By the mid 19th century, Edward Everett was at the apex of his oratorical career. Well known as an educator and politician Everett was bestowed the honour of “Featured speaker” at the Consecration of the National Cemetery at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Everett’s speech would last just over two hours. Charged with the task of following Everett, President Abraham Lincoln would say “A few appropriate remarks” in officially dedicating the cemetery. Lincoln spoke but a couple minutes and retook his seat. Feeling his address was a “Total failure” the President is said to comment that, like a bad plow, his words “Won’t scour.”
The following day in a letter to the President, Everett would pass along the greatest of compliments. “I should be glad if I could flatter myself that I came as near to the central idea of the occasion, in two hours, as you did in two minutes" he would write.
The president was in Gettysburg for only 24 hours. He arrived the night before and spent the night at the Willis house as a guest of David Wills. A local lawyer and the man responsible for the creation of the cemetery. It’s unknown where he took his meals but if his namesake diner was around back then, he’d have done a lot worse than to have eaten there.Located just north of Lincoln Square and directly across the street from the very train station that began and ended Lincoln’s time in Gettysburg the Lincoln Diner gleams. The polished stainless steel and neon eatery is a shining example of the great American diner.
Inside, like all diners there’s counter service and booths along the windows. The colours are those of a different era and like most diners now, its had a large dining room added.
Diner’s first appeared around the turn of the last century in the guise of lunch wagons. Eventually the Worcester Lunch Car Company would sell lunch wagons with seating all over New England.
The Jerry O’Mahoney Diner Company would build about 2,000 “Rail car” style diners between 1917 and 1952 with about 20 still remaining. They’re often credited with having created the first diner.
Prefabricated buildings would follow with more seating and still allow proprietors to set up a food service building cheaply.
While the depression of the 30’s would be hard on the industry the diner more or less held its own selling meals at more affordable prices than other restaurants. With the end of WWII and a return to prosperity the diner thrived.
Like many good things though, the diner suffered from the advent of the Interstate system and the proliferation of the fast food chain. They remain a part of American pop culture occupying their own special niche. Their menu and (mostly) Art Deco style seem to transcend time.Among the many things diners are noted for is their desert case. A great diner will have it’s own bakery and a glass “trophy” case in which to display its wares. The Lincoln Diner is no exception. Their desert case was chock full of tantalizing treats. Sadly we were both too full to partake. Perhaps next time.So enough of the history lessons and let’s have a look at the food shall we??
We both ordered off the specials board with chicken croquettes and baked mac and cheese with ham. She had a side of mac and cheese and I had cucumber salad and we split the corn fritters.
Even from the picture you can tell the mac and cheese was kinda dry and pasty. It tasted okay and was certainly helped where some juice from the ham dripped on it. Which brings me to said pig product. It was great. Not too salty and a little smokier than most. I think I’d have preferred one thicker piece rather than two thinner pieces but that’s just splitting hairs.The accompanying cucumber salad was great. More or less sliced cucumbers in a creamy slaw dressing. I used the dinner roll to soak up as much dressing as it would hold. I really liked it and it’s caused me to make cucumber salad at home now.Mrs. Sippi’s chicken croquets were very tasty. She’d never had them and I hadn’t in years so we don’t really know how good they were. Other than we enjoyed them.The corn fritters tasted exactly as my mom used to make but with one significant difference. These were tossed in some sort of breading. I didn’t much care for that part so all in all I’d say good but could’ve been great.
You can visit the Lincoln Diner at 32 Carlisle St. in historic Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.
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