The diner: that great American species of the restaurant! When I think of a diner, I think of a variety of food, at a reasonable price. Eggs at 2 am. A place where cash-strapped young adults can gather and converse, recovering from or plotting their next adventure over black coffee and fries. A place where laughs, worries, and dreams can be shared among friends.
Hunter Dinerant (I’m guessing Dinerant is a portmanteau of diner & restaurant) is located in Auburn, New York, about 3 miles north of Finger Lake, Owasco Lake. On Google, it’s called “Hunter’s Dinerant”, but the actual signage lacks the apostrophe. The Dinerant seems to hang over the side of the Owasco River.
The Dinerant is what I would call a classic American diner. Not quite the romanticized Hollywood version with a cast of gum-snapping, pomade-greased teenagers bopping about — but close.
The Dinerant has many of the features that every classic diner should have:
- It is shaped like a railroad dining car. A single aisle down the center. Curved corners.
- It is wrapped in gleaming chrome and detailed with crimson and white stripes.
- It has booths for groups and a counter & stools for solitary folks.
- Cadillac-pink vinyl upholstery. Pink Formica everywhere.
- Meat-pink floors flecked with white and black confetti patterns.
- Vinyl-protected menus listings dozens, if not hundreds of reasonably priced comfort foods.
- A mini jukebox at every table, with alpha-numeric keypads. You want to play a song just to feel the mechanical pop of those keys.
This type of diner differs from the Jersey Greek diners I’m used to. Jersey Greek diners lack the railroad dining car shape and 1950s aesthetic. Same basic food and jukeboxes though.
The waitress was polite and welcomed me to sit wherever I like. I ordered a coffee, fries, and a grilled cheese on white — my personal favorite diner foods. It’s been 5 months since I was there, but I remember the coffee was strong, but not burnt, bitter, or sour. It was perfect. Nice white porcelain mug. The fries — not too thin, not too thick — I covered with a reasonable shower of ketchup — that familiar micro-moment resistance of the fried outside, giving way to the soft potato fluff inside. The grilled cheese was photo perfect — cut on a diagonal. Each bite was a harmony of buttery, barely-crisp bread, oozing with just hot enough to not burn your mouth American cheese. Delicious. Exactly the lunch I needed to supply the energy for a long day of driving.
Visit the Hunter Dinerant for its classic looks and a perfect diner meal. Marvel at how it partially hangs over the side of a small river.
Interior of the Dinerant — thankfully just one TV, with the volume turned low. So much pink and chrome.
The exterior of the Dinerant — see the river below?
Across the street and to the right you’ll see a large pale red sign for Genesee Beer. It looks like it was once neon, but the tubes have been removed.