Coffee shops and diners are located in towns and cities, airports and stations. They offer a wide menu of standard American food like steaks, fish, poultry, hamburgers, breakfast items, salads and, sometimes, ethnic specialties. Some may serve alcoholic beverages, beer and wine, but many do not. Dress is quite casual.
The term “coffee shop,” as used here, came into regular usage in the era before specialized coffeehouses such as Starbucks became widely popular. We use the term here to indicate a casual, low-priced restaurant. The term “diner” often has the same meaning, although many diners are distinctive in appearance. Our chapter on American food looks into the diner as a cultural phenomenon in greater detail.
A good number of these restaurants allow you to sit informally on a stool at a counter. The server, who might also be the owner or cook in a small restaurant, takes your order and serves you right there. Some have table service, as in other restaurants, in which a server takes and delivers your order. At others, you order at a counter or separate ordering station then either pick up a tray of food yourself or bring a large printed number to display on your table so a server can find you.
In many areas, especially in large cities, these types of restaurants stay open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
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