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A spread at Rooster Soup Co.
Rooster Soup Co. [official photo]

A Guide to Philly’s Essential Diners

For breakfast, late night, and everything in between

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A spread at Rooster Soup Co.
| Rooster Soup Co. [official photo]

Sometimes you want the trendiest meal of the given moment, and other times you just want a western omelet, a bottomless cup of coffee, and a slice of pie, at whatever hour of morning or night. When the latter is what you’re after, stop in to one of Philadelphia’s original brunch spots: a diner.

Behold, a comprehensive map of Philly’s diner greats — places that inspire loyalty and memories, no matter how foggy those memories may be.

Note that Philly isn’t really a 24-hour kind of town, so most of these diners do close at some point every day. They’re listed geographically, sweeping west to east, starting with the legendary Llanerch Diner in Upper Darby.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

Llanerch Diner

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“Slow down, Raisin Bran,” was the iconic line of the Llanerch Diner server to Bradley Cooper’s character in Silver Linings Playbook as he nearly dined-and-dashed on his check while pursuing Jennifer Lawrence, who had just stormed out. Academy Award nominations or not, the Llanerch is well loved for its 24/7 service, its coffee, and its generous breakfasts, only a few of which are Raisin Bran.

Bob's Diner

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A charming little red, white, and stainless steel diner open since 1935, Bob’s Diner sits perched on Ridge Avenue at Lyceum at the top of Roxborough. In this cute little shoebox of a place, settle in to one of the handful of small booths or at the long counter. Don’t miss the Bob Muffin, a sausage and cheese breakfast sandwich on an English muffin, or a slice of the house-made cakes or pies. The menu is manageably sized, and the staff at Bob’s is incredibly friendly and warm.

Trolley Car Diner

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Named for the Route 23 trolley car, which ran along Germantown Avenue for years, the Trolley Car Diner opened in 2000. Located just on the edge between Mount Airy and Chestnut Hill, the Trolley Car Diner is both an actual restored 1948 trolley car — converted into a full-service ice cream shop — as well as an adjacent restaurant complete with awesome doughnuts and a walk-in mix-a-six beer shop. Stop by the original location or the Trolley Car Cafe in East Falls.

Penrose Diner

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Deep in South Philly, just off of 76 and Packer Avenue, the Penrose draws both pre- and post-game crowds from Philly’s stadiums. The menu is exhaustive, combining every diner genre imaginable — including a stunning array of baked goods — in a roomy space.

Little Pete's

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Nothing can replace dearly departed Little Pete’s in Rittenhouse, but Little Pete’s in The Philadelphian, by the Philadelphia Museum of Art, might help scratch an itch. What it lacks in gritty, late-night gruffness it makes up for with a charming outdoor patio and a menu of classics that delivers.

Melrose Diner

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“Everybody who knows goes to the Melrose,” is the jingle for this neon-lit diner on West Passyunk Avenue, a favorite among South Philadelphians. It’s a sprawling place with giant, semi-circular booths that force patrons to sit face to face where conversation can’t help but ensue. Open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, Melrose caters to every craving with a wide range of dishes — chocolate chip pancakes, patty melts, chicken marsala, cheesesteaks, and much more. Save room for dessert: The cheesecake, warm apple pie with vanilla sauce, and butter cookies are all legendary.

Midtown III Restaurant

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Midtown was once a Philadelphia diner dynasty with four locations dotted around Center City. Rising rents and a changing landscape means that only one remains, the Midtown III at 18th and Market. A classic greasy spoon with a Disco-era vibe, it feels retro because it is retro — a piece of Philly history worth hanging on to.

Rooster Soup Co.

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It looks like a diner — stainless steel, red neon, and round bar stools — and the menu reads like a diner menu, with soups, salads, sandwiches, and retro desserts, but Rooster Soup Co. is a postmodern diner fantasy from Mike Solomonov and Steve Cook. Go for smoked matzo ball soup or a fried whitefish sandwich, followed by a slice of pie. Adding to the appeal, all of the profits at Rooster Soup Co. go to help Philadelphians in need through the Broad Street Hospitality Collaborative.

