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30+ Retro Diner Food Recipes

Feed your inner Fonz with these retro diner recipes! Includes breakfast, lunch, and dinner recipes like shakes, burgers, and IHOP-style pancakes.

By: Kaylee Pope, Editor,
Updated January 15, 2020
30 Retro Diner Food Recipes

Endless pots of coffee, heaps of pancakes, milkshakes, and burgers are just a few of the iconic dishes you will find when you enter just about any diner. Diners are an all-American institution that has stood the test of time.

These lowkey and friendly spots are the perfect places to relax with friends and family. It's no wonder that some of America's most popular restaurants are diners. If you're feeling nostalgic or are just hungry for something simple and heartwarming, you will love the diner recipes listed below. These vintage recipe ideas will make your heart swell. We've got the always-popular pancakes, diner shakes, classic burgers, and so much more!

The History of the Diner
The first diner was started by a man named Water Scott in Rhode Island. Scott repurposed a horse-pulled wagon into a car where he installed a small kitchen and counter in order to sell sandwiches, coffee, eggs, and pies to people late at night. His business was so successful that he quit his day job in order to run the wagon.

After that, a company out of Massachusetts began to manufacture dining cars what featured large wheels, murals, letter, and frosted glass. By the 1900s, there were three companies making these cars.

Since then, diners have gone through a plethora of classic designs from simpler dining cars to the well-loved Formica counters of the 1930s. Retro diners made a big comeback in the 1970s and even became popular in Europe! 

Read more about the history of the diner in Paste's The History of the American Diner.

Breakfast Diner Recipes

The words "BREAKFAST ALL DAY" are emblazoned on just about every diner's menu. Diners are well known for their yummy morning meals served 24 hours a day. Whether you need a fresh start to the day with a western omelet or some late-night pancakes, there's a diner open and ready to serve something up. Luckily for you, you can also make that meal right at home. Check out our classic diner breakfast recipes below. 

Loaded with potatoes, onions, and ham, this easy breakfast recipe is served with a fried egg on top. 

Tender and fluffy, they are made with Greek Yogurt and topped with butter and maple syrup.

If you're no good at flipping eggs for omelets, this baked hack will change your life. Make a perfect omelet everytime.

This classic combo is the perfect way to make a super fast and healthy breakfast for your kiddos.

This recipe for diner hashbrowns explains how to make homemade hash browns so they turn out just like the restaurant kind. 

Enjoy biscuits hot from the oven, smothered with a savory, creamy sausage gravy with this classic diner idea.

TEST KITCHEN RECIPE If you can spare 20 minutes, you can have breakfast on the table, and get back to spending your morning the way you want. 

Make classic belgian waffles with a kid-friendly twist! Perfect for a birthday surprise.

Eggs and Canadian bacon are slathered in a homemade Hollandaise sauce in this yummy benedict.

With a unique twist that allows for quicker, easier pancakes that come out perfect every time, this recipe for pancakes is a must-try. 

TEST KITCHEN RECIPE Get ready to enjoy home fries whenever you like when you learn how to make them at home.

FROM OUR FRIENDS AT COOKSTR Country to it's core, this recipe for rough cut taters and messy eggs tastes just like a dish you'd enjoy at a roadside diner below the Mason Dixon line.

FROM OUR FRIENDS AT COOKSTR This recipe makes big, thick, fluffy NYC diner-style pancakes. 

ADDIE'S FAVE Melty, gooey Gruyère cheese, turkey, ham and some Dijon mustard are placed on a King's Hawaiian sweet roll and then topped off with a sprinkling of powdered sugar for a dish that will not soon be forgotten.

Fine Art and Not So Fine Dining - Nighthawks

Nighthawks, Edward Hopper

Possibly one of the most well-known pieces of American Art, Edward Hopper's "Nighthawks" features three late-night diners enjoying a desolate cup of coffee under the glow of diner lights. It's said that this painting is based on a diner in Greenwich Village. The imagery is so iconic, however, that it could be anywhere in America.

