At chef Patrick Acuña's diner, patrons sit elbow-to-elbow on stools along the bright-red Formica bar. While the setup is familiar, the menu pushes the boundaries of diner food — serving fried chicken in a sushi roll.
Roll On Sushi Diner is doing its part to keep Austin, Texas, weird and has won over locals since opening in 2011. It's just one example of the evolution of the diner, which began as a prefab stainless-steel dining car (circa 1872 in Providence, Rhode Island) serving burgers and blue-plate specials and was immortalized by painter Edward Hopper as a late-night refuge.
Steve Kastenbaum is a CNN Radio National Correspondent, currently covering the New Hampshire primary. He previously wrote about the mystique of the Brooklyn bagel.
A presidential candidate wouldn’t dare campaign in New Hampshire without making a stop at a diner. Sometimes they’ll hit several in one day. As they look over the menu to figure out what suits their tastes, patrons size up the presidential candidates here in the same way.
The Red Arrow Diner sits on a side street in the heart of downtown Manchester. The historic landmark has been here since 1923. There’s almost always a wait for a seat. The corned beef hash and the fried haddock sandwich are favorites among the locals and first timers struggle to eat every bite of the generous tall stack of pancakes.
But they also serve politics here and that’s the real draw. The walls of this old diner are lined with photographs of just about every presidential candidate who ran for office over the past few years, Republican and Democrat.
Des Moines (CNN) – Both campaign essential and political cliché, the diner is again rising to prominence in the last days before the Iowa caucuses. Candidates have been crawling (almost literally, due to space concerns) all over the roadside fixtures.
But it is in the absence of candidates that Iowa voters may give you the most sincere reviews of both food and politics.
"I got the ham," said Chris Aldinger. "Iowa ham." Aldinger ate the "Shebang," an egg and ham special, at Des Moines' Drake Diner, a 50s-style restaurant next to the university of the same name.
In the diners of Iowa, pork is essential. Bacon, ham, sausage, tenderloin, barbecue, ribs and sandwiches are just the basics.
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.