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Lunch Counter Lingo

Cracking the restaurant lingo code


"Adam and Eve on a raft, wreck 'em!"
-- Diner waitress, circa 1950

You're sure to scratch your head trying to figure out some of the shorthand slang used between waitstaff and cooks in traditional diners and luncheonettes. Did you really order Noah's boy, in the alley? Read on as we crack the code on Lunch Counter Lingo, and point out some traditional and updated luncheonette recipes for you to try yourself at home.

As a child in the '50s, a great treat was a trip to the lunch counter at the old Woolworth's five-and-dime store downtown. Their special gimmick was a houseboat with the works, whose price was determined by popping a balloon containing a tiny piece of paper with prices ranging from a penny to twenty-five cents.

Almost as much fun as eating the ice cream was listening to the waitresses in their starched pink uniforms placing orders with the cook in their own special language and trying to figure out what in the world people were ordering! Back in the diner heydays, you may have overheard this conversation between the waitress and the short order cook:

"Order up, Sam! Groundhog and fifty-five on #2," Hannah would holler loud enough to be heard on the next block. "Gentleman will take a chance with Murphy, draw one, and make it a crowd on #5," she'd continue without skipping a beat, while turning back to the counter to tell another customer, "I'll be right back with your baby and the twins in two shakes, hon."

Did you figure it out? If not, you will find the definitions and some typical diner dish recipes here.

More About Lunch Counter Lingo and Classic Recipes:

Breaking the Code: Definitions and Diner Recipes
Lunch Lingo - Diner Slang
Lunch Counter and Diner History
Lunch Counter Lingo Glossary


Remembering Woolworth's
The Dictionary of American Food and Drink
The New Food Lover's Companion
The New Food Lover's Tiptionary
More Cookbooks
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