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Situated in western Maryland in rugged Alleghany County, you can definitely get your nickel’s worth at Penny’s Diner in LaVale, just outside Cumberland. For 24 hours a day, diner aficionados can get everything from hand-dipped milk shakes to a classic American breakfast, lunch, and dinner--all in a 1950s-style diner that just happened to be built in 1997.

Though it just five years ago, the shining silver diner is a ‘pre-fab’ model that has all the makings of the real thing: 50s and 60s memorabilia; lots of neon (including the jukebox); black-and-white checkered floor; and, or course, a traditional soda fountain that serves those black cows and lots more.

The menu at Penny’s matches the decor, with specialties including chili, hamburgers, chicken-fried steak, and several daily soup and entree specials. Breakfast is busy, as ‘skillet’ breakfasts compete with local gossip over hot coffee.

All of the food is served by waitresses clad in blue jeans and Penny’s T-shirts, with most wearing their hair up in a scarf, 50s-style. One of the waitresses, Helen Twigg, is a local favorite (some only come when she’s there). With a permanent smile on her face, Helen’s been there since they opened, singing along to the juke box and serving her loyal customers in friendly 50s fashion.

Penny’s Diner plays host to an annual ‘cruise-in’ of antique cars each July, with more than 150 autos from the 50s and 60s (‘57 Chevys are especially popular). There’s a DJ playing appropriate tunes from that time, as well as visitors doing the jitterbug or trying their hips out with a Hula Hoop!

The popular diner is located adjacent to the Oak Tree Inn, making it easy for diner devotees to enjoy several meals there. The friendly inn has spacious rooms that feature little extras, like a microwave oven and coffee maker--but who needs these when Penny’s Diner is right next door!

Penny’s Diner
12310 Winchester Road, SW
LaVale, MD 21502
301-729-6700, ext. 450


When folks head to Fender’s Diner in the Blue Ridge foothills town of Cornelia, Georgia, they’re transported back to the 1950s. From the 50s-style interior that includes antique fixtures to an operating soda fountain, along with 50s music and waitresses roaming the diner in blue jeans and Fender’s T-shirts, this is a diner that’s forever 50s, even if it didn’t even open until the mid-90s.

Owner Bradley Cook, who bought the diner a week after the World Trade Center attacks, says locals and tourists alike come to relive an earlier decade--but they return for the great food. The lunch and dinner menus include diner favorites like the ‘Big Bopper’ hamburger, sweet potato fries, fried green tomatoes, and lots of daily specials (served with several veggies, of course).

Cook adds that, though the menu prices aren’t quite as low as the 50s, they’re certainly from an earlier century. He says dessert from the soda fountain are also popular, with old-fashioned sundaes, milk shakes, and banana splits beckoning already-full patrons.

The eight ‘cruise-ins’ each year are another unique thing about Fender’s, with more than 200 antique cars (including many 50s classics) strutting their stuff in the diner’s parking lot. In true Mayberry-like fashion, Cook says Cornelia’s city fathers help out by closing the streets and assisting with traffic. It’s easy to picture Barney Fife out front, directing cars in between bites of a Big Bopper.

Fender’s Diner
631 Irvin St.
Cornelia, GA 30531