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All aboard the 'railroad car' diner

June Anson from Freeport leaves the Merrick Ave.

June Anson from Freeport leaves the Merrick Ave. Diner after breakfast.(Oct. 2, 2011) Credit: Newsday/Audrey C. Tiernan

Serving scrambled eggs with a side of nostalgia, Long Island's vintage railroad car diners are a trip back in time. So place your order and take note of the details of a genre that once defined American roadside eating.

Merrick Ave. Diner

14 Merrick Ave., Merrick, 516-307-1311

HISTORY Manufactured in 1947 by the Silk City company of New Jersey and brought to Merrick, this local landmark (formerly MaryBill Diner) has a sliding railroad car door leading into a narrow room with a curved ceiling. Somewhat worn around the edges, the evocative place looks all of its 64 years.

EATS The menu here is all about simplicity. At breakfast, there are pancakes, waffles, eggs and French toast. At lunch, burgers, salads, hot and cold sandwiches and house-made rice pudding.

Mineola Diner

138 Jericho Tpke., Mineola, 516-877-1370

HISTORY Made by the Mountain View Diner Company of New Jersey, this old-timer has been at its current site since 1948. Inside, find the signature Mountain View "cowcatcher" glass block corners and a plaque bearing its number (236). Other details: A curved ceiling, old tiled floors, exterior red metal panels and a neon sign.

EATS At breakfast, creative pancake specials meet French toast and omelets. Lunchtime, there are burgers, sandwiches, entree specials and hand-cut sweet potato fries. Chef Carlos Romero roasts a whole turkey just about daily.

Tim's Shipwreck Diner

46 Main St., Northport, 631-754-1797

HISTORY This vintage car was brought to Northport in 1924. In the early '70s, it was known as Otto's Shipwreck Diner until Otto Hess' son Tim took over in 1997. Paneled in wood, the narrow, curved-ceilinged place is lined with photos of Northport's past.

EATS At breakfast, inventive omelets compete with oatmeal, pancakes and waffles. At lunch, burgers (beef or buffalo) satisfy, as do sandwiches. Specials to watch for: salmon cakes, lobster roll and quiche.

Cutchogue Diner

27850 Rte. 25, Cutchogue, 631-734-7016

HISTORY The back section of this two-part diner opened in 1932; the front, manufactured by the Kullman Dining Car Company of New Jersey, was added in 1941. A curved ceiling, marble countertop and attractive tile work add to the retro ambience.

EATS It's all about the basics here: eggs, pancakes, omelets, burgers and sandwiches served by a friendly crew.


25 Middle Country Rd., Middle Island, 631-696-4260

HISTORY Nobody knows the manufacture date of this restored railroad car diner, with its curved ceiling, but it arrived at its current site in 1968. Owner Jim Mandler estimates its age at about 60 years. Art Deco details are imprinted in the stainless steel on walls and counter. Terrazzo floors are original.

EATS Local, sustainable ingredients rule. Burgers are ground several times a day by the butcher across the road. Some standouts: "oaty oat" pancakes, breakfast biscuit sliders, hefty sandwiches and homemade desserts.

Riverhead Diner & Grill

87 E. Main St., Riverhead, 631-727-8001

HISTORY Sometime between 1937 and 1943, the Kullman Dining Car Company made the long railcar that was attached to what is now the backroom of this landmark, first opened by John Moustaka in 1932. Liz Strebel's family bought the place 50 years ago. It was leased out from 1999 to 2010, when Strebel took it back, restoring it to its current shine. Note the decorative on the counter sides, the mosaic floors, the sunburst stainless panels behind the counter, the old fashioned stools.

EATS Simple from-scratch preparations characterize most of the menu: Fresh blueberry pancakes, a Western omelet rife with vegetables and ham, burgers, sandwiches, fried scallops and meat loaf. House-made desserts, too. Service couldn't be nicer.


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