Diner Slang

Waiters and cooks in diners and other short-order restaurants have traditionally used a colorful jargon to describe the various orders that customers place. What follows is a number of terms in this jargon. Now, this jargon is not universal; not all diners use it and often there are many different variants and options for a particular order, as witnessed by the numerous names for common food items on this list.

Some of these jargon terms, like eighty-six and java, are more general slang. Most of the others are obscure.

The jargon probably arose as a means of entertainment, both for the staff who would quickly tire of the same orders again and again and for the amusement of customers. And of course this diner slang served the traditional purpose of a jargon of identifying those who were experienced in the short-order business.

So, without further ado, here is a selection of diner slang:

Adam and Eve, poached eggs, also Adam and Eve on a raft, poached eggs on toast

Adam’s ale, water (the original drink)

alley, in the, serve as a side dish

axle grease, butter

bad news, the, the check

bale of hay, corned beef and cabbage

Becky’s eggs, bacon and eggs (a deliberate mispronunciation of bacon)

beef and, beef and beans

birdseed, cereal

blonde and sweet, coffee with cream and sugar

blue plate, the daily special

Bossy in a bowl, beef stew (Bossy being a traditional name for a cow)

Bostons, beans (Boston being famous for its baked beans)

bow wow, hot dog

bowl of red, chile

brass band without a leader, a plate of beans without pork

breath, onion (from the effect on one’s breath)

bridge, four of anything (a game of bridge has four players)

brown stone front, porter house steak

burn one, cook one hamburger

burn the British, toast an English muffin

C.J., cream cheese and jelly

cackle-berry, egg

cannon ball, cruller

chewed fine, hamburger steak

chicken from on high, the best cut of chicken

chopper, knife

city, water, one on the city is a glass of water (a reference to the municipal water supply, on the city is from the fact that water is traditionally free in restaurants)

cluck, chicken pie

coffee and, coffee and doughnut

cold mud, bucket of, chocolate ice cream, bowl of

cold spot, iced tea

combo, ham and eggs

cosmopolitan, Neapolitan ice cream

cow, the, milk

cowboy, western omelet

cry, make it, add onions (from the fact that the smell from cutting onions can induce tears)

cup of mud, coffee

draw, pour a cup of coffee, as in draw one

dyspepsia in a snow storm, mince pie sprinkled with sugar

echo, duplicate of the last order (one of many numerical names for food items or modes of service)

eighty one, glass of water

eighty six, out of that item, refuse a customer service

Eve with a lid on, apple pie (a reference to the fruit of the forbidden tree)

fifty five, root beer

fifty one, hot chocolate

first lady, spare ribs (a reference to Eve having been made from one of Adam’s ribs)

five, milk

fluff it, add whipped cream

fog, in a, with mashed potatoes

forty one, lemonade

garden, take it through the, add lettuce and tomato

George Eddy, customer who doesn’t leave a tip (presumably from the name of a notoriously poor tipper)

go for a walk, take-out order

goat, the, butter

graveyard stew, milk toast

hail, ice

ham and, ham and eggs

hash no, hash without onions

Hebrew enemies, pork chops

hen fruit, boiled egg

high and dry, sandwich without mayonnaise or butter

houseboat, banana split

ice the rice, rice pudding with ice cream added

in the dark, without cream (coffee order)

in the dark, without milk (coffee order)

java, coffee

jerk, ice cream soda (from soda jerk)

joe, coffee

let the blood follow the knife, rare roast beef

let the chicken wade through it, chicken soup (a joke on the paucity of chicken meat in the soup)

lumber, toothpick

maiden’s delight, cherries

mealy bustle, mealy potato

Mike and Ike, salt and pepper

motorman’s glove, veal cutlet

Murphy with his coat on, an unpeeled, boiled potato, unpeeled

Murphy, potato

mystery, hash

nervous pudding, jello

Noah, poached eggs

Noah’s boy, ham (Ham being the name of one of Noah’s sons)

on a raft, on toast

on the hoof, meat cooked rare

pair of sleeve buttons, two fish balls

pale, light on the cream (coffee order)

put out the lights and cry, liver and onions

radio, tuna sandwich (from "tuna down" mispronounced as "turn it down")

red lead, ketchup

red, white, and blue, mixed ice cream

roly poly, strawberry pudding

rose, onion

sand, the, sugar

sea dust, salt

shingle, toast

shipwreck, scrambled eggs

sinker, doughnut

slaughter on the pan, a porter house steak.

snowstorm, In a, with powdered sugar

solid shot, apple dumpling

squeeze one, one glass of orange juice

stack, pancakes

stars and stripes, pork and beans

summer time, bread and milk

sunny side up, eggs fried on one side

sweep the kitchen, hash

tea no, tea without milk

team of grays, two crullers

twenty one, limeade

two in three, two three-minute eggs

veg, vegetable soup

velvet, milk shake

Vermont, the, maple syrup

walking, to go

wheats, buckwheat pancakes

whisky, rye toast

white wings, sunny side up, fried eggs

whitewing, egg

with the light out, without milk (coffee order)

with, an additional item, beans with is beans and bread., eggs with are eggs with onion, one egg, lots of with means an egg with lots of onion.

wreath, carrying a, with cabbage

wreck ‘em, scramble the eggs

yesterday, today, and forever, hash

zeppelins, sausages (from the shape)

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