We just visited the Flemington Diner. The opening was a momentous occasion in the community as our last diner burned down close to thirty years ago. We watched the burned out site for the reappearance or rejuvenation of the original diner but this never happened. Apparently, there was insurance fraud involved, so the site just deteriorated and eventually, years later, the land was sold and redeveloped into stores. The original diner was large and had a banquet room where various functions were held. It had a very popular feature: a large salad bar that had more than salad. It also offered hot dishes, and senior citizens would come in just for the "salad bar" at lunchtime and make it their main meal. I worked for a company which had weekly meetings there and when the diner burned, we ended up down the street at what my boss called "the greasy spoon." At that time, there were few restaurants that had the room for a company meeting. Over the years, there were other restaurants, but none was the classic diner with which we are familiar in New Jersey. Diners have evolved over the years from the original railroad dining car but usually the diner is a free standing building on a highway, which is open early and late and offers counter service and tables with basic types of American food such as burgers, hot dogs, soups, salads, entrees such as possibly pot roast and lunches with sandwiches and of course, desserts such as pies, cakes and rice puddings. Actually, there is much more, including breakfast, pancakes, sausages and eggs.
When we visited the new diner, there were a lot of senior citizens happily enjoying lunch. The diner is probably less expensive than than the other chain restaurants we have here. Actually, there is another restaurant not far away but it is in another town. It calls itself a diner but although it actually has a real railroad car attached (!) it is closer to a restaurant in ambiance with a wood burning fireplace and it also is a very popular place because the food is good and plain with early bird offerings.
All this doesn't really convey what a diner is. Maybe it is a restaurant that doesn't have any aspirations to be something more than it is. Just plain food in variety. Ours also has something that is in short supply around here - the Danish pastry. And a selection of fruit pies. That's enough to entice us in. That's OK.