BY PHILIP WHEELER The history of the American Diner is long and storied, and the residents of Port Clinton can lay claim to their share of the venerable tale. The Tin Goose diner is situated at the Erie-Ottawa International Airport (PCW), and connected to the Liberty Aviation Museum.
Entrance to the diner is through the museum’s main doors, or by the diner’s back patio for those arriving by air, mostly in small airplanes.
A traditional American Diner is a small restaurant found predominantly in the Northeastern United States and Midwestern United States. The iconic diners offer a wide range of food, mostly American cuisine, and a casual atmosphere. Characteristically, they feature a combination of booths served by a waitstaff and a long sit-down counter.
The breakfast, lunch and dinner fare at The Tin Goose is homestyle. Visitors can enjoy a dining experience with top-flight food and pleasant and quick service, all while being surrounded by memorable historic surroundings.
The menu has all the favorites, from breakfasts such as the Aviator — just $3.75 for two eggs served any style with toast and house potatoes — to omelets, french toast, and hot cakes.
For lunch, hamburgers like the Belly Bomber, a half-pound burger with grilled German bologna, bacon, sautéed onions and pepper jack cheese, is about $13. You get chips on the side. At dinner, you can chow down on the Clark Gable, an eight ounce prime rib, with choice of potato and vegetable of the day, for only $13.50.
The meals are delicious and plentiful, and all proceeds from the diner help fund the operation of the Liberty Aviation Museum, home to the B-25J Georgie’s Gal, the Island Airlines Tri-Motor restoration, and a current WWII PT boat restoration of the PT-728 Thomcat.
After you enjoy your meal, you can tour the unique Liberty Aviation Museum. Admission is $10 for adults, $8 for children 6 and up. Children 5 and under are admitted free. There is an $8 discount admission for seniors 65 and over, veterans and active military, and adult AAA members.
Winter hours are Sunday from 7 a.m.-5 p.m.; Thursday through Saturday from 7 a.m.-7 p.m. They’re closed on Monday through Wednesday.
The origins of the diner can be traced to Walter Scott, a part-time pressman and type compositor in Providence, Rhode Island. Around 1858, when Scott was 17 years old, he supplemented his income by selling sandwiches and coffee from a basket to newspaper night workers and patrons of men’s club rooms.
In 1872, Scott sold food out of a horse-pulled wagon to employees of the Providence Journal in Rhode Island. Scott’s diner can be considered the first diner with walk-up service, as it had windows on each side of the wagon.
Commercial production of lunch wagons began in Worcester, Mass., in 1887, by Thomas Buckley. Buckley became known for his “White House Cafe” wagons. Charles Palmer received the first patent for the diner in 1893, which he billed as a “Night-Lunch Wagon.”
The American Diner was a home away from home for many Americans. Often open 24 hours a day, the diner was a place to socialize, eat when working a late shift or enjoy a meal any time of day.
It is an American icon that has appeared in all facets of popular culture. Some of the earliest were converted rail cars, retaining their streamlined structure and interior fittings. From the 1920s to the 1940s, diners, by then commonly known as “lunch cars,” were usually prefabricated in factories, and delivered on site with only the utilities needing to be connected.
They were typically small and narrow in order to fit onto a rail car or truck. This small footprint also allowed them to be fitted into tiny and relatively inexpensive lots that otherwise were unable to support a larger enterprise. Diners were historically small businesses operated by the owner. The look of the diner changed as it spread to the suburbs, implementing stainless steel exteriors, large windows and wall décor.
A revival took place in the 1970s, with many diners built with a retro look.
Port Clinton’s Tin Goose is an authentic diner, built by the Jerry O’Mahony Diner Company of Elizabeth, N.J., in the 1950’s. It originally operating in Jim Thorpe, Pa., under the name of the Sunrise Diner. Noel and Bernadette Behan acquired it because they wanted to expand their existing business. The diner next door had to go. After being advertised for sale, nobody wanted it. It seemed Behan couldn’t even give it away.
Diversified Diners, a company out of Cleveland that restored old diners, finally took it off Behn’s hands.
“It’s going to be saved. That’s what we wanted in the beginning. We tried to give it away to the vo-tech or for kids to learn tin smithing, or whatever they wanted to do with it but they had no use for it. We had people interested in it, but transportation was always a problem,” Behn said.
Ed Patrick, owner of the Liberty Aviation Museum, wanted to provide visitors with a genuine diner experience to compliment the vintage aircraft on display and under restoration at the museum. He contacted Diversified Diners, and not only did they restore the 1949 O’Mahony diner, but they also added an area for extra seating. Unless you are told, you would believe the addition was part of the original diner.
Nobody knows just how many diners are left in America, but New York City alone boasts more than 500. New Jersey is know as the diner capital of America.
Diners are an American icon, serving plain fare at a cheap price. Our own Tin Goose is a wonderful representative of that history.