The sleek curved lines, stainless steel and Formica formula of the American Diner have captivated fast food fans for nearly 150 years. From 1870s New England to Church Gresley, South Derbyshire, the American diner has a fascinating history. There’s even an online American Diner Museum dedicated to restaurants styled in the shape of railroad cars, with original vintage designs for sale.
From the mid-1970s, a time of social change and economic uncertainty, Americans began looking to the past for inspiration – and new companies started to build retro-looking diners (like Ruby’s, shown here). Curiously, the trend was slow to take off in the UK – home to the Wimpy bar, where the nearest we got to diner-style-cool was a weekly screening of the US TV sitcom, Happy Days.
The American diner has had a lasting impact on popular culture – influencing fashion, design and music – as well as our habits of eating and dining out. Diners also seem to be perennially popular with young children and teenagers (proving rather expensive when ‘VIP shakes’ are £5.00 a pop).
Perhaps this is why actor-cum-children’s author Henry Winkler (aka The Fonz) is currently spearheading a literacy campaign in the UK – giving motivational lectures to theatres full of burger bolting kids? Meanwhile, at Tinseltown American Diner and Milkshake Bar, British rapper Chipmunk is offering a healthy diet of ‘milkshakes and motivation’:
And, in view of today’s global economic concerns, it seems fitting that the BBC’s This Week chose Ed’s Easy Diner as the perfect venue to celebrate President Obama’s visit to London. Unfortunately, a recording of this programme is no longer available on the iPlayer, which is probably just as well since Andrew Neil sounded as though he’d been on something a tad stronger than milkshake…