Follow TV Tropes


Greasy Spoon

Go To
Whatever you do, don't order the Space Special.

"Is there anything on this menu that is not swimming in gravy?"

The Greasy Spoon is a small, local or roadside eatery (frequently a "truck stop"), with black-and-white checkered tile floors, red leather covering all its booths, and coffee-stained menus galore. Your archetypal American Greasy Spoon features:

  • A nondescript name, such as "Joe's" or "Franky's Diner." May occasionally be called "The Greasy Spoon" for self-aware comedic effect.
  • Waitresses, often grumpy and sarcastic ones with southern accents and truly terrifying perms (and possibly worse bleach jobs), but who affably refer to everyone, even total strangers, as "hon," "suga," "sweetie," or "dear." She might be a "Flo."
  • A constantly bickering kitchen/waitstaff. The chef will always be wearing a tank top, have a pot belly, and sport a decidedly working class one-syllable name like Jim, Frank, or Earl.
  • A nigh-endless stream of indecipherable "diner speak" between the waiters and the cooks. Word Salad-esque phrases such as "burn the pig and put it out to pasture!"note  and "three brown cows for Table 4!"note  float through the air, confusing all laymen but somehow imbuing ungodly speed to the speakers. This is influenced by the Real Life Waffle House chain in the American South.
  • Food served will either be horrible or improbably delicious (just as long as you don't have too many questions about what goes on in the kitchen).
  • The menu tends towards unpretentious Americana: pancakes, burgers, fries, hot dogs, milkshakes, fried chicken, chicken-fried steak, biscuits and sausage gravy, etc., all washed down with bottomless, vile, and well-boiled coffee. Expect any local health food fanatics to complain loudly about the fat and cholesterol content while making comments about people dying early deaths from eating the food, or any out-of-towners used to funkier fare to scoff at how boring the menu is.
  • Probably owned and operated by some sort of "ethnic" immigrant/descendant of immigrants. Most often these are Greek, but Jewish, Polish, and Russian ones are not uncommon in the Northeast. This impacts the menu: Greek diners usually have gyros and moussaka, while the Jewish, Polish, and Russian ones can be counted on to have blintzes.
  • The "Best Darn X Pie in the Nation." Frequently pumpkin, apple, or cherry; occasionally blueberry. Or pecan if you're in the South, pronounced "p'CAHN."
  • Working class and blue-collar patrons, often burly truck drivers, bikers, rednecks and cops. Cityfolk and vacationing middle-class families tend to stick out like sore thumbs. If the diner is in a large city, the patrons will be a mix of various sorts.
  • Drunk patrons at night (coming back from the bar) and hung-over ones in the morning/early afternoon on weekends. Both are attracted by the greasy food (the drunk ones to satisfy the drunk munchies, the hung-over ones because fatty food is good for a liquor-damaged stomach); the morning folk also seek the painkilling power of caffeine. Going to a diner while drunk or hung-over is practically a trope in itself.
  • Stemming from this, a Diner Brawl might break out at some point.
  • If the Greasy Spoon is meant to evoke a "50's diner" feel, it may have jukeboxes at the tables, or off to the side somewhere.
  • A Disgusting Public Toilet covered in Bathroom Stall Graffiti.
  • May be a Local Hangout, particularly in a smaller community.
  • Patrons may treat the waitresses fairly “boisterously”, with butt-slapping, ogling and attempted pick-ups the order of the day.
  • May be located along a Stock Desert Interstate, perhaps near an auto body shop, and is often the only eatery around for miles.

Many Real Life examples are converted diner cars, but if you happen across a diner that looks like one, consider its location and upkeep. If it's nowhere near a railyard and looks freshly polished, chances are it's an example of Square Peg, Round Trope; expect to see clean booths and an overpriced menu, and your chances of hearing Hash House Lingo or banter with loyal regular customers are slim. If, however, it appears to be a real diner car on a decommissioned spur near a railyard across from The City Narrows, it might be this trope.

Oh, and by the way: the American diner is very important to the culture of the Northeast, and is practically a religion in New Jersey. Argue with a Northeasterner—and especially a New Jerseyan, and really especially a North Jerseyan—about what a diner is at your own peril.note 

It is also common to have a ordinary greasy spoon in a quite fantastic setting, in a case of Recycled IN SPACE. Occasionally, it features as the Inn Between the Worlds.

Similar to the Malt Shop, but lacks any kind of Nostalgia Filter. If the restaurant is especially foul, you're dealing with a Lethal Eatery.

American Examples:

    open/close all folders 

  • Edward Hopper's Nighthawks features an outside view of a corner diner in a big city and several late-night patrons. It is quite often referenced in other media.
  • Many works of the Photorealist movement in American painting portray diners. John Baeder's John's Diner With John's Chevelle (2007) is a good example, as is Ralph Goings' 1982-83 work Ralph's Diner.

    Comic Books 
  • The Beauty: Parks likes to meet with Ezerae there before and after jobs. She even worked there as a waitress in her youth.
  • Poppa's Olympian Palace, originally introduced in Frank Miller's Daredevil (which has gone on to make cameos in Sin City as well).
  • Elephantmen had an issue in which Hip Flask and Vanity stop to eat in Tammy and Sally's Diner, it's actually a lot nicer than usual for this trope except for Flask having to put up with some Fantastic Racism in the form of Elephantmen only seating and one abusive customer.
  • Ghost World's Enid and Rebecca hang out at the Quality Cafe.
  • There is one of these opposite the Games Pit in Knights of the Dinner Table. The players will occasionally adjourn there for a meal (although it is not as popular as Tic Tac Taco). Apparently the chili is good: anything else is a bit of a gamble.
  • In Mesmo Delivery most of the story takes place in and around a seedy truck stop dive.
  • In the fifth album of the Belgium comic book series ORPHANIMO!!, Alice ends up working at one of these.
  • Plutona's human alter ego works at one, underlining her real-world vulnerability versus her superhero identity.
  • Robin (1993): There's an old, well-worn 50s-style diner called Scram's Diner in the Widow's Creek neighborhood of Gotham where Tim and Steph go to have comfort food and discuss her feelings regarding her father's death in issue #111.
  • Sam & Max: Freelance Police: Sam & Max visit one in the On the Road story arc.
  • In Transmetropolitan, Spider Jerusalem and his assistants hang out in one as a tribute panel to Hopper.
  • In the Marvel Universe, there is the Star Stop. It first appeared in US1 #1 (May 1983) as the Short Stop, a truck stop that was run by the adopted parents of the title's titular character, Ulysses Solomon "US" Archer. At the end of that series, aliens brought the Short Stop into space. The Star Stop would be revisited during John Byrne's run on Senational She Hulk.
  • Since Wonton Soup describes itself as a "Space Trucker Cooking Opera" it's fitting that it should have a space station that serves as one of these, though according to the main character you can get pretty good wonton soup there.

