More Retro Diner: Introduction

Introduction to the book More Retro Diner, published by Collectors Press, Inc., Randy Garbin and Teri Dunn, authors.

In most parts of the country, the word "diner" practically means breakfast. Any diner that can't serve up a decent breakfast should just turn off the lights, lock the doors, and call it a day. To some, a diner that doesn't serve breakfast all day hardly even qualifies as a true diner. We don't subscribe to that standard as it would exclude dozens of smaller diners that must clear space on their grills for more savory lunch and dinner items. Given the hardships of the business, we can't find fault in a diner that attempts to maintain a schedule.

Breakfast remains the most popular meal in diners these days. In New England, where most din-ers only serve breakfast and lunch, the good diner often generates the bulk of its revenues from its weekend mornings. People skip the hearty breakfast on weekdays, but they look forward to a nice big plate of pancakes or French toast, or a three-egg omelet hot off the grill.

As basic as it is usually, breakfast can really shine with some subtle tinkering. Sweet potato pan-cakes will win out over the plain variety and any diner that makes its own corned beef hash rises high on our favorites list. Knowing that such hard-to-reach places as the Deluxe Town Diner in Watertown, Massachusetts or the Miss Albany Diner in Albany, New York serve their own reci-pe for hash has motivated many lengthy road-tripping pilgrimages.

Short of the outstanding, we find solace in the simple things: fresh, hot coffee made with a strong but not bitter blend, yellow-as-sunshine omelets without a hint of browning, and pancakes light and fluffy and served with real maple syrup. On that point, we must make it clear that the fake stuff just will not do, and to ensure the quality of that experience, we often bring our own supply.

In one famous scene in an episode of "Seinfeld," the character of George Costanza does exactly this and gets tossed out of the place. In an otherwise brilliant program, this scenario rang hollow for us. Contrary to what some might think, we've never had any difficulty with bringing our own supply. After all, we're saving the owner a little money — unless they offer real maple on the menu. For these places, we make exceptions and order a portion no matter the cost. Unfortunate-ly, most places resort to the various permutations of the corn syrup varieties. The one regional exception to that rule is the state of Vermont, where no self-respecting breakfast joint serves the fake stuff.

We also find enjoyment in some of the more outlandish practices of the little diner struggling for attention in the crowded breakfast market. Diners with mega-sized "everything" omelets like the Capitol Diner in Lynn, Massachusetts or the spicy breakfast burritos served up at the Blue Benn in Bennington, Vermont. No diner outdoes the portions at Carl's Oxford Diner in Oxford, Mas-sachusetts. Order yourself a couple of eggs, home fries, and bacon and stand back as Paul the grillman presents you with three eggs, six slices of bacon, and a separate plate for a small moun-tain of home fries. If you have the capacity to actually finish this feast and the audacity to ask for more, you'll get it.