What’s a diner?

If “diner” is in the name, that’s a good start. But sometimes a bona fide diner masquerades as a “grill,” a “restaurant,” or even the mysterious “pancake house.” Because this blog strictly and exclusively concerns diners, we need a workable definition. These are some of the signs:

• Late hours, and especially 24-hour operation.

• An extensive and diverse menu, definitely including dishes like burgers, wraps, and the ubiquitous diner meatloaf, and probably including a substantial Greek selection. Breakfast options, which are numerous, are prominently featured and are served at all hours.

• The menu should be physically large, too—the prototypical diner menu is an oversized, dozen-page, laminated and spiral-bound tome.

• Full restaurant-type service by a dedicated waiter—but when he or she drops the check, you pay at a register near the door instead of leaving money on the table.

• Desserts (especially cakes and especially cheesecakes) on display in a glass case, typically near the entrance.

• Classic diner décor is increasingly rare, but it’s still a good hint. Stainless steel siding, neon embellishments, signage announcing “open 24 hours” and “baking done on premises.” Likewise with interior architecture: booth seating, counter service.

• No chains or franchises. There are plenty of places that might otherwise fit the criteria here—something like an IHOP or Denny’s has late hours, a breakfast-centric menu, etc.—but we don’t think that’s the diner spirit. (The sole exception we’ll allow is Gotham City Diner, which has a location in Fair Lawn and one in Ridgefield.)