Dor-Stop Restaurant

Dormont, PA

After describing these pancakes (or, as charismatic owner Vicki calls them, “hotcakes”) to a friend upon our return to New York—richly sweet and spicy, dense but melt-in-your-mouth, stuffed with warm gooey cinnamon apples and drenched in butter, so delicious and moist that maple syrup is not a requirement but merely a bonus—she responded that she couldn’t die happy until she tried them. And let us tell you, from experience? She’s not exaggerating.

Tom’s Diner

Pittsburgh, PA

Tom’s is the quintessential Pittsburgh establishment: open all night, connected to a sports bar where at least one Pitt game can usually be seen, and yes, they put French fries on everything, including the sandwiches and gyros (Did you know that was a ‘burgh thing? It was a surprise to us!). But they’re not afraid to try new things, either, says manager Bridget—their huge craft beer selection and experimental new recipes like slow-cooked pot roast and fiery feta sauce is evidence of that.

Big Al’s Diner

Cleveland, OH

We couldn’t leave Cleveland without trying just one more diner. Big Al’s is as quick and no-nonsense as they come, with sneakered waitresses shuttling back and forth between tables with pots full of steaming coffee, shouting “what can I get for ya?” over the bustle of the place. What they got for us was two of their breakfast specials, which also don’t mess around—a bread-egg-meat combo never fails to satisfy.

Diner on Clifton

Cleveland, OH

The Diner on Clifton, a colorful little corner cafe with a super friendly staff, was just named the “Best Diner in Cleveland” by Scene, Cleveland’s weekly alternative newspaper. And we can totally understand why. Between the well crafted menu—think elevated comfort food like creamy homemade mac and cheese, Greek salad with crunchy pita chip croutons, and yellowfin club sandwiches—and the galaxy-themed décor, this diner was truly out of this world. (Sorry, we couldn’t resist.)