Tommy Baboon

Broad Street Diner

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A red, white, and blue beacon glowing through one 24-hour stretch after another, Broad Street Diner is ideally situated to catch a crowd after late-night shenanigans. This city stalwart was bought by new owners and refurbished in 2011. While it may not have the throwback charm of a few others on this list as a result, it does have a robust menu of diner standards available any hour of the day or night.

City Diner & Cocktail Bar

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This is the clean, shiny, Center City version of a diner. It might not have the soul (or the from-scratch baked goods) of others on this list, but one could do far worse than City Diner when it comes to location and proximity to public transit. Plus, it’s open 24 hours on Friday and Saturdays.

Down Home Diner

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Down Home Diner, on the Filbert Street side of Reading Terminal Market, serves rib-sticking food like corn hoecakes with turkey sausage or cast iron fried chicken. It also happens to be one of the few eateries at Reading Terminal with booth seating, so for those who need a break from the busyness of the market, Down Home is a good bet.

Dutch Eating Place

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Head over to the Arch Street side of Reading Terminal Market and grab a stool in front of the U-shaped counter at Dutch Eating Place for warm apple dumplings with cream, fat stacks of blueberry pancakes, fresh-cut fries, pork and sauerkraut, and Pennsylvania Dutch-style chicken pot pie (which is more stew than pie).

Middle Child

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This hip breakfast and lunch spot is less a diner and more a diner-inspired cafe serving professional chef versions of classics like egg and cheese sandwiches, Italian hoagies, and grilled cheese with tomato soup. Plus, owner Matthew Cahn was so in love with Little Pete’s in Rittenhouse that when it closed he got his hands on a piece of the original floor. It hangs, framed, on the wall.

Sam’s Morning Glory Diner

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A longtime Bella Vista favorite, Sam’s Morning Glory Diner serves restaurant-quality breakfast, brunch, and lunch food at diner prices. Think warm buttermilk biscuits, fresh-squeezed orange juice, homemade ketchup, hot coffee served in stainless steel mugs, and a daily menu of creatively named specials. It’s also a better option for vegans than most diners, thanks to a daily tofu scramble.

Oregon Diner

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Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, Oregon Diner is open and serving plates of 2+2+2+2. That’s two eggs, two strips of bacon, two sausage links, and two hot cakes or slices of french toast. Or go for the Oregon Special Egg-el: a bagel with melted cheese, a fried egg, and a disk of Canadian bacon. Need to feed a crowd before or after an event at one of the stadiums? Party rooms are available.

Silk City

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Silk City is an unusual hybrid of classic diner, neighborhood bar, nightclub, and outdoor beer garden. The diner/bar part is housed in a 1950s dining car, with the attached nightclub to one side and the big, colorful beer garden on the other. Food service starts at 10 a.m. with a seven-day-a-week brunch menu, which transitions into a sandwich-heavy dinner menu.

South Street Diner

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Where does one go after a show at the TLA? The South Street Diner. What to order? If it’s late night and greasy sustenance is called for, go for a hoagie, an omelet, or a mushroom and cheddar burger on a pretzel roll. Daytime? Opt for the selection of Greek specialties: grape leaves, spanikopita, or the fried halloumi appetizer with oregano, tomato, cucumber, and kalamata olives. The gyro sliders and the Greek sampler, which features moussaka, are also good options.

Country Club Diner

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The Country Club Diner in Northeast Philly’s Rawnhurst section excels at serving up Jewish specialties. Go for a breakfast platter of whitefish salad or nova lox, a cheese blintz, or the Dairy Sample Plate, which is a blintz, a potato pancake, a potato knish, and a serving of sweet noodle kugel with sour cream.

Mayfair Diner

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Though everybody in the Northeast has their diner loyalties, the Mayfair is arguably the best known. Big, efficient, and open 24/7, this is the place to go on Frankford Avenue when you have a crowd to feed.

The Dining Car

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So often, diners have nearly identical menus. The thing that makes one stand out from another is their specialties. At the Dining Car in Torresdale, the chicken croquettes are good, and the French onion soup is a solid choice, but the best part, hands-down, is the bakery: thick slices of Jewish apple cake, Fat Elvis cake, cheesecake, pies, and cookies by the pound. Definitely save room.

