Shiny new diners are emerging all the time, but it’s comforting to reach for our touchstones, the sorts of places that started as a dining car with a flattop, a lowboy, and no prep kitchen. Here, plain and perfect burgers, pancakes, and eggs reign supreme, and the closest non-iceberg lettuce leaf is growing in a neighbor’s garden. “I had five stools and two tables, and we all drank coffee, and everybody was smoking everywhere. It was that kind of a place,” says chef and owner Brad Ptacek, musing on his early days at the Band Box back in the late ’90s. Ptacek bought the Band Box as a way out of being a cheffy-chef, but his chef chops are as honed as ever, they just get applied to Sloppy Bros (beef chopped, slopped, and cheesed), and “monster omelets” that seem to contain the innards of several other omelets. Ptacek has been wielding the spatulas for almost 20 years, and the Band Box was first born 50 years prior to that. “Turning grease into a feast for over 70 years” is the Band Box tagline, and “grease magician” is Ptacek’s official title. Go and taste the magic.
Readers’ Choice: Mickey’s Diner