Like the American road trip, the old-school diner is making a comeback. Indeed, a recent spate of updated diners celebrates Americana through modern interiors while maintaining a respectful eye for the past. Consider Bandits in New York. Den Hospitality’s latest is a diner-dive bar hybrid designed by local firm Yakka Studio that is informed by 1970s New York diners. Think padded swivel stools, dark wood paneling, black and white floor tiles, and a green-carpeted wall.
Adding to that narrative is the recently opened Hilda and Jesse in San Francisco, where cofounders chef Kristina Liedags Compton and Rachel Sillcocks tapped Noz Nozawa of local firm Noz Design to craft an ode to the retro diners of the 1950s with a color palette of pastel pink, aqua, and red. In addition to playful striped walls, two-tone tufted banquettes, and hanging pendant lights, Nozawa capitalized on the natural light that pours in from the restaurant’s wraparound windows. “I wanted to bring to life an interpretation of the iconic diner that felt retro nouveau,” says Nozawa, “one where you walk in and feel the nostalgia, but also the energy of the space as distinctly contemporary and quirky.”
For its take on the classic eatery, New York firm Parts and Labor Design leaned into the familiarity of the setting with the midcentury modern Tops Diner in East Newark, New Jersey. “We want guests to feel like family, first and foremost,” says firm principal Jeremy Levitt. Terrazzo flooring features a contemporary geometric pattern that appears throughout the space, while white oak adds warmth to the palette of blue, burgundy, and cream. To contribute to the Art Deco vibe, brushed nickel and stainless steel are placed strategically against high-gloss black and blue surfaces “We also drew from the family’s pride in service and their menu,” says Levitt. “We wanted to create a well-rounded and elevated diner experience that is reflected in the quality of the design.”
This article originally appeared in HD’s December 2021 issue.