Llanerch Diner

“Slow down, Raisin Bran,” was the iconic line of the Llanerch Diner server to Bradley Cooper’s character in Silver Linings Playbook as he nearly dined-and-dashed on his check while pursuing Jennifer Lawrence, who had just stormed out. Academy Award nominations or not, the Llanerch is well loved for its 24/7 service, its coffee, and its generous breakfasts, only a few of which are Raisin Bran.

Bob's Diner

A charming little red, white, and stainless steel diner open since 1935, Bob’s Diner sits perched on Ridge Avenue at Lyceum at the top of Roxborough. In this cute little shoebox of a place, settle in to one of the handful of small booths or at the long counter. Don’t miss the Bob Muffin, a sausage and cheese breakfast sandwich on an English muffin, or a slice of the house-made cakes or pies. The menu is manageably sized, and the staff at Bob’s is incredibly friendly and warm.

Trolley Car Diner

Named for the Route 23 trolley car, which ran along Germantown Avenue for years, the Trolley Car Diner opened in 2000. Located just on the edge between Mount Airy and Chestnut Hill, the Trolley Car Diner is both an actual restored 1948 trolley car — converted into a full-service ice cream shop — as well as an adjacent restaurant complete with awesome doughnuts and a walk-in mix-a-six beer shop. Stop by the original location or the Trolley Car Cafe in East Falls.

Penrose Diner

Deep in South Philly, just off of 76 and Packer Avenue, the Penrose draws both pre- and post-game crowds from Philly’s stadiums. The menu is exhaustive, combining every diner genre imaginable — including a stunning array of baked goods — in a roomy space.

Little Pete's

Nothing can replace dearly departed Little Pete’s in Rittenhouse, but Little Pete’s in The Philadelphian, by the Philadelphia Museum of Art, might help scratch an itch. What it lacks in gritty, late-night gruffness it makes up for with a charming outdoor patio and a menu of classics that delivers.

Melrose Diner

“Everybody who knows goes to the Melrose,” is the jingle for this neon-lit diner on West Passyunk Avenue, a favorite among South Philadelphians. It’s a sprawling place with giant, semi-circular booths that force patrons to sit face to face where conversation can’t help but ensue. Open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, Melrose caters to every craving with a wide range of dishes — chocolate chip pancakes, patty melts, chicken marsala, cheesesteaks, and much more. Save room for dessert: The cheesecake, warm apple pie with vanilla sauce, and butter cookies are all legendary.

Midtown III Restaurant

Midtown was once a Philadelphia diner dynasty with four locations dotted around Center City. Rising rents and a changing landscape means that only one remains, the Midtown III at 18th and Market. A classic greasy spoon with a Disco-era vibe, it feels retro because it is retro — a piece of Philly history worth hanging on to.

Rooster Soup Co.

Tommy Baboon

It looks like a diner — stainless steel, red neon, and round bar stools — and the menu reads like a diner menu, with soups, salads, sandwiches, and retro desserts, but Rooster Soup Co. is a postmodern diner fantasy from Mike Solomonov and Steve Cook. Go for smoked matzo ball soup or a fried whitefish sandwich, followed by a slice of pie. Adding to the appeal, all of the profits at Rooster Soup Co. go to help Philadelphians in need through the Broad Street Hospitality Collaborative.

Tommy Baboon

Broad Street Diner

A red, white, and blue beacon glowing through one 24-hour stretch after another, Broad Street Diner is ideally situated to catch a crowd after late-night shenanigans. This city stalwart was bought by new owners and refurbished in 2011. While it may not have the throwback charm of a few others on this list as a result, it does have a robust menu of diner standards available any hour of the day or night.

City Diner & Cocktail Bar

This is the clean, shiny, Center City version of a diner. It might not have the soul (or the from-scratch baked goods) of others on this list, but one could do far worse than City Diner when it comes to location and proximity to public transit. Plus, it’s open 24 hours on Friday and Saturdays.

Down Home Diner

Down Home Diner, on the Filbert Street side of Reading Terminal Market, serves rib-sticking food like corn hoecakes with turkey sausage or cast iron fried chicken. It also happens to be one of the few eateries at Reading Terminal with booth seating, so for those who need a break from the busyness of the market, Down Home is a good bet.

Dutch Eating Place