The authors of this book mainly discuss “prefab diners,” which they define as “those buildings that were built in a factory and moved to the point of operation.” From lunch wagons to coffeehouses to the modern conception of a diner, the authors seek to take their readers on a historic and architectural journey.
Several diners are located right here in the Salt City, including Doc’s Little Gem Diner, 832 Spencer St. The authors discuss the changes that have taken place at this small eatery since it first opened in 1958, all the while retaining its stainless steel exterior, the classic diner look, if you will. Engle and Monti also mention the Miss Syracuse Diner, 258 E. Water St. After briefly describing its different owners and providing accurate directions for readers to locate it, the authors note that “at this writing, the diner is closed and for rent” although they re-opened under new management on Dec. 1, 2008, and continue to serve some good-old American fare daily.
Locally, there is also a brief mention of Serpico’s Diner, 913 Wolf St. (the original location of Stella’s, which is now at 110 Wolf St.). Although the authors do not provide any information about their history, the Valley Diner, 4710 S. Salina St., and West Side Diner, 900 Erie Blvd. W. are included in the “diner directory” at the end of the book.
As for Troy resident Engle’s motivation, it was purely historical. “When you go into a diner and you see people working there, you might not know it, but someone might have been working there for 30 years,” he said. “It’s fascinating to know the history.”
Engle, who also operates the Web site www.nydiners.com, will appear at the Little Gem on Monday, Aug. 24, 6 p.m. He will sign books, present a slideshow and discuss the evolution of diners over the years. He welcomes other diner enthusiasts to come and share their stories of eateries they have visited, in Syracuse and beyond. Engle hopes that those who read the book may “remember some of the diners they visited during their childhood. I also hope that when people are traveling, they’ll try different places and try places that the locals really like.”
Books will be available for purchase at the book signing. For more information, call 422-1686.