    Comic Strips 
  • A stock setting within many Newspaper Comics, such as Blondie (1930), Bringing Up Father, and The Wizard of Id.
    • Typical gag from the latter comic:
      (Sir Rodney notices a sign behind the counter reading, ASK ABOUT OUR TUNA SALAD .)
      Sir Rodney: How's the tuna salad?
      Chef: It's poison.
      Sir Rodney: Then why the sign?
      Chef: Sometimes I forget.
  • Irma's Diner in Garfield. You have two kinds of coffee (regular and decaf) two choices of potato (cooked or raw), pickle brine as a choice of beverage, and a five-pound "he-man" burger. Jon has found dry-cleaning slips and false eyelashes in his food. Irma thinks that letting cheese age means keeping it in the back of her truck, and her idea of a "special treat" is a scoop of mashed potatoes in an ice cream cone. If you order a burger, you just get a hamburger patty plopped down on the counter in front of you. If you want a bun, you have to order the Deluxe Burger.
    Jon: Irma, is this tea or coffee?
    Irma: What does it taste like?
    Jon: It tastes like turpentine.
    Irma: Oh, that’s our coffee. Our tea tastes like transmission fluid.
  • Roz's Roost in Shoe.

    Fan Works 
  • The Bolt Chronicles: "The Funkmeister" and "The Car" reference a local cheap-eats favorite in Dinny's Diner. The latter story sees Penny and Bolt head there for apple pie and coffee.

    Film — Animation 
  • In A Goofy Movie, this is where Goofy declares Max as his "official navigator and head which-wayer" of their trip. The place is also surprisingly chill.
  • "Duke's Cafe" where Tiana works in The Princess and the Frog is one of these with a chef, Buford, who makes fun of Tiana's dream of opening a much fancier restaurant of her own. Tiana's Beignets are so good they are able to pull in rich people like Big Daddy as well as the working class usual clientele, though. She also works the night shift at another restaurant called "Cal's" that we never see but going on her waitress uniform it appears to be at least slightly fancier.
  • One of these was a central location in Scooby-Doo and the Alien Invaders.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • Baby Driver has Bo's Diner, where Deborah works and eventually meets Baby.
  • Bruce Almighty has one which is where Bruce is when he realizes he really does have Godly powers.
  • Camel Spiders: Sheriff Beaumont brings Captain Sturges to a diner where much of the cast are. They have to band together when camel spiders start swarming in through the roof.
  • The lab that turned Steve Rogers into Captain America was hidden beneath such an establishment in the 1990 version of Captain America.
  • The movie Diner starring Mickey Rourke.
  • In Dumb and Dumber, the guys make an ill-fated stop at a greasy spoon. Lloyd calls the waitress Flo, which they both think is the height of hilarity.
  • Enough: Husband refers to wife's place of employment as "the greasy spoon" ... and it's a fairly accurate description.
  • The real Erin Brockovich played a waitress at one of these in the movie.
  • Used in a genuinely creepy way in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.
  • The Tip-Top Cafe in Punxsutawney, PA in Groundhog Day.
  • Howard the Duck features one of these with the usual staples (and sushi, for some reason, complete with Japanese chef on duty). It being the 80s, scary perms are included.
  • In the Heat of the Night – Compton's Cafe. As the movie came out in the mid-1960s, it illustrates what roadside diners often were at the time: Dingy, non air-conditioned, flies often buzzing around and unkempt cooks.
  • Let It Snow has the Waffle Town Diner. It's in a state of disrepair, with the "W" haven fallen off. It's also the Local Hangout for the high schoolers. Apparently the coffee is nearly undrinkable, but the waffles are at least adequate, and the staff is friendly.
  • The sleazy galley in Life of Pi, where a grumpy cook (played by Gérard Depardieu) serves his gravy-rich meals to the ship's lower deck passengers.
  • Little Dead Rotting Hood: The town the film is set in has Mildred's Diner.
  • Main Street Meats: Betty's Diner fills this role for the movie. The titular Betty is always flirting with Floyd, in spite of his disinterest. She also apparently makes really good hash, as one customer is flabbergasted when Cherry turns them down.
  • The Portokalos' restaurant Dancing Zorba's in My Big Fat Greek Wedding is a fairly typical urban Greek diner.
  • Natural Born Killers — Three drunk rednecks stop by a non-descript, 50's style truck stop (called the "5 to 2 Cafe") with interior design featuring black-and-white, checkered tile flooring, and red leather booths. Well-boiled coffee is a part of the ambiance. Mickey and Mallory are there. Mickey is ordering up some pie (trying to decide from apple, pecan, cherry, or keylime) from a waitress named Mabel. Mallory is dancing at the jukebox. It ends in a diner brawl, involving everyone mentioned, as well as a fat chef in a tank top.
  • Next of Kin (1982): On her way to her mother's old nursing home, Linda stops in one of these. The owner reveals that Linda and her mother used to frequent the restaurant, and that her mom would stare out the window when they sat in their booth.
  • Pee-wee's Big Adventure had one of these near the famous Cabazon Dinosaurs.
  • Pineapple Express ends with the heroes shooting the breeze at a diner.
  • Pumpkin & Honey Bunny rob one in Pulp Fiction.
  • Road to Perdition: Irish Mob hitman Michael Sullivan and his son very narrowly avoid an assassination attempt. Sullivan even small-talks with a waitress who brings his fried chicken and coffee, and the hired assassin Harlan Maguire—posing as an Intrepid Reporter—also orders coffee with an enormous heaping of sugar. While Sullivan and his son escape, Maguire kills a cop who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
  • The Bulldog Cafe in The Rocketeer.
  • In Scotland, PA, Duncan's Cafe is this until the McBeths remodel it into a fast food hamburger joint.
  • The Don't Drop Inn from Sesame Street Presents: Follow That Bird. The food is bad (cream of garlic soup with maraschino cherries, anyone?) and the service is worse (the staff are a mix of Grouches and cantankerous humans). Oh, and don't order the tossed salad unless you want a Food Fight to break out.
  • In the Smokey and the Bandit movies, a Greasy Spoon is referred to as a "Choke-and-puke."note 
  • Spaceballs has a Recycled In Space case where such a place became a Bar Full of Aliens — including the Xenomorph, which might have come from the food...
  • Jenny Hayden and Starman stop at one of these, and the Gargle Blaster for Starman is the Dutch Apple Pie.
  • One of these appeared in Superman II. A powerless Clark Kent gets into a Diner Brawl with a truck driver.
  • In the Canadian Twist, there are a few of these places. Nancy works at one of them.
  • Waitress, of course.

