American diners are more than just places to grab onion rings or a damn fine cup of coffee. Their decor, ambience, and food make them time machines, not only to the 1950s, but to the early 20th century, when workers lunched in sleek, slender buildings that were mass-produced and shipped around the country. While the heyday of the “dining car”—eventually shortened to “diner”— is long past, you can still visit these relics around the United States.
Many historic diners linger on in the Northeast, where most dining cars were originally manufactured, but a few have been towed to new homes in Utah and Colorado. From a 1939 “diner of the future” to an original dining car hidden inside an unassuming Maine pub, here are 9 retro eateries where sitting at the counter means stepping into the past.
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