacon or country ham. Be sure to grab one of Linda’s homemade whole coconut cream pies on your way out (she makes eight different cream pies twice a week), which boast the tallest meringue I’ve ever seen. Kendra Bailey Morris, author of The Southern Slow Cooker


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Credit: Photo by Matt Sharp

Since 1961, the Viking has been anchored the dining scene in Door County, Wisconsin, an area best described as the Hamptons of the Midwest. The Hamptons, this is not, however: The similarities end at showstopper sunsets and traffic jams. Here, tree camo and ATVs replace Bentleys, Botox, and Tory Burch, and Bea’s Ho-made Pies reign supreme. Here, a game of bags or ladder golf is as close as you’ll get to social climbing, and fishing on the protected Mink River Estuary is the preferred sport of the locals when the Packers aren’t playing. The Viking’s a multipurpose joint to suit this honest clientele—part supper club, part fish boil freak-show in the afternoons—and its fare does not put on airs. Expect an honest roster of simple but fresh fare including stellar donuts, Swedish pancakes, stiff bloody marys (with the requisite beer back, naturally), and an award-winning corned beef hash. And, oh, the jam: Loaded with fresh cherries or lingonberries depending on the season, you’ll find yourself slathering it on everything—the toast, your short stack, maybe even a loved one. In a nation full of breakfast fads and bellini-mad Instagrammers, the Viking sticks to the basics, beautifully. —Matt Bean, SVP Editorial Innovation, Time Inc.


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Credit: Photo courtesy of Bear Trap Cafe & Bar via Facebook

My great-grandfather shoveled coal through the Depression on the train to Encampment, Wyoming, a timber town. Once, his train became snowed in for three days and he had so much fun getting drunk with the loggers and mill workers at the Bear Trap Saloon in adjacent Riverside, Wyoming, he decided to buy the place. That's how my family came to Encampment. Today, the café is your best bet for breakfast during the Woodchopper’s Jamboree, a lumberjack competition that takes place each June alongside a rodeo, a melodrama at the Grand Encampment Opera House, and other forest-based merrymaking. Nathaniel Martin, writer