  • American Gods had Mister Wednesday and Shadow meet in such a location. Bikers and smoke abound.
  • In Robert A. Heinlein's Between Planets Don Harvey ends up working at the Two Worlds Dining Room which is a Chinese version of a dinner since the owner/short order cook is Chinese.
  • The Cat Who... Series: Lois's Luncheonette is outright described as this in the narrative.
  • In The Dark Tide, the fifth novel in the Adrien English gay mystery series by Josh Lanyon, Adrien and Jake visit the site of what had once been a hot swing club on an out-of-the-way stretch of shoreline north of Los Angeles. The site is now an all-but-abandoned greasy spoon with a "closing soon, thanks for your business" sign on the door. They're the only customers, the waitress is wearing flip-flops, and the whole place feels like the erosion of time itself. Adrien decides to order a grilled cheese sandwich, sure they can't mess up something that simple. He's very, very wrong.
  • The Dreamside Road has the Moonlight Most Diner, a favorite haunt of Orson Gregory, between adventures. Orson takes Enoa to visit the diner, but both are disappointed when they learn that this greasy spoon is under new management, after the disappearance of the former owners.
  • Empire Falls: Protagonist Miles Roby runs the Empire Grill, a greasy spoon place that used to offer simple fare and cater to mill workers when they weren't on shift. Over the past 20 years or so, however, the mills have closed and Empire Falls has become a Dying Town, and the restaurant has long since run in the red. Miles, casting about for a way to make money, is trying to lift the Grill out of greasy spoon status, expanding the fare from hamburgers and pasta to stuff like Mexican food and other specialized cuisine; the idea is to replace the long-gone mill workers with professors from nearby college towns.
  • In Ghost Roads, Rose frequents such places as she's a hitchhiker ghost so any place that's on the road is her natural territory. Furthermore, because such places are so iconic in the American mindset, they function as places of power that attract anyone with a magical connection to traveling or roads.
  • In Harvesting the Heart, Paige works at one of these after she runs away from home.
  • In Just One Day, Allyson works at one to save up for her trip to Paris. It falls under the category of "improbably good food."
  • The Pico Mundo Grille in the Odd Thomas series apparently has all of the good things about this. It's apparently a very popular restaurant.
  • Sunshine has a positive example in Charlie's restaurant: he serves good, affordable, diner-style food; it has a loyal clientele in the neighbourhood and in truckers passing through; and he looks after everyone who comes in, whether or not they have money.
  • "The Crows Nest" in the Wicked Lovely series, which also holds high nostalgia factor for Seth. Largely due to Parental Abandonment issues — before his parents left, they spent a lot of time there.
  • In the Ernest Hemingway short story "The Killers", the story opens at Henry's Lunch-Room in Summit, Illinois.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The main characters in 2 Broke Girls work in one.
  • There's one in The 4400 wherein the pies cause Mind Link between people who have eaten them.
  • Mel's Diner in the Sitcom Alice.
  • Cup A' Joe Diner on the Season 3 episode of the same name on The A-Team. The in-universe competition, Cactus Jack's chain of diners, are an egregious example of a Greasy Spoon with bad food and terrible coffee.
  • Beakman's World has Art's Diner, a section of the show that takes place in the titular restaurant, managed by a cook with questionable hygiene named Art Burn. The objective of the place is showing experiments that can be done with common kitchen ingredients.
  • The cast of Becker regularly met in one.
  • The cast of Bones are frequently seen in one, with the running gag that Brennan refuses to try the pie (and Booth is never served his).
  • Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul feature Loyola's Family Café in Albuquerque, which has this sort of vibe. Mike is a regular at the diner, and often uses it as a meeting place with fellow operatives in Gus's meth operation. The prequel show shows Saul / Jimmy using the diner to meet with clients (on the pretense that his offices are under renovation, but in reality so the clients won't know he works out of the backroom of a nail salon).
  • Boardwalk Empire Season 3 sees a gas station diner at Tabor Heights, New Jersey, that becomes critical to the region's bootlegging operations as it's the main stop for the bootleggers to refuel their trucks on the run from Atlantic City to New York City. Gyp Rossetti takes over the town and eats at the diner every night. The diner serves spaghetti, which the waitress seems to think is an exotic dish.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Buffy ends up working at "Helen's Kitchen" after running away from Sunnydale at the end of the second season.
  • Daredevil (2015):
    • Early in season 1, Karen Page has some meetings with Ben Urich at the Square Diner in Tribeca. The diner reappears in season 2, this time being the place where Matt chews out Elektra for once again invading his life while she's busy wolfing down food.
      • In ".380," Frank Castle draws out the Blacksmith by using Karen as bait to lure two of his men to a diner in Queens.
      • During Matt and Karen's first date in season 2, Karen remarks that she grew up in a small town in Vermont where the most ethnic thing provided was French fries. In season 3, we see what Karen meant by this: her family ran a diner in Fagan Corners named Penny's place, named after Karen's late mom Penelope. The place is a failing business, with Karen's dad and brother running the kitchen while Karen handles waitressing and the books.note 
  • The reaper meetings on Dead Like Me were held at a Captain Ersatz of Waffle House.
  • The Defenders (2017): In the opening episode, Matt and Karen have lunch at the Metro Diner on 96th Street to catch up on their lives and so Karen can get a comment from him about the Aaron James verdict.
  • The Deuce has Leon's Diner, a hangout for the pimps and prostitutes in and around Times Square.
  • Doctor Who has the Eleventh Doctor join his companions at one of these in the Series 6 opener "The Impossible Astronaut" shortly after the latter witness his Story Arc-driving murder (which happens 200 years later in his timeline) at Lake Silencio. This 1950s-decor diner (in real life a theme restaurant in the U.K.) turns up again at the end of Series 9 in "Hell Bent" as the TARDIS and companion-less Twelfth Doctor encounters a waitress who resembles Clara Oswald and recounts the events of the episode to her. The diner is in Utah in the first story and Nevada in the second...because it's actually the exterior of a TARDIS he stole from Gallifrey in the process of saving Clara from her fixed-point death (the "kitchen" is the console room). The waitress IS Clara, but he no longer recognizes her due to a memory wipe; as the episode ends, she and Ashildr — both of whom are functionally immortal by this point — head off to new adventures in it. With its chameleon circuit broken, it now permanently appears to be a Greasy Spoon!
