March 9, 2001
I became a diner connoisseur my senior year of high school. There is not too much to do on Long Island after midnight , and that’s where diners fit in. Most diners are open until at least 3 a.m., and the good ones are open 24 hours.
For my past four years at GW I have searched far and wide to find a diner that matches the hometown diner I spent most of my nights in. Unfortunately, I learned pretty quickly that diners are an East Coast phenomenon that stop in Maryland and pick back up in Florida.
For those who don’t know what a true diner is, let me explain. A real diner does not give you a menu, it gives you a book of items to choose from. The cups of coffee are bottomless, and the waiters and waitresses are usually dressed in thin black cotton aprons equipped with front pockets where they store their straws and order pad.
The traditional diner color is red. Red vinyl booths, bar cushions and floor tile patterns. The smell of grease yawns through the air and there are always stale cookies on the cash register counter to take on your way out.
When I heard a place called The Diner opened up in Adams Morgan, I thought this could be the one, finally.
Located at 2453 18th St., The Diner looks nothing like a traditional diner. It is rather small. Only 24 tables, 14 stools around the silver countertop and another half dozen or so around a small bar buried in the back of the restaurant.
The menu was nothing more than a two-sided piece of laminated paper. I’ve had syllabi longer than that. The menu had the standard three meal fair, but two things about the menu were shocking.
There were no bagels on the menu. Bagels are the staple of any diner. Kitchen manager Courtney Paris’s rationale for no bagels was that Trist sold bagels, and the owners of The Diner own Trist. I’m still trying to understand the thinking there.
Perhaps even more shocking, there is only one refill for a cup of coffee if the overall purchase is less than $5. Huge diner faux pas.
The atmosphere of the diner is Johnny Rockets meets sophisticated luncheonette. Blues music plays in the background, and the sharp appearance of the restaurant, high ceilings and decorative molding, works against the trendy bar and the classic silver counter top.
Prices are descent and the food and service was great, but this is no true diner.