02/05/2014 02:49 pm ET Updated Apr 07, 2014

6 Of America's Best Diners

As synonymous with America as apple pie and the open road, diners have been an indelible part of our national consciousness for more than century. While many longstanding establishments continue to carry on the genre's rich traditions of affordable comfort food, Art Deco architecture and folksy service, ambitious newcomers are giving classic diner dishes chef-driven makeovers and expanding our understanding of what a diner can be. With a playing field this broad and diverse, definitiveness is an impossible goal, but these 23 spots represent a panoramic view of today's American diner. -- Roger Kamholz

  • Fremont Diner; Sonoma, CA
    See More of America's Best Diners
    Chef and owner Chad Harris taps into the agricultural gifts of the surrounding Carneros region to enliven his elevated take on comfort food, which at breakfast includes a fresh sunny-side up egg over house-smoked black-pepper brisket. A rusty pickup parked out front and walls lined with Harris's own antiques lend this tiny wine country waypoint--open since 2009--a throwback charm.
    Photo © Ryan Donahue
  • Harry's Coffee Shop; La Jolla, CA
    See More of America's Best Diners
    Sure, you can get a very SoCal breakfast of chicken salad-filled fresh Hawaiian papaya at Harry's. But we're guessing its 50-plus years of service is more thanks to the bacon-studded waffles, warm cinnamon rolls, old-fashioned milk shakes and famously strong joe.
    Photo © Carolyn Saylor
  • Hopscotch; Oakland, CA
    See More of America's Best Diners
    Touches like the checkered flooring and swiveling, vinyl-topped counter stools give Hopscotch its homey diner bona fides, as do menu favorites like buttermilk fried chicken and the First Base burger (it's layered with griddled beef tongue). But thoughtful cocktails and chef Kyle Itani's grounding in Japanese cuisine--evident in his elegant, roe-topped Yonsei oyster—make this modern diner a foodie destination to boot.
    Photo © Lori Eanes
  • Nickel Diner; Los Angeles
    See More of America's Best Diners
    Chef Monica May and general manager Kristen Trattner took a gamble rehabbing a 1940s-era diner so close to Skid Row, but downtown L.A. has embraced Nickel and its refined (but no less hearty) approach to the classics of American diner-dom. Just try to finish the generous Double Stuffed Chicken. Or better yet, leave room for sweets like Nickel's beloved maple-bacon doughnut.
    Photo © Kimberli Ransom
  • Plow; San Francisco
    See More of America's Best Diners
    Let's be honest, sometimes we seek out diners to nurse a hangover. At Plow, the airy space works in tandem with the comforting food to set you right again. The diner's eponymous dish provides a tour of Plow's breakfast-centric all-day menu, with a combination of two eggs, sausage or bacon, two lemon-ricotta pancakes and the diner's celebrated crispy potatoes.
    Photo © Peter Belanger Photography
  • Florida Avenue Grill; Washington, DC
    See More of America's Best Diners
    Since 1944, all of DC—from the political power broker to the value-conscious everyman—comes to the Florida Avenue Grill for a soul-food fix. Those in the know favor breakfast options (available all day) like hotcakes, biscuits, and fried catfish and grits.
    Photo © Tammy Gordon

More from Food & Wine:
Best Brunch Spots in the U.S.
Incredible Bacon Burgers
Where to Get the Best Biscuits
Gooey Macaroni and Cheese
America's Best Doughnuts