Diners: Americana on a Plate
Say you’re hungry for a hot meal late one evening. You want something better than assembly line fast food, but nothing too fancy—and most white tablecloth restaurants are probably closed by now anyway. You may think you’re out of options, but just as you’re about to give up, your eyes are attracted by a neon sign down the street. Inside the small building, you see customers sitting at a counter and in cozy booths, tucking into plates of hearty food. What kind of restaurant is this? That all-American institution, the diner.
The history of American diners begins in 1872, when a Rhode Island man named Walter Scott began selling inexpensive meals out of a horse-drawn wagon after most restaurants closed for the evening. The business model was such a success that by the early 20th century, food wagons were being replaced by small sit-down restaurants that sold cheap, hot meals at all hours. Because many were built to resemble dining cars on trains, people began calling them “diners.” Diners got their start in the Northeast, but by their peak in the 1950s, there were over 6,000 across the country. For busy working Americans, breakfast, lunch or dinner at a diner was the next best thing to a home-cooked meal. Diners became so much a part of the culture that they even developed their own lingo—eggs and bacon became “cluck and grunt,” and a well-done hamburger was a “hockey puck.”
So what kind of food can you find at a typical diner? Breakfast options include things like eggs, bacon, hash browns and pancakes, and lunch and dinner menus usually feature hamburgers, patty melts and club sandwiches. Menus also vary by region, with seafood available in the Northeast, biscuits and gravy in the South, and tamales in the Southwest. And while there are fewer traditional diners around now than there were in the 1950s, the diner experience can also be found at chain restaurants like Denny’s and IHOP.
neon (n.) 霓虹燈
cozy (a.) 舒適的，愜意的
tuck (into) (v.) （口語）大口吃
institution (n.) 某地重要的、眾所周知的事物（如傳統等）
本文取材自《開口吃遍USA 美國食用英語：EZ TALK總編嚴選特刊》