  • The Electric Company: Several, depending on the skit. Vi's Diner was a loose example, as the diner in those skits was clean.
  • Mama Joy's in Everwood; Dr Abbott even openly refers to it as a greasy spoon once. Both the trope and the name are swiftly deconstructed in the very first episode wherein the diner appears:
    Nina: [shouts order at the top of her lungs]
    Andy: Wow, where's the cook? In Maine?
    Nina: He only hears in his left ear.
    Andy: What's wrong with his right ear?
    Nina: He doesn't have a right ear.
    Andy: Now what does Mama Joy think of this?
    Nina: Nothing, mostly. Mama Joy's been dead for twenty years. The place is run by her nephew.
    Andy: Ah, so Mama Joy is actually Aunt Joy.
    Nina: And Aunt Joy is actually Gertrude Heim. But that doesn't have quite the same ring.
  • The Farscape episode "I-Yensch, You-Yensch" has some of the main characters meet at an alien version of this trope, à la Spaceballs. It has some of the typical greasy spoon tropes associated with hard-boiled fiction, like some unexpected robbers, a put-upon staff, and schemes to burn the place down for insurance money... but IN SPACE!
  • Frasier spends a Christmas Eve in one.
  • Hee Haw: Lulu's Truck Stop, a recurring skit featuring gospel singer/comedienne Lulu Roman-Smith as the proprietor and comedian/artist Gailard Sartain as the cook. The restaurant was guilty of every health violation imaginable and the food horrible, both being common butts of the corn-spun one-liners from the regulars. Each skit opened with a pair of long air-horn blasts.
  • In Heroes, Hiro met Charlie, his doomed love interest, in one of these in Midland, Texas, called the Burnt Toast Diner. There was a later sad example of in-humor: the diner Hiro and Nathan met at was called Fly By Night.
    • In volume 4, Luke repeatedly asks Sylar to stop at one during their road trip, to Sylar's considerable annoyance.
  • JAG: Appears several times throughout the series, often on or close to military installations. Season one cliffhanger "Skeleton Crew" has a typical one.
  • Jessica Jones (2015):
    • A couple of these diners are used by a support group of Kilgrave's victims for meetings.
    • In the season 2 finale, Jessica meets with Oscar at a diner to ask him to get forged IDs so she can get her fugitive mother out of the country. It turns out to be a setup as there are undercover cops there waiting to catch Jessica, and Jessica is forced to overpower them before escaping.
  • On Just Shoot Me!, Maya and Elliot go to a diner that boasts the "world's best blueberry pie." Elliot tries it, and doesn't like it.
  • In Lost's flashbacks, Kate's mother is a waitress in such an establishment. In one of the show's "crosses," Sawyer is shown to have eaten there, waited on by Kate's mother.
  • Luke Cage (2016): Claire Temple's mom works at a Harlem diner known as the A-Train Diner (named for the subway line), and loans her daughter one of her delivery vans so that she and Luke can attempt to transport a dying Rafael Scarfe to One Police Plaza.
  • Mad Men:
    • There's one very close to the offices of Sterling-Cooper—maybe in the same building or right next door. The characters go there when what they need is quick service rather than quality. Don meets his brother Adam Whitman there.
    • During his period of problem drinking during Season 4, Don occasionally goes to a diner to eat, particularly while drunk/hungover. He ends up sleeping with the waitress, having no recollection of it, and telling her his name was Dick. And to make it worse, he forgets to pick up his kids for the weekend.
    • The SCDP offices also have a nearby diner, where again the characters go when they need to have a quick chat and a bite. Also, Peggy has her talk with Freddy Rumsen that convinces her to jump ship at this restaurant, and when she decides to present Ted Chaough with her offer, it's at this diner.
  • Kelly gets a job at rather bad one on Married... with Children; the place isn't very hygienic (a rat gets caught in the deep fryer, although the chef protests that he spent an hour getting half of it out), the chef makes indecent comments towards her, and worst of all, one of her former teachers from high school brings female students there as part of a "scared smart" program to keep them from idolizing her. Eventually, though, she manages to make the place popular by giving out advice on dating to customers — including the teacher.
  • The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel: The Stage Deli in Midtown Manhattan is frequented regularly by Midge and Susie, and is where Susie networks with bookers and club owners to book stand-up gigs for Midge. The food is evidently hit-and-miss.
    Midge: Uh, some quick menu tips: great sandwiches, good soups, stay away from the Italian specialties, unless you like mediocre Greek food.
  • Tyler takes Dub-Dub to The Batter of the Bulge Pancake House on The Middleman and assures her it's not because of the food.
  • Our Miss Brooks: Miss Brooks moonlights in one, taking the identity of her nonexistent identical twin, in the episode "Connie and Bonnie".
  • The Punisher (2017): Frank Castle regularly takes meals at these sorts of diners throughout the city. David first makes contact with him by calling one such diner while he's taking breakfast the morning after killing some Gnucci lackeys who were trying to hurt Donny.
  • Roseanne worked at one for a while, and then owned one.
  • Parodied in a few sketches on Saturday Night Live:
    • A recurring sketch in the show's earlier history had the Olympia Cafe, run by a Greek immigrant staff led by Pete Dionasopoulos. It has a rather impressively long list of items on the menu but you could only ever order three things successfully: cheezborger, cheeps, and Coke — er, No Coke! Pepsi! The Cafe is inspired by the Real Life Billy Goat Tavernnote  whose original location still operates in Chicago's North Side.
    • A later taping had Jennifer Lawrence spew vitriolic comments at a pair of diners.
  • In Seriously Weird, the Local Hangout for the main characters is a diner in an old train car. In "Ghost Train", it is revealed that the train car came from train that had been destroyed in a wreck. Due to Harris being a Weirdness Magnet, the ghost of a boy who died in the wreck uses his powers to change the diner into a real life Ghost Train and sends it headed towards impending doom.
  • Stargate SG-1: After one of Daniel's "deaths", he ends up in one of these places. It's explained that he is in a semi-ascended plane of existence, and that the way he sees the place is due to A Form You Are Comfortable With.
  • Dean in Supernatural is very fond of this kind of establishment. Especially if they serve pie.
  • Twin Peaks had the Double R Diner. In contrast to the typical trope, the coffee and pie are absolutely amazing, at least according to the ever-chipper Agent Cooper.
  • Wings: The airport terminal has a lunch counter that looks something like this.
  • Barth's from You Can't Do That on Television.

