07/01/2013 04:46 pm ET Updated Aug 31, 2013

America's Best Diners (PHOTOS)

"When the Dodgers moved to California, my grandparents moved, too, opening a New York-style diner in 1960," says Harry Rudolph, the third-generation owner of Harry's Coffee Shop in La Jolla.

It's the kind of great classic diner where you can count on affordable comfort food like steak and eggs, stacks of flapjacks, and a handmade milkshake. These diner menus often list more than 50 items and may reveal Greek or Jewish heritage (a spinach pie here, a hearty Reuben sandwich there). There's a common décor too, of stainless steel, neon, mahogany, and chrome that looked cutting-edge in the 1940s and now feels retro.

Diners certainly pluck a chord of American nostalgia. They seem to belong to our culture and to help define it. Like family recipes and apple pie. Like baseball and Elvis. In fact, you can likely find some combination of those things inside the best diners. In the end, maybe a single definition isn't necessary. Let's just say, we know a diner when we see it.

We've seen these diners -- and you should seek them out, too, whether in Jackson, MS, or Manhattan.

--Jenny Adams

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America's Best Diners (PHOTOS)