Located at the intersection of several main highways (US 22, US 309, US 222), as automobile traffic along the roads increased during the 1920s and 1930s, Allentown became a popular stopover for travelers heading to New York City and Philadelphia, Harrisburg and Lancaster. Route 22 in particular, known as the "William Penn Highway," brought hungry travelers though the city on Tilghman Street before the Lehigh Valley Thruway bypass (1955) moved most long-distance road traffic north of the city.
Diners differ from restaurants in the sense that they were set up as prefabricated buildings, mostly manufactured from aluminum or stainless steel. Less expensive to buy because of their prefabricated nature, they were manufactured in assembly plants, with different manufacturers having different styles, and could be purchased and set up quickly once land was obtained by the buyers. Also, they could be picked up and moved from one location to another. Large outdoor signs, mostly using neon, advertized the facility along the highway.
Sometimes called "Greasy spoons", inside, diners consist of a lunch counter and booths in the dining area, and a cooking area behind a pass-thru window to the rear of the lunch counter. Service is provided by waitresses, the food being prepared and forwarded to the waitresses via the pass-thru window. Diners generally offer 24-hour breakfast and operating hours with a wide range of foods, including homemade meatloaf, open faced sandwiches, gravy and french fries, chicken, with pastries and pies for dessert. They offer a casual atmosphere, with counter take-out service.
Silk City Diners manufactured diner opened in the late 1957 on US 222 highway to Reading and Lancaster. Owned by Art Metzgar, the diner was covered over and was expanded to offer car hop drive-in service with outdoor waitresses serving patrons in their cars as well as inside dining. Drive-in closed about 1968, Restaurant operated interior service only until closed in 2007 due to US 222 bypass construction and the Metzgar's getting out of the restaurant business. Former drive-in area taken over by Carl R. Bieber Tourways commuter bus company beginning about 1975, using it as a terminal for daily commuter bus service to New York City, Atlantic City and Connecticut casinos. 1950's roadside sign for the Charcoal remains, in a deteriorated condition.
Replaced Peter Pan Diner (see listing). Moved from Hamburg, PA, where it first opened in 1983 as a Swingle manufactured diner. Initially known as McPeak's Country Diner at intersection of PA 61 & I-78/US 22. Renamed Pot O Gold Diner in 1984, moved to current location in 1989 when current owners sold former Chris's Family Restaurant (later known as Izzy's Family Restaurant) and bought Peter Pan Diner. Offers 24-hour service, breakfast served at all times.
Originally City Star Diner located at northwest corner of West Court and North 9th Street, was moved in 1971 to present location to accommodate PP&L building expansion. Had major renovation in 1993. Formerly known as All American Diner, Silver Star Diner, Gate 7 Diner. Reopened with new name in Sept 2010 as City Center Diner. Offers 24-hour service, breakfast served at all times.
Silk City manufactured diner, oldest operating diner in Allentown. Originally known as Thomas's Diner, other names Leo Martin's North End Diner and Kap's Diner. Offers 24-hour service, breakfast served at all times.
Fodero manufactured diner, fully remodeled and expanded. Locally known as the "Ham-Fam", it was originally known as the Plain & Fancy Diner when opened, then became a Dempsey's Restaurant. Sold and renamed in July 1993, expanded in 2003. Often caters to local politicians and celebrities. Offers 24-hour service, breakfast served at all times.
Mt. View manufactured diner. Opened 1956. Original diner destroyed in a gas explosion on 27 September 1958, replaced with a new one and reopened in 1959. Went though several owners, eventually sold and closed in 1989. The Diner was purchased and moved to Falmouth, Massachusetts and reopened in June 1992. Restored and reopened as Betsy's Diner, 457 Main Street.
Previously known as The Master Chef Diner, also Allentown Diner. Major renovation in 1991. Offered 24-hour service an continuous breakfast. Remodeled into retro-style 1950s motif in 1997 and renamed Restaurant. Closed about 2001 and torn down. Now a parking deck for Good Shepard Rehabilitation.
DeRaffle manufactured diner. Closed in June 2002 due to US 222 bypass construction. Was sold and was scheduled to move to Milwaukee, WI in 2003. However, the deal fell through and plans for Cleveland, and Philadelphia never worked out either. The diner sat for two years in a storage lot with the neon sign lying on the ground near the street. In 2006, the diner was finally sold moved to 210 North 2d Street, Harrisburg, PA. Completely renovated and enhanced to classic "Diner" look with stainless steel and glass brick. Now known as "Sawyers", it now operates as a nightclub with grill type food available along with short-order breakfasts to club patrons.
Original Trivet Diner opened in 1980 as a 2 piece DeRaffele manufactured diner. Replaced in 2004 with new twelve-piece DeRaffele diner, old diner sold and moved to 302 West Main Street, Mount Joy PA as Mount Joy Diner. Re-opened in 2005, the new Trivet is the newest and largest factory-built diner in Pennsylvania. Stunning Stainless steel, glass brick exterior, modern, classic new interior. Offers 24-hour service, breakfast served at all times.
Originally Hooks Diner, built in 1947 on West Tilghman Street from Paramount pre-manufactured stainless-steel diner. Owned by Al Hook it was originally a classic American Diner in the Cubist style wide with a lunch counter and booths along the front windows, glass brick curved corners and sheathed in aluminum or stainless steel. The Diner was sold to Russel Saylor in 1966 and the building was expanded greatly into a brick and steel structure, renamed Saylor's Restaurant. Offered Pennsylvania Dutch cuisine, became local landmark restaurant. Originally the aluminum diner was visible along Tilghman Street, later bricked over and incorporated into its permanent structure as the front dining area, the diner booths along the front window were retained while the lunch counter was taken out for additional patron table space. Michael Saylor took over operations in 1992, retired in 2001 and sold to the Metzgar Family. Renamed "Metzgar Diner" and sold in 2005 back to Saylor and reopened again as Saylor's Diner. Sold in 2009, re-opened as "West Side Diner".