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Local Economy

Send Us Your Late-Night Diner Stories

What role have these spots played in your life? Share your stories with The Tyee by Sept. 28.

Kate Helmore 22 Sep

Kate Helmore is a Tula Foundation Immersive Journalism fellow with The Tyee.

A few weeks ago, I decided to write a story on 24-hour diners in Vancouver. Then I discovered there were none left. Not here anyways. That made me sad. And it made me wonder why.

So I spent a number of late nights at diners. Chatting with staff and customers until 2 in the morning, learning about what forces drew them through the dark streets and towards the neon “OPEN” signs that beckoned us.

As each night came to a close and the open signs flickered off and the people filtered through locked doors onto empty streets, I felt a familiar sad pang.

The interior of Duffin’s is lit up; it’s dark outside. Five boys gather outside. One man is about to pass through the doors at Duffin’s.
Five teenage boys watch as Duffin's Donuts on 41st and Fraser closes its doors. Photo by Kate Helmore.

By the time I published my article, “An Ode to Vancouver’s Vanishing Late Night Diners,” I’d figured out where the pang came from.

To me, diners are the stage upon which I play out the best and the worst of times. They are where I go after drinking, dancing and breakups, when the sweat and/or tears have evaporated and left tiny salt crystals on my skin. They were where I went to feel comfortable. An unpretentious home away from home complete with vinyl booths, soft lights and simple food.

I need to know that these spaces still exist for the nights ahead of me and in memory of the nights behind me. But I also need to know that these spaces survive for others.

582px version of LucysDinerDiner.jpg
An 80s-themed party-goer slumps in the chair at Lucy’s Eastside Diner. Glimmer sits at the bar at Mary’s Hamburgers, waiting until the ‘Drag Me to Hell’ show kicks off at the Junction. Photo by Kate Helmore.

So I’m asking readers to imagine their favourite diners.

Maybe it’s one in Vancouver — Calhouns? Mary’s? Knight and Day?

Picture the lights, the seating and the smells. Evoke the food and conjure the spirits of the regulars and the staff.

I want to hear about the nights you spent hunched in diner booths, dipping fries into milkshakes, biding time before the hangover came knocking. I want to hear about the strangers you met, the friendships you found and the lovers you lost. The quarrels, the conversations and the sweet-nothings whispered over sticky, plastic tables with wobbly legs. And I want to hear about the food, be it stacked pancakes drizzled in golden syrup or beef torta glistening in grease.

We’ll include a selection of stories in an upcoming piece about why diners hold such a special place for so many of us.

Please send your entry to me by email with the subject line “Late-Night Diner Story” by end-of-day Wednesday, Sept. 28.

Keep it concise, 300 words max. Entries will be subject to an editing process.

I can’t wait to read your stories.  [Tyee]

Read more: Local Economy, Food

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