Understanding Diner Lingo: 55 Phrases to Get You Started


Photo: avlxyz on Flickr

The origins of most diner phrases are shrouded in mystery or lost to history, and different regions and restaurants use different terminology for the same items, but this list should give you an idea of what's going on when you hear your waitress screaming about wrecking two chicks on a raft.

1. Adam and Eve on a raft/log - Two poached eggs on toast

2. Adam's ale/city juice/dog soup - Water

3. All hot - A baked potato

4. Axle grease/skid grease/cow paste - Butter

5. Baby juice/moo juice/cow juice/Sweet Alice - Milk

6. Belch water/balloon water - Seltzer or soda water

7. Blonde with Sand - Coffee with cream and sugar.

8. Bloodhound in the Hay - A hot dog with sauerkraut

9. Bossy in a bowl - Beef stew

10. Bow-wow/bun pup/tube steak/groundhog/Coney Island/Coney Island chicken/Coney Island bloodhound - A hot dog

11. Breath - Onion

12. Bronx vanilla/halitosis/Italian perfume - Garlic

13. Bullets/whistleberries - Baked beans

14. Burn one - Put a hamburger on the grill

15. Burn one, take it through the garden and pin a rose on it - A hamburger with lettuce, tomato and onion

16. Burn the British - A toasted English muffin

17. Cackle fruit/Cackleberries/Hen Fruit - Eggs

18. Chicks on a raft - Eggs on toast

19. Customer will take a chance/clean up the kitchen/sweep the floor - Hash

20. Dough well done with cow to cover - Buttered toast

21. Drag one through Georgia - Coca-Cola with chocolate syrup

22. Draw one/a cup of mud - A cup of coffee

23. Draw one in the dark - A cup of black coffee

24. First lady - Spareribs (probably a pun on Eve being made from Adam's rib)

25. Fish eyes/cat's eyes - Tapioca pudding

26. Flop two - Two fried eggs over easy

27. Frog sticks - French fries

28. GAC - A grilled American cheese sandwich (Also called a "jack" or a "Jack Benny" if there's bacon on it.)

29. Gravel train - Sugar bowl

30. Heart Attack on Rack - Biscuits and gravy

31. Hemorrhage - Ketchup

32. Hockey puck - A hamburger, well done

33. Hounds on an Island - Franks and beans

34. Houseboat - A banana split

35. In the alley - Served as a side dish

36. Maiden's delight - Cherries ("cherry" is slang for the maidenhead (archaic), or hymen)

37. Mississippi Mud/Yellow paint - mustard

38. Mystery in the alley - A side order of hash

39. Nervous pudding - Jelly/Jello

40. Noah's boy - A slice of ham (Ham was one of the Biblical Noah's sons)

41. Noah's boy with Murphy carrying a wreath - ham and potatoes with cabbage

42. On the hoof - Any kind of meat cooked rare

43. Pair of drawers - Two cups of coffee

44. Pittsburgh - Toast or burn something so it's charred on the outside but still red on the inside (probably a reference to Pittsburgh's smokestacks or coal beds)

45. Put out the lights and cry - Liver and onions

46. Sand/gravel/yum-yum - Sugar

47. Sea dust - salt

48. Shingle with a shimmy and a shake - Buttered toast with jam

49. Shoot from the South/Atlanta special - Coca-Cola (the company's headquarters are in Atlanta, Georgia)

50. Radio - A tuna salad sandwich on toast ("tuna down" or tuna on toast, sounds like "turn it down" the command often repeated when the radio is on in the kitchen)

51. Wax - American cheese

52. Whiskey - rye bread

53. Whiskey down - rye toast

54. Wreck 'em - Scrambled eggs

55. 86 - Remove an item from an order or from the menu; throw an item away (plenty of theories on the origins of this one, including: a reference to Article 86 of the New York State Liquor Code, which defines the circumstances under which a patron should be refused alcohol; a reference to coffins, usually eight feet long and buried six feet under; from Chumley's Bar and Restaurant in New York City, where trash was thrown out the back door at 86 Bedford Street; from Delmonico's Restaurant in NYC, where item #86 on their menu, the house steak, was often unavailable due to its popularity.

A list like this is never complete, so tell us your favorite diner lingo if we missed it!