PALATKA, Fla. -- Old diners that you find on America's highways are a slice of Americana. They got their start when horse carts were converted to lunch wagons in the 1800's. Later, some railroad cars with their streamlined, modern style were turned into eateries.
Angel's Diner opened in 1932 in a railroad car on Reid Street in Palatka. It's now known as Florida's oldest diner. For 81 years this "restaurant in a railcar" has served up good old fashioned American meals to locals and tourists alike. "The one thing we've done is kept it the same," said co-owner John Browning, who bought the place in 1980 from the original owner Porter Angel.
Florida's oldest diner is known for its hamburgers and onion rings, cheeseburger soup and a chocolate and vanilla syrup drink called a "pussalow." There's not much room in the railcar, only one person at a time can walk down the aisle. You can eat at the counter or honk for service at the curb.
"That's what tickles me. You'll be sitting here and they honk the horn and you'll completely forget that they still do that," said Susie Wilkinson who eats here often.
Many of the locals have been coming here for decades. "Well, I'm 61 and my father used to bring me here when I was a baby," said Tim Smith, the Putnam County Clerk of Courts. George Black got his first job at Angel's when he was 13. "I was getting paid 50 cents an hour and all you can eat here," said Black.
Old signs dot the railcar along with train memorabilia. The original grill is still working in the kitchen. The only thing updated is the jukebox. Customers come for the atmosphere and return for the food. "A lot of people come from real far away just to try our cheeseburgers and milkshakes," said waitress Melissa Streets who has worked at Angel's for 15 years.
Andrew Austin is visiting from Australia. He stopped in for breakfast with some friends. "We're just passing through the town and through it looked like a good place to eat and decided to give it a try," said Austin.
Step into Angel's and you step back in time when trains dotted America's landscape during the Great Depression. But it's the comfort food that has always made customers leave Angel's with a smile.
First Coast News