When I was growing up in the 1950’s and 1960’s a common feature of the towns and cities I lived in was the “diner.” In those days, the term “diner” meant something very specific. It was a structure that looked like an oversized bus. It had a lot of chrome and vinyl. It had very distinctive booths and counter stools. Most of them looked very much alike. There was one in Seneca Falls, NY. There was one in Canoga, NY. I think I remember seeing them in Rochester, NY. Sometime around the late 1960’s they began to disappear.
Today, E and I were in Rochester and we were looking for a place to get a bite to eat. We came across the Highland Park Diner, and it was a no-brainer to go in and check it out.
I’ve driven by this place many times, but never had the opportunity to stop in. It was delightful in a number of different ways! The first thing you notice is that it is the real-deal in terms of authenticity. It looks very much like the way I remember these diners used to look. Of course, my memory of my childhood is pretty dim at this point, so there are probably more differences than similarities between this diner and the original diners, but still – it was very nostalgic for me to be in there. There is a lot of art-deco stuff around: the clock, the light fixtures, the speakers.
The menu provides a short history of this diner:
Included in the Rochester Landmark Society’s list of architectural gems, the Highland Park Diner was built by the Orleans Company on site in 1948 and is the only diner made by that firm still in existence – only three or four were manufactured before the company went bankrupt.
The building functioned as a diner from 1948-1974, was vacant for two years, then became an Off Track Betting parlor run by New York State.
In 1986, Robert Malley bought the building, renovated it and opened it as a diner once again.
In December of 2003, Van Zissis purchased the diner and is continuing to provide patrons of the Highland Park Diner the freshest and finest food, great atmosphere and friendly service, all in keeping with the tradi- tion at this unique diner.
Today, Highland Park Diner patrons range from college students to mature couples, all of whom enjoy the diner’s traditional foods as well as its ‘new fashioned’ dishes.
Emphasizing freshness, the menu features homemade mashed potatoes, hamburgers, soups, salads, sand- wiches, paninis and a truly delicious apple pie (selected as the best in the United States by Conde Nast Traveler). The diner seats fifty-five, nineteen at the counter and thirty-six at the booths.
But you don’t go to a diner primarily for the décor. I had the Italian panini, and E had the Blue Burger. She enjoyed her meal, and mine was outstanding. The Italian panini (which is a summer 2014 “special” item) has an assortment of different meats (salami, etc), artichokes, roasted red peppers and a basil pesto. Absolutely delicious.
Between the excellent food, the great service, and the nostalgic décor, this was an experience that I am very glad that I had. I recommend the Highland Park Diner if you are in the South Goodman – South Clinton area of Rochester, NY.