Maximum Respect for the American Diner

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…

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About Author Profile: Susan Muncey

Trend consultant Susan Muncey, is Editor of Visuology Magazine. In 2008, she founded online curiosity shop, She writes on style and trends for several blogs, including, and The Dabbler. She previously owned cult West London boutique, Fashion Gallery, one of the first concept stores in the world. Susan graduated in geography from Cambridge University and is also an Associate Member of the CFA Institute. She lives in London with her husband.

4 thoughts on “Maximum Respect for the American Diner

    July 16, 2011 at 12:20

    I went to ed’s easy diner a few times back in the mid 90’s when it was situated on a patch of wasteground at the top of bishopsgate. It was excellent (in the days when my metabolism could nonchalently shrug off a burger and milkshake) likewise Tinseltown on st. Johns street was a Mecca for clubbers in the mid 90’s as it was open 24hrs and served thick milkshakes, which were just about the only ‘foodstuff’ we could handle at 5am. The overnight waiting staff in there must have seen some sights

    July 16, 2011 at 17:39

    The only time I’ve been to Ed’s was when taking my godson to the cinema. He loved it. Whenever I go to diner type places I try to find a healthy option on the menu (don’t think a burger has passed my lips since the late 1970s). At Ruby’s, above, the healthy option was a ‘salad’ – a sort of Tex-Mex gloop of processed cheese, tomato ketchup, guacamole and mayonnaise on a bed of Iceberg lettuce, dotted with tortilla chips.There was probably a sprinkling of tinned sweetcorn involved too.

      July 16, 2011 at 17:45

      oops – make that the early ’80s. Does that mean I could have Mad Cow Disease?

    July 16, 2011 at 19:25

    I’ve always loved US diner-style booth seating. It encourages a cosy conviviality.

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