Close this search box.

How to tell if an American diner is a proper American diner

Manchester's first proper American diner set to open?

An American diner is NOT a burger joint, says Bernadette Kelly, a 100% bona fide Yank Manc…

There’s a few American diner inspired eateries about to hit the crowded Manchester restaurant scene. After hearing from grossly misinformed bloggers about the diner concept, one thing needs to be made perfectly clear.

‘A proper American
diner is as far
from TGI Fridays
as you can get.’

A proper American diner is as far from TGI Fridays or Byron Hamburgers as you can get. There are two types of diners.

Most recognisable is the retro diner. These are typically prefab structures often in the shape of a train car with lots of stainless steel, checkerboard floors and neon. Then there is the ‘modern’ diner, designed more like a restaurant except booths take the place of tables and the décor is very ‘Golden Girls’ (think plastic plants, Formica, and pale green/pinks hues throughout).

One thing you will find in both is the classic diner counter with the pedestal chairs that swivel. Lots of fun for people like me, who gleefully spin round and round until the food arrives.

Steel Retro American Diner

Here are a few other tell-tale signs you are in a proper American diner.


All day, every day. You can count on being served eggs cooked any style with bacon, sausage, toast and home fries. Or sometimes hash browns. The only difference is home fries have much larger chunks of potato than hash browns but crisped edges are a MUST for both. Waffles, pancakes and French toast are also on the menu 24/7.


‘You want a refill on that cawffee, hun?*

All the caffeine your body can handle. It’s free refills as long as you’re there. And the coffee is good. No skinny-half-caf-mocha-frap-nonsense. You get regular or decaf, and it comes black. You add the cream and sugar to taste. Cappuccino is available sporadically.


Beer and wine, that’s your lot, although Bloody Marys and Mimosas are there to help your head along on a Sunday morning. Although it must be said more modern diners do offer a range of tasty cocktails.


No self-respecting diner would consider opening their doors without a good selection of massive slices of sugary goodness on offer, ‘specially cheesecake. The original rotating chilled case stuffed with a variety of freshly baked pies and cakes right by the front door.


Plied so high with meat that it is impossible to take a full bite from top to bottom. Slaw and fries served on the side, with a half a pickle to munch on. White bread is for wimps. Order rye, pumpernickel or marble bread but never EVER white bread or you risk getting your ass kicked outside**

Grilled food

This is where burgers come in, but outside of cheese, lettuce, tomato and onion, you won’t find much more on a proper diner burger. Foot-long hotdogs, hot pastrami and grilled cheese are all staples of the diner experience. NOTE: ketchup for burgers, mustard for hot dogs. Don’t get it twisted, unless you absolutely must.

Bastardised international cuisine

Your typical diner menu is a huge laminated book o’ food options, broken into handy sections. Towards the back, you’ll find your international options, mostly of Jewish, Greek and Italian influences. And they are usually pretty damn good.

All the best diners are open 24 hours a day. End of.

I’ve heard on the grapevine that new Infamous Diner, set to open in the Northern Quarter July 24th, ticks all of these boxes. Let’s hope it’s true. Cos I’m dyin’ for a peanut butter on rye with a side of onion rings.

Editor’s notes

*American for “Do you want more coffee, love?”

** American for bottom, not donkey

Did we miss something? Let us know: [email protected]

Want to be the first to receive all the latest news stories, what’s on and events from the heart of Manchester? Sign up here.


Manchester is a successful city, but there are many people that suffer. The I Love MCR Foundation helps raise vital funds to help improve the lives and prospects of people and communities across Greater Manchester – and we can’t do it without your help. So please donate or fundraise what you can because investing in your local community to help it thrive can be a massively rewarding experience. Thank you in advance!

Got a story worth sharing?

What’s the story? We are all ears when it comes to positive news and inspiring stories. You can send story ideas to [email protected]

Close this search box.