Nothing evokes the thought of home cooking and comfort food more than that of a diner, the place where you find classic meals just like Mom used to make. It’s hard to describe the delight felt upon finding one’s favorite dish hand written on a chalkboard being featured as the lunch special.
Our romance with the diner goes way back. The first diner was started in Providence, Rhode Island in 1872 as a horse-drawn wagon offering meals to night workers. In 1887 Thomas Buckley created a successful business building and selling fully equipped wagons, and secured the first patent on his diner in 1891. These “fancy night cafés” were widely popular until the early 1900’s when retired railroad dining cars began to appear. These long narrow cafés were found parked beside train stations offering cheap food.
The diner concept was well received and prefabricated mobile home like diners were moved onto foundations in busy urban settings. These restaurants were best known for their narrow long style, a counter with stools, and late night hours. During the Depression and the World War that followed, the diner became a popular place among third shift workers and lonely folks to gather. Usually offering a blue plate special with drink included, a person could get a very inexpensive home cooked meal and some camaraderie. The diners of the 1920’s – 1940’s featured Art Deco or Streamline Moderne elements, many with stainless exteriors intended to copy the appearance of a rail car. During the 1950’s the diner’s look was updated to include glass blocks, terrazzo floors, and neon trim signs.
Today the term diner is used to describe a variety of restaurants, some with large glass windows overlooking busy streets, others in old houses. Characterized by offering a wide range of foods, typically American, a casual atmosphere, a counter, a lunch special, and late operating hours, the diner is truly an American classic.
To prepare Bacon Topped Meatloaf:
Cooks note: There are hundreds of variations of Meatloaf, here is yet another. This recipe is intended to be used as a “road map” in making this dish. Feel free to add or adjust any ingredients you like. I prefer not to use bread crumbs or other fillers in my meatloaf, but I know many people do. I will however suggest the bacon wrap treatment if you have not tried this before, because after all, what’s not better with bacon.
- 1 pound lean ground beef
- 1 pound hot sausage
- 1 medium onion finely chopped
- 4 cloves of garlic minced
- 1 large egg
- ¼ cup milk
- ½ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
- Thick cut bacon
- 3 tablespoons ketchup or chili sauce
- 1 tablespoon spicy brown mustard
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- 1 scant teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
Heat oven to 375° F. Combine ingredients in a large bowl. Mix well, do not be afraid to use your hands. Form mixture into loaf shape in the middle of a large glass baking dish. I prefer this method over packing the loaf into a bread pan, this allows the meatloaf to caramelize on all sides. Cover top of meatloaf with strips of bacon, overlapping the strips slightly. Mix ketchup, mustard, sugar, and seasonings together. Spread sauce evenly over the top of the bacon covered loaf. Place in oven and bake for about 50 minutes, until top is browned, or internal temperature reaches 160° F. Lift from pan and tent with foil allowing meat to rest about 10 minutes.
A special thanks to sister Jennifer for snapping the “on location” shots with her new little Green Elph.