Diner aficionado Richard Gutman described the American diner to Smithsonian Magazine as a “friendly place, usually mom-and-pop with a sole proprietor, that serves basic, home-cooked, fresh food, for good value.” The first diner appearance is in 1872 with Walter Scott’s “night lunch wagon.” Open later than traditional restaurants, it was a place late shift workers could grab a bite to eat. Samuel Jones added seats for the patrons at the wagons in 1887, and the name evolved to “rolling restaurants” the “lunch cars” followed by “dining cars,” before finally landing on “diners.” Given Gutman’s basic recipe for what makes an American diner iconic, you can easily recreate the atmosphere in your own home. The recipes for your fresh food are waiting; all you have to do is keep reading to see nine diner dishes that are classic American fare.
1. Bette’s Buttermilk Pancakes
Bette Kroening the owner of Bette’s Oceanview Diner in California shared her buttermilk pancake recipe with SFGate, and she cautioned at-home chefs not to overstir the batter. The recipe yields around twenty-four four-inch pancakes–plenty if you want to feed your family a diner-style weekend breakfast.
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 2 eggs
- 2 cups buttermilk
- ½ cup milk
- ¼ cup unsalted butter, melted
- choice of berries, sliced bananas, raisins or chopped toasted nuts (optional)
- Oil for griddle
Directions: Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl. Lightly beat the eggs with the buttermilk, milk, and melted butter. Just before you are ready to make the pancakes, add the liquid ingredients to the dry ingredients all at once, stirring just long enough to blend. The batter should be slightly lumpy.
If you want to add fruit or nuts, stir them in now, or you may sprinkle them on the pancakes while they are on the griddle. Heat a lightly oiled griddle or heavy skillet over medium-high heat (375 degrees on an electric griddle). Pour 1/4 cup batter per pancake onto the griddle or skillet, spacing the pancakes apart so they do not run together. When bubbles appear on the surface of the pancakes and the undersides are lightly browned, turn and cook for about 2 minutes longer, until lightly browned on the bottom. Serve immediately on warmed plates with the topping of your choice.