American Diner / Roadside New Jersey

Article excerpt

American Diner. Richard J.S. Gutman. New York: Harper Collins, 1994.

Roadside New Jersey. Peter Genovese. New Brunswick: Rutgers, 1994.

These two books are treasures that should perhaps be put on the National Register, and surely many of the items described and pictured are, or should be, on that list-though undoubtedly it would have to be renamed.

A diner (and before them the Night Lunch Wagon) was essentially a New England eatery which began in Providence, Rhode Island, in 1872. At first, it was a fast-food wagon designed to be taken into the working districts to supply food for a nickel to those who could not afford more and who had time and possibly explosive boredom on their hands. But seldom does a good idea die born in the U.S., and this early example of taking food to the customer grew from the small, wagon-sized box to those beautiful, gleaming restaurants, still called diners, that we still see spread out across New England today. …