The 814: Diners that deserve a visit

Emma Coppolo, A&E editor

I’m from a very small town, which I affectionately refer to as “nowhere in the middle of nowhere.” Small towns are known for a lot of things, but the most important by far are diners. Some of my favorite high school memories are at DD’s Diner with my friends before school. It sounds strange, but one of my biggest complaints about Erie since I’ve moved here is the lack of diners. There are breakfast places, sure, but I’m talking about those diners that have air thick with the smell of grease and friendly old women missing my coffee cup when they pour.

There’s just a charm to the perfect breakfast place, and it’s taken me years to rank my favorites. After comprehensively investigating Erie’s diner scene, these are the observations that I have to offer. I would like to make a disclaimer to fans of Dave’s Diner. While I have heard great things, I was never able to get a table before it was closed.

Number 1 on my list is Shirley’s. I rave about Shirley’s to friends from home, and I drag them there whenever they visit. The first time I sat down at Shirley’s, my coffee was poured into a whimsical striped mug rather than the traditional tiny white mug with stains around the bottom. Immediately, I knew that this place was amazing; and it only got better. The food is exactly what you think it would be: big portions, amazing taste, and cheap. The diner is somewhat retro, and the walls are lined with pictures of famous Shirleys. The servers’ shirts say, “I am serious, and don’t call me Shirley!” If I could have my birthday party at Shirley’s, I seriously would.

Coming in at a very close Number 2 is the Zodiac Dinor. The Zodiac is in somewhat of a renovation period, but the construction inside has no effect on the experience. I once had banana bread French toast there; I could have cried it was so unbelievably delicious. Their seasonal menu is constantly changing, and it’s nearly impossible to choose just one thing. If they have it when you’re there, I highly recommend the apple pie French toast. You think you can imagine how good it is, but you can’t, really.

Number 3 on my list is Dominick’s Diner. Dominick’s has a pretty im-pressive menu in terms of size. They are the proud proprietors of their famous meatball omelet. While I have yet to sample this delicacy, I have had one of their classic breakfasts. There’s just something about a massive plate of eggs and potatoes that makes you feel a certain way, and Dominick’s just gets that.

Obviously, the breakfasts at these places are amazing. But, the thing that really keeps me going back to all three is the people. Cracker Barrel and IHOP just don’t have old Italian men sitting at a bar reading newspapers like Dominick’s. They don’t have the red-headed waitress from Shirley’s that calls me “doll”. They don’t have the old man from Zodiac Dinor that may or may not actually work there but takes your bill for you anyway. Diners are all about the experience, and these places are sure to give you good memories.


Visit Shirley’s website at