  • Matraca Berg gives us an example in Eat At Joe's.'
  • Jazz organ legend Jimmy Smith stands in front of one on the cover of his album Home Cookin'.
  • The back cover of the Supertramp album Breakfast in America has the band in one, with each member reading their hometown newspaper. The inner sleeve is done in the style of a diner menu.
  • Suzanne Vega whiles the time away, drinking coffee and people-watching, in "Tom's Diner," based on Real Life diner Tom's Restaurant in New York City.
  • Tom Waits' song "Invitation to the Blues" from Small Change is set in a greasy spoon, and deals with the narrator's infatuation with a waitress there.
  • Susan Fassbenders' song "Twilight Cafe" is set as the place to go, despite being a bit grubby, based on an infamous all-night cafe in her native Bradford.


  • Pump Boys And Dinettes is set in the middle of the road between a gas station and the Double Cupp Diner, ''somewhere between Frog Level and Smyrna, North Carolina." It's about as greasy and sleazy as it gets.

    Video Games 
  • In The 11th Hour, the first few scenes of the in-game movie feature Robin Morales stopping off at one of these. Instead of Robin getting mineral water, a cappuccino, and a bran muffin, she's given a cheap chocolate donut and a bland coffee. On the plus side, the waitress, Eileen Wiley, is Robin's first lead on the Stauf Mansion case.
  • In the Animal Crossing series, the "Diner" furniture set allows you to decorate your home to resemble an archetypal greasy spoon.
  • Batman: Arkham Knight has one at the start of the game serving as the scene of Scarecrow's fear gas attack. The player controls a cop who's apparently a regular customer of the establishment during said attack.
  • The undersea city of Rapture had one, the Fishbowl Diner, but by the time you discover it in BioShock 2, it's been hastily abandoned and boarded-up. The quality of its menu can be inferred from the fact that it's in Pauper's Drop.
  • Carrie's Order Up! takes place in a Lighter and Softer take; it's a small time diner with a wide verity of patrons giving our waitress crab an endless stream of orders to fill out, but it's otherwise bright and optimistic, even when the leaky plumbing puts puddles of water in your way and the patrons start littering.
  • The protagonist of Daughter for Dessert visits a diner in Whiskeyville that is nondescript, but has delicious apple pie, and he appreciates that the food isn’t pretentious.
  • Appropriately enough, Diner Dash starts out with main character Flo (because of course, that's her name) reopening a run-down diner after quitting her soul-sucking corporate job. Unlike most examples, Flo strives for great food and speedy service, with it being up to the player to deliver.
  • Fallout 3 and Fallout 4 feature some of these in their respective game spaces. Or, more accurately, the post-apocalyptic remains of their structures.
  • The diner in whose Disgusting Public Toilet the first on-screen murder takes place in Fahrenheit. They get very unhappy if you try to leave without paying your bill, which you might forget to do given you're trying to cover up the aforementioned murder.
  • The setting of Joe's Diner is a small roadside diner out on route 66 that's built on top of a native American burial ground.
  • Arcadia Bay in Life Is Strange features a diner called Two Whales which takes pride in its “home-style cooking” and “old-fashioned service”. It is a favourite place for many passing truck drivers and citizens of the town, including students, police officers and local drug dealers.
  • Math for the Real World has Edna's Diner, where the player has to give everyone in the band the right combination of food to match how much money they plan on spending.
  • Mother 3 has Dur-T Café visited during Chapter 5. It's an exceedingly filthy, run down diner located in the highway where there's chewing gum stuck under tables, dirt from wall to wall and all over the place and running is ill-advised as that might kick up mold spores. There's also a jukebox where you can pay to play some songs that aren't heard anywhere else.
  • Stinky's Diner in the Sam & Max: Freelance Police games from Telltale Games. The comics, as well as the Lucasarts game Sam & Max Hit the Road had the Snuckey's chain.
    • Stinky's is an interesting case-it was founded by "Grandpa" Stinky (as opposed to "Girl" Stinky) with the explicit purpose of crafting food so vile that only the strongest would survive eating it, thus bettering the species. Probably explains real ones.
    • Stinky and Sal communicate in dinerspeak, and there are entire optional dialogue trees to hear more of it.
  • One of the possible locations you can visit in Stay Tooned! is a diner of this sort, though the various characters consistently refer to it as a "Deli". Some of the main characters can be seen hanging out here, along with ordinary working-class people. It has the characteristic checkerboard tile floor and red cushion seats. Unusually though, the most common food item seen are doughnuts, though they apparently serve anything including kitchen sinks.
  • The Tex Murphy games have the Brew & Stew. One of the characters you can talk to in The Pandora Directive even refers to it as a Greasy Spoon if you ask her about Louie (the owner).
  • Grillby's in Undertale neatly fits the bill. Sans loves the place, but his brother Papyrus refuses to so much as enter the building because "I HATE GREASE." When Undyne points out he doesn't have a stomach, Papyrus replies, "I HAVE STANDARDS."
  • Your Boyfriend: The diner you work at, called "Dad's Damn Diner!", is referred to as such.


