Why We Need a 24-Hour Diner


(Emily Stull)

By Sunny Wanger

I remember the excitement my childhood self experienced when walking into a Johnny Rockets or Mel’s (both are popular chain diners). My little brother and I would race to see who could get to the first barstool chair, the bright red ones with plastic covers that spin around. My mom would look down and see her children hugging the filthy chairs, on their stomachs spinning around, legs flying in the middle of the restaurant. I’d sit twirling the glass dispenser full of identical red and white striped straws, waiting in anticipation for my milkshake to come. Finally, after ages, I would watch as the frosty metal cup released from its spindle and slowly cascaded into a sundae glass. The finishing touch, whipped cream straight from the can, followed by a glinting red maraschino cherry dripping with artificial syrup, gently nestled on top. The waiter would reach over the two-foot counter, setting down the beaming tower of sugar, along with the remaining contents left in the metal cup. There is something still so satisfying about receiving that stainless steel mixing cup, full of the extras that didn’t fit in the glass. You get to relive the whole experience over again. When it was time to go, I was handed a bright red balloon on the way out to complete the visit. Just thinking about it reminds me of the timelessness diners bestow, and brings that exciting feeling back.

Mill Valley is notorious among locals for the hardship in finding establishments serving food past 9 p.m. It is either delivery or making something yourself. This is why Mill Valley needs a 24-hour, seven days a week diner.

We are fortunate enough to reside in a place as nice as Mill Valley, but that means kids are growing up with $8 dollar juices from Urban Remedy and acai bowls. For the sake of balance, we need a place where you can sit down at a table, and flip through four pages filled with endless combinations of classics we all know and love. You have your sandwiches (burger, BLT, club, french dip, pastrami, etc), then your eggs (omelets, scrambles, etc), followed by your pancakes/waffles/french toast, after that your beverages, and don’t even get me started on the sides. I know what you are thinking: “We have diners in Mill Valley.” We do. The Shoreline Cafe and Kitchen Sunnyside are excellent options for your morning escapade, however, both close before 4 p.m. leaving you and your friends to fend for yourselves. Diners have been one of the hallmarks of growing up in America, most adults grew up spending late nights with their friends in diners. I think of how the high schoolers here miss out on that— the classic ritual of sitting around a table after the big game as we see in so many movies and TV shows.

Many members of the Mill Valley and Tamalpais High School community have expressed their opinion on the issue. Tam junior Ava Nevolo recalls how, “me and my friends were trying to go out to eat and every place was closing like 8 or 9 p.m.,” describing Mill Valley’s lacking nightlife. The options are slim, “if you’re hungry past nine then you have to go to Strawberry or Uber eats, In N Out you have till 10 or 11 [p.m.], then you’re on your own,” she continued. Teens are not the only beneficiaries of a 24/7 diner, however. Even adults struggle to find a meal after a night out. A Nextdoor post regarding the replacement of former restaurant Gira Poli on Camino Alto and E. Blithedale with a Mixt salad bar was put in the spotlight. Mill Valley community member Carl Arena’s response, “just what we need a high priced salad bar,” summed up the public opinion on just another health food restaurant.

Quite frankly, the real question is why shouldn’t we have a 24/7 diner? Upon contemplating, there was only one foreseeable drawback I could surmise: the curfew. If you have no clue what I am referring to, it’s a law just about every minor in this town is beholden to. Let me clarify, the city of Mill Valley states that “children under the age of 18 unless accompanied by a parent or guardian, need to be off the streets between the hours of 11 p.m. and sunrise.” I understand that the curfew is intended to keep people safe— this is a town full of families concerned for their children’s safety. But let’s be honest, when was the last time you heard about a crime happening on the streets of Mill Valley unrelated to a bike being stolen? It’s just a technicality that complicates an otherwise favorable idea.

Diners are nostalgic, colorful, comforting places. The bottom line is, a 24/7 diner may be the effective cause that brings to Mill Valley the quality of nightlife every good community has, and should not be hindered by an extraneous measure, largely disregarded by the public.