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Oh diner, my diner, where have you gone? Once filled with late-night eats on what seemed like every corner, Philadelphia has become a city that feels like it has an 11 p.m. curfew.
The Melrose Diner is no longer 24/7, but the news that it’s potentially slated for demolition has many reminiscing over the South Philly favorite’s heyday, when it was open around the clock and people were seated next to whomever was at a table with open spots.
Overall, Philly’s 24-hour diner culture has been on its deathbed for almost a decade. Things got serious in 2014 when Little Pete’s, the longtime Center City hole in the wall, was slated for demolition and turned into a boutique hotel.
Two years later, the Mugshot Diner, now the Fishtown Diner, underwent a $50k revamp which also meant switching from 24/7 hours to a 7 to 11 schedule. In 2017, The Dining Car began its transition, first ending the all-hours service, then bringing it back for weekends only, then dialing things back during the pandemic to its current daytime-only service. The South Street Diner now also operates only in the daytime. In 2020, Midtown III closed amid the pandemic, as did the City Diner at Broad and South Streets.
Where can night owls get their fix? We found a handful of restaurants around Philadelphia keeping the 24-hour diner experience alive.
2811 Cottman Ave. (Northeast)
Not to be confused with the hotel (or the landscaping company), this spot has been a Northeast staple for the past 15 years. Classics are the most popular items; eggs, cinnamon french toast, golden brown pancakes. The kitchen also offers cheesesteaks, everything from plain to pizza steak.
Sandwiches are what sets this restaurant apart. From bagel melts to lox platters, and clubs to hoagies, there’s lots on the menu.
8445 Frankford Avenue (Mayfair)
Owner Halil Ceylan has been in the restaurant business for 25 years. After leaving Turkey to come to the U.S., he opened his Mayfair venture in 2004 with the philosophy of “big portions, fresh ingredients, and everything made to order,” according to the diner’s website. The restaurant’s signature dish is “Sweet Cracker Chicken,” a boneless cutlet breaded in crushed Ritz and topped with a white lemon sauce.
For the seafood fanatics, Liberty Bell has about every fish in the sea; flounder, salmon, bluefish, bass, trout, and tilapia. If there’s room for dessert, the diner also makes handmade cakes and pies. You’ll also find water ice on offer
240 W. Chester Pike (Ridley Park)
Just outside the city by Philadelphia International Airport, this classic diner has plenty of meat on the menu from scrapple to sausage in gravy to country fried steak.
Sandwich combos are plentiful, along with giant salads and Italian platters. Follow the meaty theme with the Big Pig Porker — BBQ pulled pork topped gratuitously with bacon — or go the opposite direction with the Kennett Square portabella mushroom burger.
95 E. Township Line Rd., Upper Darby
Made famous by its role in “Silver Linings Playbook,” this old-school diner has been through a lot, including a fire that closed it for several months last year. A couple miles west of the 69th Street Transportation Center, the dining room has plenty of stools and tables to choose from — but if you’re lucky, you’ll get the one where Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence ate.
The menu is appropriately gigantic, including dozens of omelets, Belgian waffles, salads, sandwiches, cakes, and steaks.