Niagara Falls ticks a lot of boxes in the food department—Italian, Indian, farm-fresh ingredients—and diner food is no exception. The Falls is a great diner city. (After all, would you expect anything less from a city that feels, er, shall we say, stuck in the past?) The city’s classic, down-to-earth vibe and vintage establishments speak to the its working-class roots and the no-nonsense attitude of its residents. A cheap cup of coffee, a greasy sausage, fried eggs, salty fries: these are the hallmarks of a great diner, and Niagara Falls has them in abundance.
Dena’s Home Cooking
First up is our number-one pick: hands down, Dena’s Home Cookin’ takes the (pan)cake. With a surprisingly deep menu and cozy neighbourhood vibe, this inconspicuous diner just north of Five Corners serves up hefty portions of exceptionally well prepared eggs, potatoes and unique specialty meats, like limited-time farmer’s sausages. Simple extras like red peppers and sundried tomatoes elevate their omelettes, too—it might not sound like much, but when you consider how many diners stick with scant mushrooms and tomatoes as the only vegetable options, it’s appreciated when cooks choose even just a marginally different route. The only bad part is how small the space is. With limited seating, you may have to wait a while.
Blue Line Diner
One of the Falls’ most famous diners lies somewhat awkwardly on the far side of the QEW highway. After Marcel Dionne, the former NHL player, retired from pro sports, he settled down in Niagara and opened up the Blue Line restaurant and adjacent sports memorabilia shop in 2012. The place is spacious but can easily get packed, especially when Marcel shows up to regale kids’ birthday parties with tales from his NHL years. Notwithstanding the novelty value of seeing a professional athlete’s family-friendly retirement life, the food at Blue Line is actually pretty good, and not terribly expensive for both the quantity and quality you get. A standard breakfast platter (three eggs, potatoes, toast and the usual meats) will set you back $9.99 as of August 2020, though coffee isn’t included. (At $2.99, the bottomless coffee—which is actually pretty decent, at least—strikes us as the big money grab.)
Basell’s Restaurant and Tavern
Basell’s has been in business probably longer than anyone would have guessed, but we’re thankful it’s still around. To enter this establishment is to walk back in time to the 1970s: plates of pie and cake sit in chilled isolation beside a hunking coffee machine and behind a row of brown bar stools that introduce you to the overall interior decor theme that is “Everything brown, please.” That means a brown faux-wood panelled bar, brown kitchen doors, brown chairs tucked into brown tables, dark brown wooden ceiling beams and light brown leather booths. Honestly, that’s the charm of the place: if you want an authentic small-city diner experience, you cannot do better than Basell’s. Is the food good? Meh! It’s fine! But who cares, honestly. The food is not why you eat here. You eat here for the ambience. For the experience. My friends, you eat here for the brown.
A summertime exclusive, the Jukebox Diner is arguably the most inventive diner in the Falls—maybe Niagara—arguably all of Canada? Sitting in the middle of a vacant grassy lot, the quasi–shipping container building serves up classic diner dishes from behind a stereo system blasting rockabilly tunes. The food isn’t fancy—you won’t find artisanal burgers or hand-crafted fries or whatever. But you’ll find extremely friendly people, an unpretentious menu, a throwback vibe and some great tunes to enjoy in the summer sun.