    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • Similar establishments figure in several episodes of Arthur, as when the school bus breaks down on the way to Bartleby Hall and on David and Jane Reads' 10th anniversary, when they are forced to stop at the Ten Spot diner. Another episode had Arthur oversleeping on a bus and ending up at the edge of town. He waited for the next bus at a diner, where the waitress replied to his order of milk by hollering "Squeeze me a cow!"
    • One episode where the class is on the way to New York for a concert and their bus breaks down in front of a restaurant that appears to be one of these ends up being a subversion when the staff gives the class free dessert in gratitude for their impromptu concert; the cook used to be a gourmet chef and his cobbler/pie is fantastic.
  • Ben 10 has one with "the best ice cream this side of the Rockies" and a Apron Matron toothless waitress who is pretty awesome.
  • Ben 10: Alien Force begins with Max in one in the "Max Out" episode.
  • The eponymous eatery of Bob's Burgers has this stigma despite its reputation for well-crafted burgers, due to Bob's poor business sense and bad luck. He's also served some rowdy beer jockeys from time to time.
  • One episode of Danny Phantom had the main trio resting/hiding out in one of these when under pursuit by The Guys in White after Danny's Secret Identity was exposed to the public.
  • Dexter's Laboratory Has one of these in the episode "Hamhocks and Armlocks." Their waitress is a chain smoking woman named Midge. She even has a bad perm to complete the stereotypical Greasy Spoon look. The restaurant is devoid of menus and only has three options when it comes to food: Hamburgers, Hammhocks, and Ham Sandwiches. Despite the family asking for hamburgers, Midge refuses to bring them any. Dexter's father then asks for Ham Sandwiches and she responds by saying "Trust me, you don't want em'". She then orders Hamhocks for the entire family. Not surprisingly, the climax of the episode deals with Dexter's Dad being challenged to an arm wrestling match by a man named "Earl" for making him lose.
  • On an episode of Doug, Doug and Skeeter stop at one of these on the way to a Beets concert. They talk to a trucker named Charlie, and the Beets Bus leaves without them.
  • One such eatery exists in Gravity Falls, and it's even called "Greasy's Diner." Lazy Susan, one of the waitresses, has a thing for Stan.
  • In Invader Zim, Dib talks to a hobo at a diner. The hobo then kidnaps one of the customers.
  • Phineas and Ferb: In "Road Trip", the boys build a roadside diner on the roof of the family's RV, as it is driving along the interstate. Candace complains about it, but gets distracted by being roped into the role of a sassy waitress, taking orders from the customers. It takes her a while to realize she wound up helping without them even having to ask.
  • Rocko's Modern Life features the Nighthawks Diner (a Shout-Out to a very famous painting). Heffer and Filburt regularly come their to drown their sorrows in fries and milkshakes.
  • Rugrats: In the episode "The Graham Canyon," the Pickles family stops in one of these when their car breaks down. Stu has trouble deciphering the Southwest-inspired menu. "Mole sauce?"note 
  • A funny example occurs in The Simpsons episode "Selma's Choice": while on the way to Great Aunt Gladys's funeral, the family, with Patty and Selma, stop at a Greasy Spoon diner with a buzzing sign called "The Buzzing Sign Diner."
  • Refers to the Krusty Krab in an early SpongeBob SquarePants episode, "Welcome to the Chum Bucket," in a charming musical number.
  • The Local Hangout on The Tick the cartoon, based on a scene in the comic, in turn based on the Edward Hopper painting mentioned above. Specifically referred to as a Greasy Spoon.
  • The Venture Brothers stop at one while running away from home. Dr. Orpheus, who is tailing them, gets harassed by a couple of burly patrons (at their own peril).

    Real Life 
  • Mickey's Dining Car in downtown St. Paul, breakfast served 24 hours a day since before World War II, sometimes shows up as a setting for films (The Mighty Ducks, Jingle All the Way, A Prairie Home Companion).
  • Go to and look up all the restaurants under the "Diner" category. You'll find quite a few that fit the bill (and quite a few others that used to fit before getting listed on Roadfood made them popular and they became more upscale).
  • A few national chains—notably Waffle House, IHOP, and Denny's—are styled after diners. However, many diner aficionados, particularly from the Northeast, vehemently deny that any of these can be properly called diners.
  • Johnie's Coffee Shop in Los Angeles is a famed example of Googie architecture and a recently-designated Los Angeles landmark, famed for hosting scenes in The Big Lebowski, Reservoir Dogs, and Miracle Mile, among others. However, Johnie's actually hasn't been open for business in years. Its main business — if it has any at all — is as a film setting. That's Los Angeles for you.

British Examples

The British equivalent is basically similar in most respects, but will offer some tea (the strong, "builder's tea" variantnote ) as well as coffee. The decor usually involves Formica tables and chairs rather than booths, sometimes bolted to the floor. Usually offer an "all-day breakfast" of some sort that follows the same basic principle as the breakfasts in the American version, lots of carbs and protein but not a lot of other micronutrients, but most offer some sort of vaguely healthy option; "Meat and two veg" was the traditional lunchtime option, but nowadays the menu usually extends to things like lasagne or chilli con carne, and maybe a Sunday roast. Trying to order biscuits and gravy will get you some very funny looks.

    Anime & Manga 
  • One appears in The Sky Crawlers, with the surprisingly good food variety. Oddly, it mostly resembles an American diner, but is set up somewhere in Northern Ireland.

