More than Comfort Food: Delco’s Diners Delights

With all due respect, New Jersey, we beg to differ over the perception that the best diners are in the Garden State. We’ve done our share of late-night breakfast-all-day runs, Sunday suppers, early morning coffee and Danish meetings and lunch breaks to say with 100 percent confidence that some of the best diners — anywhere — are in Delco.

So what makes a diner such a draw to the hungry masses? We took an informal poll and learned that it’s much more than comfort food.

Open All Night (or Really Late)

Photo courtesy of Pexels

Who among us hasn’t rolled into a diner in the wee hours? And if you haven’t and you get the chance, give it a try. There’s nothing like smelling a fresh cup of joe being poured as you page through an immense menu, then being called “hun” when a big plate of your favorite appears before you. All-night diners feature their entire menu 24/7, which means you can order up comfort food, eat breakfast or indulge in a three-course meal at any time of the day or night.

Two diners on our list are open all day, every day, and both are classics: The venerable Llanerch Diner in Upper Darby and Minella’s Diner in Wayne. Locals will tell you the Llanerch was an institution long before it had its turn in the spotlight thanks to the movie “Silver Linings Playbook.” Its crowd is diverse, from our working class to those venturing back in from the city after a night out and everyone in between. It’s got a solid menu that covers all the bases, so if you’re hankering for something in particular for breakfast, lunch, dinner or dessert, the Llanerch likely has it. Remember to ask about the specials.

95 E. Township Line Rd. (Rt. 1), Upper Darby; (610) 789-6057.

Open 24 hours; breakfast served all day.

Minella’s is practically synonymous with the Main Line crowd, including hungry students streaming in from Villanova University and Rosemont College. It’s also right off the Blue Route (that’s Rt. 276 for visitors), making it another convenient stop when your stomach is growling in the wee hours. It also boasts all the typical diner favorites, but we love breakfast. All day. See below.

Breakfast All Day

Photo courtesy of Minella’s Diner

Does it get any better? There’s something curiously fun about breakfast for dinner. Or lunch. Or at 3 a.m. Minella’s excels with enormous pancakes; plate-filling waffles with myriad of toppings; hearty and thick French toast; eggs a million different ways; a huge list of sides, including scrapple (of course!); cereals, bagels and even chipped beef. Its full bar means you can have mimosas, too (if you still have room).

320 W. Lancaster Ave., Wayne; (610) 687-1575.

Open 24 hours; breakfast served all day.

Excellent Entrees

Photo courtesy of Hank’s Place

Looking for something … dare we say … a bit fancier? Head to Hank’s Place in Chadds Ford, which has been serving homestyle cooking for 16 years in a quaint, converted home at the corner of Creek Road and Baltimore Pike (Rt. 1). Three of our entree favorites are the trout almondine, seared salmon salad and pork and spaetzle, but keep an eye on the seasonal fare, too. You’ll find tempting lighter options such as the beet salad with strawberries or citrus salad. Worthy of note: Everything at Hank’s is made on-site.

Rt. 1 and Creek Rd. (Rt. 100), Chadds Ford; (610) 388-7061. Hanks is currently closed for rebuilding.

Open Monday 6 a.m. to 3 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Sunday 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Breakfast served daily until noon and all day Sunday. Many of the breakfast items on the “Good Old Fashioned Hardy Breakfast” menu are also available all day long.

Save Room for Dessert

You know it’ll be there: The giant case of desserts you usually see as soon as you enter a diner. It’s practically daring you to skip your meal and get right to the treats. We can’t avert our eyes, however, when we enter the Country Squire Diner, Restaurant & Bakery in Broomall which has been satisfying sweet tooths for five decades. What’s your pleasure? A giant slice of multilayered cake? Check. Cannolis? Check. Pie? Check. Cookies, pastries, cupcakes? Check, check, check. And that doesn’t even scratch the surface.

2560 W. Chester Pike, Broomall; (610) 353-0550.

Open 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.; breakfast served all day.

Tummy-Busting Burgers

Photo courtesy of Nifty Fifty’s

You can keep your fancy burger atop focaccia — we’re looking for burgers that are two-fisted, double-stacked on a soft bun and topped with all the fixings. Drooling yet? That’s just one option at Nifty Fifty’s in Ridley Township. You’ll love its throwback diner vibe and memorable eats. The fries are a must-have. True to its theme, this ‘50s-inspired venue also turns out killer shakes in — at last count — more than 120 flavors.

1900 MacDade Blvd., Folsom; (610) 583-1950.

Open Sunday through Thursday 6 a.m. to 11 p.m., and Friday and Saturday 6 a.m. to 1 a.m; breakfast served from 6 a.m. to noon.

Come as You Are

It doesn’t matter if you’re indulging in a full-course meal or grabbing coffee and a bagel: One of the most endearing qualities about a diner is its laid-back atmosphere. Perhaps you’re stopping in after the game boasting Philly proud gear. Maybe you’re bringing sweaty kids in after soccer. Or maybe you’re on a first date (in that case, stay away from the sweaty kids) or having a spur-of-the-moment lunch meeting. It’s all good, and Sungate Diner in Marcus Hook is a great example of a welcoming Delco diner. It’s cozy, the people are friendly and the fare is on point.

1000 Green St., Marcus Hook; (610) 494-8084.

Open 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.; breakfast served all day.

Want to know more about everything Delco? We’re more than just your source for good eats — we’re your source for where to stay, what to do and more in Delaware County, Pennsylvania. We’re the Destination Delco Tourism Bureau, and we’ve got you covered from Philly to the Brandywine. Find us at 1501 N. Providence Rd., Media, PA, 19063; (610) 565-3679 or online.

Nina Malone