Diner Critique: Cooperstown Diner (Cooperstown, N.Y.)

Review | Written and photographed by Nathan Mattise

Directions | Web site | Overall Rating: 5

If you’re in Cooperstown, N.Y., chances are you’re there for baseball (with the exception of locals and those seeking out Brewery Ommegang of course).  Baseball and food go hand and hand however (see slideshow for details), and that’s why an establishment like the Cooperstown Diner needs to fit into your travel plans. It may appear less extravagant than that hall just down the street, but there’s just as much charm and value here for baseball purists and the rest of us alike.

The Cooperstown Diner is located tightly right along the main street of town – the one boasting the Hall of Fame and all of its related businesses (wax museums, memorabilia shops and a variety of other services with baseball-related names). It’s a tiny establishment to the point that it receives an official 1/2 address like a locale out of the Harry Potter series.  Ironically its size helps it stand out among the other buildings on the street and makes it quite easy to find.

Inside the diner is perhaps the smallest one I’ve ever been to.  I kept looking for a fire occupancy sign, but I’d be shocked if it was much higher than 30. There are a 5-6 tables that can fit four and then an averaged size countertop area (we’re at the second to last table in the picture to the right). By default this creates some level of community where you’re viewing and smelling what others ordered, overhearing a variety of conversations and also getting near full crowd interactions from the staff (a birthday sing-a-long the day we were there). The diner has solid hours (6am to 8pm, to 9pm during the summer) so despite it’s size you can find a way to get in during a full day in town. There’s also a surprising lack of baseball memorabilia despite it being a self-proclaimed stop for many HoF’ers so many of the baseball-only fans in town may overlook this in favor of other dining options.

The food at the Cooperstown Diner is the real reason this place is a must-stop regardless of your area priorities. There are unique menu items to provide the holistic baseball experience for tourists (corn dog bites as an appetizer, hot dogs on the menu) right alongside a plethora of diner staples and house specialties (jumbo burgers, a sandwich named for local legend James Fenimore Cooper). There may not be any truly unique menu items (the most advertised is a jumbo sized hamburger, although they do have maple shakes) but the choices are vast and the prices are reasonable.

I opted for a special of corned beef hash, two eggs, toast and hot beverage for $6.95.  The portions are large for everything it seems (look at a neighbor’s sandwich, consider the “jumbo” burger) and this was no exception.  The hash was cooked on the lower end to avoid over crispness and it made it more of a spread to utilize on the toast or with the egg yolk. There was no major seasoning, just a nice clean flavor profile lacking overt grease (made up for with the buttered toast I suppose). It was simple but filling and, with drink included, the value was high.

Cooperstown isn’t a daily visit for most, which is unfortunate considering this diner would be a perfect place to become a regular. Its hours are solid, the menu choices varied and its atmosphere welcoming. I know where I’ll be eating in 15 years when it’s time to take some younger relatives to the HoF, and with an establishment like this, I know it’ll be around and healthy when that time comes.

The Final Tab

Pros: Large portions, reasonable prices, varied menu, great ambiance, a few charming/local quirks

Cons: Small space increases atmosphere but could lead to seating waits

Overall: 5-bacon1

Five out of Five (Robust breakfast platter | Go early and often to the point you can say, “I’ll have the usual.”)

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