The Meadowbrook Diner at 5151 East 38th Street is one of several authentic diners that once fed the hungry masses in Indianapolis. Located just east of North Emerson Avenue, this diner has served eastsiders for over fifty-three years. The Meadowbrook was manufactured in 1954 by Mountain View Diners in Signac, New Jersey. The streamlined, stainless steel building came to Indianapolis via the railroad and opened in July 1958 as the Meadowbrook Diner, but was renamed Dick’s Diner in the 1960s. The sleek interior featured lots of Formica, a vaulted ceiling, booths, and a counter with stools. According to the sign, the dinner had air conditioning, fountain service, and twenty-four hour service.

Today, diners have a nostalgic cult following. Purists define a diner as a prefabricated building constructed specifically as a restaurant. Others also include old trolley and railroad cars later converted into restaurants. Diners have roots dating to the 1870s when horse-drawn lunch wagons provided meals near factories. These early mobile kitchens moved from site to site. Later prefabricated diners usually were stationary, but it wasn’t unheard of to relocate them to a better location, as was the case with the well-known Peter Pan Diner that once stood on East Washington Street. (Heritage Photo & Research Services, the Indiana Album)

Although this YouTube video of a couple being served at a Meadowbrook Diner does not identify the  location, the unique sign is a dead giveaway that this is in Indianapolis. Check out the carhop in the cowgirl outfit! This dates to the late 1950s, shortly after the diner arrived, but can anyone narrow down a year based on the car?

The diner, circa 2000

With a changing neighborhood demographic, from 1983 through 2001 the diner went from serving typical diner fare to southern home cooking. The name “Connie’s Soul Food Diner” reflects the change. (Undated photograph by Jim Rees)

The diner as a Subway

In 2002 the fare became fast food when the diner became a Subway restaurant. Owner Jay Pandey, who also owns the adjacent motel, gave the diner a facelift and fortunately the diner’s stainless steel still gleams, although a little overpowered by the bright signage.

With all of the recent food trucks popping up such as West Coast Tacos, Duos, and Scratchtruck, Indianapolis is enjoying a mobile diner revival with roots going back to the 1870s lunch wagons.

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