    Audio Plays 

    Board Games 

    Film — Live-Action 
  • Circus: Leo goes to meet Julius at an American-style diner (the film is set in Brighton, England), only to be caught in a Mexican Standoff when Bruno's goons show up. One of them even refers to the place as a 'greasy spoon'.
  • I Really Hate My Job: A small, second rate, rat-infested cafe full of waitresses waiting for their big break is the setting of the film.
  • LV's mother in Little Voice frequents one of these for breakfast with her friend.
  • Withnail and I: Marwood finds himself in a particularly gritty and British one near the start of the film. In the script it is referred to as "Wanker's Cafe."

  • Good Omens has the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse meet up in one of these, drawing the attention of the local chapter of the Hell's Angels.
  • The street cafe type shows up in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows on Tottenham Court Road, where the trio go to try to escape the Death Eaters, but two show up because they are able to track anyone who speaks Voldemort's name.
  • Chapter 8 of The Pale King ends with the unnamed girl eating breakfast at a diner in Plepler, MO, as her mother has sex in the truck outside.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In the UK version of The Apprentice, the losing team are sent to one of these to contemplate what went wrong for them while the winners enjoy their reward. The real examples used for filming (the Bridge Cafe in West Acton, and less commonly La Cabaña 2 in Park Royal) have both experienced a Tourist Bump thanks to the show.
  • One of Cynthia's patients in Series 2 of Call the Midwife is an old, angry diabetic man who runs an eel pie shop in Poplar. This is an even older form of greasy spoon than the cafe.
  • In Hustle, the crew will often meet their contacts in dingy cafes. In particular, one of their information brokers, Cyclops (played by Bill Bailey), is almost always met in cafes where he keeps eating throughout the meeting, displaying Jabba Table Manners throughout.
  • The Green Midget Cafe, Bromley from Monty Python's Flying Circus. Spam, spam, spam, baked beans and spam, but baked beans is off.
  • In the Red Dwarf episode "Backwards" when Rimmer, Kryten and Holly initially crash land on a version of Earth where time is running in reverse Kryten and Rimmer rest in one of these whilst they plan what to do next. As time is running backwards we get to see a woman with Jabba Table Manners regurgitate out a re-forming chocolate eclair and messily backwards-drink her cup of tea before removing the sugar from it. The waitress also dumps a box of rubbish on their table instead of cleaning it up.
  • The '70s sitcom Sykes has the roadside cafe version, where Eric and Hat buy one and try and convert it into something a little posher. It doesn't work as all they do is alienate the truckies. Then they convert it back and rake in the cash but can't keep up the gritty act as part of working there. Then their snobby neighbor Mr. Brown buys it.

  • Barry Cryer and Ron Golden's song "Truffles" is about one of these, to a tune that's a mashup of Elvis Presley's "Trouble" ("If you're looking for truffles, you've come to the wrong place") and Peggy Lee's "I'm A Woman" ("Because we're British, B.R.I.T.I.S.H./So don't push it, mate").
    But say egg and chips,
    And you've broken the code.
    We'll get the HP Sauce out and the show is on the road.
  • The American version of the Music Video for Radiohead's song "High and Dry" features one of these. (The other, British, version was filmed first, but the band disliked it enough to film the American version.)
  • The back cover of Supertramp's Breakfast in America album depicts one of these.

    Video Games 
  • Joe's diner from Improbable Island. The "Chips" (french fries) are described as tasting like "paper bags filled with pus." The "Family Trough" meal is served in a pail, and you feel less hungry just from looking at it.

    Real Life 
  • UK towns have Greasy Spoons too, which are often an inexpensive place to have breakfast or lunch unaffected by the rising prices of major chains, and often provide a traditional British atmosphere that reflects the owners. As a result, they are very appealing to the elderly. Most of them will serve traditional English breakfasts and tea, and in seaside towns, they tend to be more fish themed — you might find the cockney staples of 'pie and mash' or 'jellied eels and liquor'. Unlike American diners, there is not really any pretense to the layout of these places; in fact, looking as nondescript as possible is quite appealing to their clientele. Many of them open in the wee small hours, to cater to market traders and others who work at unsociable hours, and/or drunken students.

Examples of Greasy Spoon analogues in fantastic settings

    Film — Animation 
  • Cars has Flo's Diner, the local Radiator Springs joint stylized after 50's diners. Since they're cars, they serve cans of gas.
  • The Emperor's New Groove featured "Mudka's Meat Hut, Home Of The Mound Of Meat." Looking over the menu prompted Yzma to say the quote at the top. Kronk ends up in the kitchen and somehow manages to translate the orders into dinerspeak almost instantly, to the visible surprise of the waitress.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • Space Truckers had a greasy spoon in space that that was in a spinning donut shape to keep gravity going, a la 2001 (along with the white colourscheme). This is in keeping with the movie's trend of mixing truckers and trucker culture with sci-fi.
  • Attack of the Clones features Dex's Diner, where Obi-wan goes to speak to the owner/chef, Dexter Jettster. Apparently Dex has a bit of a past, and not only sells food, but information.
  • Spaceballs has a space truck stop styled like a greasy spoon. The scene features a memorable Alien parody when one customer unwisely orders "the special".

  • Discworld:
    • Ankh-Morpork is full of small diners, with Harga's House of Ribs being one of the more well-known ones, and actually relatively sophisticated, offering a full menu and coffee. Others include Gimlet's Hole Food Delicatessen, a dwarf joint that serves fried rat, and the Curry Gardens, a Klatchian "greasy stick".
    • In Moving Pictures Holy Wood had its fair share of cheap eateries, because actors needed to eat and were not paid well enough to complain.
    • Night Watch features a more Medieval example, which only provides a boiling pot of nondescript stew for a few pennies a bowl.
  • Steph Turner's restaurant where the Spook Duo set shop in the David Weber and Eric Flint's Torch of Freedom. Lamphshaded when Anton calls it a "greasy spoon," which prompted Steph's angry outburst that sanitary violations are about the only things that authorities are serious about. Given that the diner in question is definitely on the Wrong Side of the Tracks, that's something.
    • A couple of these appear in The Rising Thunder as well, mainly becasue that's a common place for the Firebrand's marks to make contacts with him. Given that the Madras Sector is in an ass end of the League, where graft and corruption reign supreme, a lot of them are surprisingly better then they could've been.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The Battlestar Galactica Spinoff series Caprica had one of these where Joseph Adama and Daniel Graystone met. While it was an inner-city diner instead of countryside, it still had some of the characteristics of a Greasy Spoon. Apparently it served Caprican and Gemenese food; it's probably supposed to be analogous to the ubiquitous Greek-run diners in the US that serve both hamburgers and gyros.
  • The Infinity Diner in The BBC musical Edutainment series Music Makers Infinity Diner is a greasy spoon far away from major space-travel lanes in the year 2999.

