The idea, nay, the near worship of diners is enshrined in our collective cultural conscience. The reality, alas, is almost never that clean, well-lighted place where you get decent grub for cheap; it’s more the absurdly overpriced faux diners with made-in-China nifty-’50s memorabilia or the down-at-the heels greasy spoons where the coffee tastes like battery acid and cigarette burns adorn the Formica tabletop. Thankfully, the Overlea Diner is an actual vintage dining car offering excellent, if basic, fare in sparkling clean surroundings. There is nothing the least bit ironic about the Overlea; the guys at the counter wearing the gas-station jackets wear ’em because that’s where they work, hon.
Breakfast is precisely as it should be: served all day, with good fresh coffee arriving in frequent refills at the hand of a pleasant waitress. Platter-sized buttermilk pancakes are fluffy yet have crisp, golden brown edges ($4 for three) and just beg to be drenched with syrup. Two eggs with toast and exemplary home fries—more crisp golden brown goodness if you ask for ’em well done—are a steal at $2.95. The Overlea also slings the best hash (corned beef, that is, $3.95) we’ve had in ages. And though it’s probably wrong to drink a milk shake with breakfast, even if that breakfast is at 2 in the afternoon, the Overlea’s thick frothy shakes ($2.75) should not be missed.