The best diners around the Midwest can often be found in a hole in the wall. These locally owned establishments are known for their hospitality, tasty food, and smaller buildings. They may not have the most up-to-date paint color on the outside, but you will find a tasty meal on the inside. Each one of these hole-in-the-wall diners has something special to offer. Make it a point to try at least one of these diners. Belly up to the bar or place your order at the to-go window.
Plan on a little grease, memories, and an affordable meal when you dine at these Midwest diners. I love the fact that one of these diners is not your typical hole-in-the-wall diner, as they are serving up Italian food instead.
Schmucker’s has been a part of Toledo since 1948. Enjoy fresh-cut fries, a homemade slice of pie, and a burger that is hard to beat. Sit on one of the original 12 chrome stools at the lunch counter, with insight into this family-run business. You will not only have a hot meal but an opportunity to observe how everything falls into place. Your server will answer all of your questions and make sure that you are happy with your meal. I enjoyed the Wimpy Burger Platter, and many around me indulged in the popular Hot Roast Beef Sandwich. Each item on the menu is served up fresh with a smile. Your server will deliver a handwritten tab for you to pay your bill. The small, intimate dining experience is a staple in Toledo, and it’s an experience that you need to enjoy while in town.
Fort Wayne, Indiana
Coney Island is located on Main Street in Fort Wayne and is a staple in the community. The menu has remained simple for more than one hundred years. It’s not uncommon for them to sell two thousand hot dogs with onions daily. When you stroll by the diner, look through the window, and see the neatly lined rows of hot dogs cooking over the grill. It is not only the place to get a hot dog in Fort Wayne, but it’s also the oldest operating restaurant in town. Plan your day while strolling Downtown Fort Wayne with a stop in this diner. Any time is a good time for a hot dog when Coney Island is nearby.
Canteen Lunch In The Alley
This hole-in-the-wall diner proudly houses 17 stools around a horseshoe counter. You need to order the Canteen when you dine here, which is a loose meat sandwich sprinkled with love. On an average day, 150 pounds of hamburger are served at the diner. Save room for homemade pie. More than 50 pies, on average, are served up each week. You can order pie by the slice or a whole one for the road. The World Championship Canteen Eating Contest is an annual event with participants from all around. The winner of one of these contests ate 28 1/2 sandwiches in 10 minutes; can you imagine? Make time to explore the art district around this diner. Ottumwa has an up-and-coming art scene that is beginning to be noticed by many.
Azzolina’s Hole In The Wall
Clear Lake, Iowa
Azzolina’s Hole In The Wall is located on Main Avenue in Clear Lake, Iowa. This is not your typical hole-in-the-wall diner, as they do not serve up burgers. It’s known for its Italian flare consisting of pizza and spaghetti with a secret family recipe. This restaurant is small, and if you blink, you might miss this hole-in-the-wall on Main Avenue. You can order your meal to go or call ahead to reserve a table for dine-in service. If you are looking for affordable comfort food, this hole-in-the-wall destination is for you. With seating for up to 15 people, you will want to plan ahead. Order your pizza to go and enjoy it while watching the sunset at the SeaWall in downtown Clear Lake.
This award-winning hole-in-the-wall offers six stools around the kitchen at the Cozy Inn in Salina. The cooks have been serving up cozy burgers since 1922. The menu is simple as it includes sliders, which are burgers griddled with onions. And yes, you will smell like an onion when you leave. Order a single or double Cozy and grab a bag of chips. For a larger group, you can order anywhere from six to 36 burgers. If you don’t want to smell like a full onion, order at the window.
Red Rooster Cafe
Mineral Point, Wisconsin
The Red Rooster Cafe is located in downtown Mineral Point. I would suggest that you order the Cornish pasty made of potatoes, rutabagas, onion, cubed steak, and seasonings. The Cornish pasty is then baked between pastry crusts for your enjoyment. If you fall in love with this dish, order one to go, as you will be glad you did. They have been serving homemade meals since 1972. And of course, they have pie. This diner is known for its traditions, and it will not disappoint. If you need a reason to travel to Wisconsin, the pasty may be your reason to hop in the car.
You will have an attentive waitress who will be glad to answer any questions about the menu. If the Cornish pasty does not interest you, there is nothing to worry about. They also serve fried chicken, taco salads, fried ham, and even pancakes for breakfast. This hole-in-the-wall spot is sure to be fun and memorable.
Cozy Dog Drive In
The Cozy Dog Drive In is on Route 66 in Springfield. It is the home of the “Original” hot dog on a stick, dipped in batter and fried. The Cozy Dog Drive In has been a staple in Springfield since 1949. The recipe has not changed over the years, as the owners have held to their brand. Dining here is an experience in itself, as Route 66 is highlighted throughout the diner. Breakfast is available, and they serve the traditional breakfast of eggs, bacon, and pancakes. Lunch and dinner bring Cozy Dogs, hamburgers, barbecue sandwiches, and onion rings to the menu. Anytime you dine at the Cozy Dog, you need to order a Cozy Dog to say you dined there.
The White Grill has become a favorite stop of ours when traveling I-49 through Missouri. They have been serving the best burgers in the area for more than 80 years. The nostalgia and tasty food will leave your mouth watering for more. The tenderloins are also popular, and you must order the Suzy Q’s to accompany your sandwich. These specially made fries will be your new favorite french fry. If you are in the mood for a chocolate shake, you can also add one of those to your order. I would agree with President Harry S. Truman. He called their burger “the best damn burger I’ve ever had.” That in itself speaks volumes to this fun diner that you will want to seek out.
When you dine at any one of these hole-in-the-wall diners, you will find something special. Each establishment is run by people who are passionate about what they do. They all want you to have the meal of a lifetime. It is their hope that you will tell all of their friends about the experience you had when dining with them. These diners are sometimes hard to find, as they are often hidden between other businesses that have recognizable names.
Each of these diners is made up of a passion for people and food. You will become family when you dine in these places. There’s a good chance that when you return for another meal, one of the employees will remember your name. That’s what makes these hole-in-the-wall diners shine above the competition. You not only become friends, but you also have the opportunity for a fun dining experience. Take home some memorabilia from each of these diners. This will remind you of the fun you had here and allow you to share your experience with others.