    Video Games 
  • QC's in Deltarune is an even straighter example, with checkerboard decor, classic waitress uniforms, and the Southern accented rabbit shopkeeper at the counter who calls Kris "Hun".
  • Final Fantasy XV has its own chain of gas-station diners, the Crow's Nest, whose food provides some of the lowest buffs available but is pretty cheap to purchase. Have your picture taken with Kenny Crow when you stop by!
  • In Pokémon Colosseum the Outskirt Stand, a diner and gasoline station made from an old locomotive, is one of the visitable locations in Orre. It is the first place that Wes visits after destroying the Team Snagem Hideout at the start of the game, and one of the most valuable locations, as it is the only place in Orre where he can buy Poké Balls. (In the sequel, the place still sells them, but there are other places in Orre where you can find them.)
  • The Interactive Fiction Stationfall is set on a strangely abandoned space station, parasitized by a series of smaller vessels attached to its airlock with a variety of businesses in them. One of them is a deserted greasy spoon, which is one of the very few possible sources of food in the game.
  • Grillby's in Undertale, run by a flame elemental. Sans loves the place, but his brother Papyrus can't stand it. (He may not have a stomach, but "I HAVE STANDARDS!")

    Western Animation 
  • Amphibia: Stumpy's Diner is dingy, run-down, and mainly serves watered-down slop that sickens even rats. In "Lily Pad Thai" Anne helps Stumpy renovate the place, turning it into a wildly popular Thai/frog fusion cuisine restaurant.
  • The Backyardigans, of all things, had the Big Dipper Dinner in the homonymous episode. Although the name may not give it away, it's located in outer space.
  • Dot's Diner in ReBoot fits this in appearance only. It's not a truck stop, nor is it badly run or dirty. But is definitely styled after a 50's diner. Al's Wait-and-Eat, on the other hand, is a lot closer to this trope. And it goes very slow.

Other Examples

    Real Life 
  • This trope is alive and well in Australia; many suburbs, especially a suburb with a good mix of residential, commercial and light industry, will have places to eat much like this; though the people sound different, and few are ever shaped like railway coaches (most are simple storefronts in a row of shops, or a roadhouse); however the amateurishness of the operation remains consistent, as does the ridiculous excuse for food. There was one in the infamous King's Cross area of Sydney, usually known by its alternate name of the "Chew 'n' Spew".
  • Something of a trope in Spain where the popularity of the snack food Tapas amongst tourists led to low budget restaurants springing up to serve it.
  • The Cantonese equivalent is the "茶餐廳", usually transcribed cha chaan teng and literally meaning "tea restaurant", originating from Hong Kong. They are popular on urban streets, though. The food is generally a delicious mashup of Cantonese and Western (especially British), featuring such delicacies as deep-fried HK-style French toast, spam-and-egg macaroni soup,note  pepper steak,note  "Swiss wings",note , and cheesy seafood fried rice gratin, all served at a good value. The places do have a reputation for being somewhat hygienically challenged, however — though for some that just adds to the charm.
  • The equivalent of a greasy spoon diner in Québec has many names: "cantine", "pataterie", "binnerie". The infamous poutine had its origin in these cantines. They offer an array of junk food like hot-dogs, corndogs, hamburgers, French fries, "sauce fries" (fries in beef gravy), club sandwiches, submarines, and the ubiquitous poutine that no self-respecting diner wouldn't have on the menu. They are generally very spartan in decoration (such as the semi-famous Hurteau cantine in Sorel-Tracy) but famous cantines like the Ashton in Québec City or franchised cantines such as La Belle Province or Le Petit Québec are closer to the American diner aesthetic. Virtually every Québec town or village will have at least one cantine, either a franchise or a "mom n' pop" one.
  • The Filipino variant is called a "carinderia", which translates to "eatery". Rice is always on the menu, as it's a staple food for Filipinos. Classic Filipino dishes like barbeque-on-skewers, lechon, adobo, chicken (roasted, mostly), nilaga pork soup and halo-halo ice cream are usually fair game on the menu. Of course, given the Filipino love of both, beer and soft drinks are also available.
  • The Mexican equivalent is called a "fondita" (yes, with a diminutive), in which the archetypical "Doña Pelos" (the restaurant's handler, if not owner) offers food served in "tres tiempos" note . Classic Mexican "antojitos" like gorditas, quesadillas and the ever-present tacos are also available. The archetypical customers are the blue-collar workers that flood the restaurant at lunch time, between 2:00 PM and 4:00 PM. "Fonditas" differ from specialized street food stands, like "taquerías" and "torterías" in that they're almost always family-managed, handled by women, the presence of mostly homemade food and a permanent location inside a building or market. As such, they will only be open at daytime and almost never offer alcoholic beverages (instead, you will be offered "aguas frescas" and soda), befitting their "family-friendly" status.
  • The French equivalent is the "bistrot", bar, or café. They serve beverages such as coffee, alcohols, and soft drinks. They often propose food too, mostly baguette sandwiches. The most popular fillings are ham and butter, with or without pickles, saucisson note , pâté, and cheese. Others possible options are omelets, croque-monsieurs note , lunch meat, pies and cakes, and since The '60s, hot dogsnote . Jellied or hard-boiled eggs used to be popular too, and all day long available on the counter in self-service for the latter. Still, they became rarer since The '80s.


Video Example(s):


Duke's Cafe

Tiana is working breakfast shifts at Duke's Cafe, a greasy spoon, and plans to pull double shifts later even though it's Mardi Gras.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (5 votes)

Example of:

Main / GreasySpoon

Media sources: