Most Iconic Diner Chains In The United States

By Doug Norrie | Published

Best Diner Chains In The US

When it comes to diner chains, folks certainly have their favorites and go-to’s. Some have been operating for more than 50 years, offering bits of nostalgia along with reasonably-priced food. As we did with burger chains, pizza chains, and even coffee establishments, here we’ve ranked the best diner chains in the US.

7. Shoney's

Shoney’s is the smallest chain on this list when it comes to the number of locations, but those who love it keep going back. Known for its Southern-style dishes, and more importantly, its full buffet, the diner has been something of a staple for decades now. Folks love the affordability (something of a theme with these diner chains) and the atmosphere is solid. They just don’t have the same reach as others on this rankings list.

6. Perkins Restaurant & Bakery

Nothing like combing a diner with a bakery for the perfect breakfast, lunch, and even dinner option. Perkins has been around since 1958 and has grown to close to 300 locations throughout the United States. Super reliable with a consistency across all of its chains, the diner has maintained a homey feel even through its expansion. 

5. Johnny Rockets

When you think of diners, it’s easy to think of the 1950s. So stepping into a Johnny Rockets feels just right. It’s almost like you are going back in time, and that’s kind of the point. The diner chain has the typical sampling of diner fare with burgers, milkshakes, and the like. But you’ll also get jukeboxes, color schemes, and an atmosphere that feels like a time capsule. It’s really the full diner experience. 

4. Bob's Big Boy

Of all the diner chains, Bob’s Big Boy might have the best mascot. That well-coiffed dude holding the burger high above his head just makes you want to stop in and pull up a stool. The diner chain has been around for almost 90 years now and is best known for the Big Boy Double-Decker. While not nearly the number of locations as some on this list, the branding and atmosphere rank right up there.


We know it briefly changed to IHOb, but it would always be just so tough to get that original name out of the diner brain space. The original IHOP (International House of Pancakes) was founded in 1958 and has grown to more than 1,800 locations. Sure, the pancakes are what first put it on the diner map (it’s in the name after all), but the menu has grown over the years to include offerings for meals throughout the day. The “P” had a short respite when it was replaced with a “b” for its burgers, but this place knows where its stacks are buttered.

2. Waffle House

Looking for a meal pretty much any time of day? Waffle House has you covered there and they’ve been doing it for the better part of 80 years now. Waffles are in the name, so no worries there. But they also serve up hash browns which satisfy the early morning (or late night) cravings. There are more than 2,000 locations throughout the United States and there’s a reason they’ve grown to be the biggest diner chain out there.

1. Denny's

While they might not have the most locations, the name Denny’s likely rings out the loudest in terms of US diner chains. It even called itself “America’s Diner” in a solid branding move that’s helped it become one of the best known out there. There’s the Grand Slam breakfast which has been a menu staple for decades and who doesn’t love a good Moons Over My Hammy?