Nighthawks, 1942
Oil on canvas
84.1 x 152.4 cm (33 1/8 x 60 in.)
signed l.r. "Edward Hopper"

Image Credit: Art Institute of Chicago

Diner Desserts and Treats

When you think diner food, you probably think a big shake topped with the iconic whipped cream and cherry duo or a yummy slice of pie. Dessert and sweets are a diner fare favorite. Check out our favorite recipes below.

Just three simple ingredients is all it takes to create this delicious milkshake.

These easy shakes can be prepared in a matter of minutes for you and your honey! Add fresh strawberries and whipped cream for an added touch of class. 

Butter pie crust might be a bit more difficult to make, but it is totally worth it. This is THE apple pie recipe you will find at your local diner (if they're making it right).

A chocolate lovers dream with dark chocolate, homemade pie crust, and homemade whipped cream.

This easy pie recipe is a summer favorite when strawberries are at their peak and taste the best. 

Diner-Inspired Dinner Recipes

Looking for some vintage diner recipe ideas to feed the whole family? Check out our collection of dinner ideas your family is sure to love. Taking your whole family out to eat can be expensive, save some cash by making dinner at home. 

TEST KITCHEN RECIPE With a meal this comforting and simple to prepare, it's sure to remain on your list of easy dinner ideas for years to come. 

This diner-style classic is transformed into a hearty dinner casserole that your family is sure to rave about. 

Instead of using steaks, this is a more budget-friendly version of the classic recipe that the whole family will be sure to love.

An even tastier take than the original, this bacon cheeseburger and sloppy joe mash up is a can't-miss recipe.

These super tasty burgers are a secret recipe made with a mix of ground beef and ground pork, caramelized onions, balsamic vinegar, chili powder and more.

The longer you soak the chicken in the buttermilk mixture, the juicier and richer it becomes, absorbing all of the buttermilk's tangy flavor. 

HOW TO VIDEO Ditch all the fancy fried chicken recipes that never seem to turn out right and turn to this classic chicken recipe to make some fried chicken that everyone will love. 

The Cobb Salad is as American as apple pie or macaroni and cheese. Made by Bob Cobb in 1937, it has made it's way onto picnic and dinner tables across the country.

TEST KITCHEN RECIPE If you love the taste of everything bagels and the comforting nature of a grilled cheese, it's time you combined them for this delicious sandwich recipe that will give you the best of both worlds.

FROM OUR FRIENDS AT MR. FOOD Our Diner-Style Meatloaf recipe will take you back to the "good old days" after just one bite!

Copycat Diner Recipes

Diner menus don't differ much from diner to diner, but some restaurants have signature dishes we love to obsess over. That's why we thought we would include these copycat recipes! If you're craving Denny's, Steak-n-Shake, IHOP, or another diner recipe, we've got your back!

Why go through a drive-thru when you can park yourself in your kitchen and concoct some amazing chili!

Steak 'n Shake makes excellent frisco melt sandwiches. If you're up for it, you can now make this sandwich yourself!

The best part of this copycat burger recipe is that it only has six ingredients, so you can save on money and on time!

We can't even believe this crazy copycat recipe. Copycat Denny's Fried Cheese Melt is a late-night diner's dream dish.

You can now enjoy these, fluffy, creamy pancakes in the comfort of your pajamas.

 This recipe for a homemade version of Denny's classic club has all the necessary elements. With turkey, bacon, lettuce, and tomato, what more could you want in a sandwich?

If you're a member of the late night diner crowd or just have a soft spot for Denny's in general, you've no doubt heard of this legendary recipe. 

Everyone loves Waffle House for their distinctive and delicious waffles. But the secret is out! This waffle recipe is just like the famous restaurant ones.

What or where is your favorite (real or fictional) diner?

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