John King – Getting the dish at diners across the USA
September 3rd, 2010
05:30 PM ET
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Food in the Field gives a sneak peek into what CNN's team is eating as they travel the globe. Today's contributor, John King is anchor of CNN’s 7 p.m. ET program, John King, USA, and CNN’s chief national correspondent.

I love diners and other casual community eateries because comfort food equals comfortable conversation, and when people are relaxed in a place that feels like home you learn more about them and what drives their politics.

Don’t get me wrong, I'm also in it for the food. I’m a fairly basic guy for breakfast, but can be enticed away from the usual scrambled eggs and homefries by a glimpse at a neighboring table's pancakes or the smell of beignets.

A diner menu can tell you a lot about where you are, from the huckleberry milkshakes of western Idaho to the pork-laden specials at most of the great diners of Iowa political travels.

To listen is to learn, and what better way to learn than over a good meal. In visiting all 50 states in 2009, we found in each one at least one place just to have a meal with a mix of locals.

Often they fiercely disagreed on the issues of the day, but without exception the conversations were respectful and civil. We learned from each other, and laughed with each other. Washington could learn a lesson or ten from the civil discourse and community spirit I encountered over more than my share of great comfort food.

Another lesson of those travels: most of the diners we visited were doing OK – even improving business – during the worst of the recession. When times were toughest, people look for value – more meal for their money. I suspect they also look for character, and community.

Work aside, it's just a treat to find the old photos and old menus in the diners that have fed generations and anchored their communities along the way.

Plus, where else can you get called "honey" every morning by a perfect stranger who brings hot coffee and somehow seems to know when to be nice, or when you need a little barking to put you in your place.

John King is teaming up with Gowalla, the location based mobile and web service, to share his experiences from the road. Last year, John visited all 50 states following President Barack Obama’s inauguration and sat down with residents in local diners to hear their stories and discuss important issues.

John has compiled his favorite diners for Gowalla and you can now visit them as well. To participate and see the trips John has created, Gowalla users should follow John by going to John King, USA’s Gowalla page and clicking the "follow John King, USA" button in the right column. You will then have access to John’s custom Trips at or on your smartphone via the Gowalla app.

soundoff (5 Responses)
  1. xmkgzcsrox

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    November 16, 2011 at 2:22 pm |
  2. TheMajor45a

    There are no diners anywhere like in the Northeast – New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Pennsylvania. They are marked both by their consistency (think "cheese omelet") and diversity (home fries – peppers? onions? garlic?)

    Pick one – any one. You'll never go back to Denny's.

    September 6, 2010 at 6:37 pm |
    • john

      Of course there are diners elsewhere like those in the Northeast. We even have some snobs eating in ours, too. :)

      September 8, 2010 at 8:34 am |
  3. Gregg

    What no sausage or bacon Mr King??????????? or pork chops

    September 5, 2010 at 8:33 am |
  4. Kevin

    While I havent visited all 50 states (yet), my work does have me traveling often and I've hit over half (28) of them in the last three years. From Maine to Washington, Michigan to Texas, I've stopped in diners just about everywhere and couldn't agree with his assessment more.
    They are the quintissential "slice" of local America. As "homey" as a Norman Rockwell painting.
    In a word... perfect.

    And don't forget to save room for the pie!

    September 4, 2010 at 8:38 pm |
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