One of our favorites is the diner. The first diner originated in 1872, Providence, Rhode Island. It was a horse-drawn lunch wagon and pulled through the streets after the restaurants closed for the evening, serving the public. The ideal caught on and underwent many improvements and modifications. A new industry was born: the diner. The diner was a prefabricated structure built in the shape of a railroad car. Some of the exteriors had stainless steel, porcelain enamel, glass blocks, and the “barrel vault” roof lines. Inside were narrow, long counters with swivel mounted stools, and booths on tiled floor, all able to view the cooking that was prepared against the back wall. The seating was limited. When you walk in, you smelled the frying and grilling of food. Today's new diners provide the fast food atmosphere and the Art Deco appearance.
The drive-in restaurant started in the late 1940s. You could drive up to the curb, stay in your car while reading the menu that was posted, and place your order to a waiter. He would return with your food and pass it on a tray though the car window. You ate in the privacy of your car. Then improvements came alone. A parking spot, cars parked next to each other, a menu board, a speaker to order food, and a waitress on roller blades.
The drive-thru has replaced the drive-in culture. Cars cue up in line, drivers order from a menu board, speak to a microphone, give the order taker your money, pick up your food from an open window, and drive off. Fast food chain restaurants have become a multibillion business.
Nothing has really changed. We are still searching for the best burger, shake and fries. Come browse our vanishing roadside eateries. (Return to Gallery)
Fibber McKee's Tavern, Mt. Lebanon, Pa. April 1974