A Saugerties couple with a deep love for diners and a devoted online fanbase is planning to take their blog on the road and, they hope, onto your bookshelf.
Photographer Tom Smith and writer Alecia Eberhardt have been documenting their love of the food and atmosphere of diners for nearly two years on Diner Porn, a Tumblr-based blog.
“I kind of do this all the time, create different blogs and create different creative photo projects,” said Smith, who says his hometown of Little Falls, NJ, is, like Saugerties, a diner-centric community. More than any of the other projects he had in the works at the time, Diner Porn came from somewhere personal.
“I remember when I was 18, one of my best friends was a 60-year-old waitress,” he said. “I was at the diner all the time. When I created the blog two years ago, I was 23 and living with my grandpa in my hometown. I just wanted to get out of the house.”
Since then, the pair have founded Eberhardt Smith, a creative company, and made Saugerties their home. They were attracted to Saugerties for the same reason they were attracted to diners.
“One of the reasons we wanted to move up here is it has a strong sense of community,” said Eberhardt. “I think the diner atmosphere fits in well in those sorts of towns. A diner in New York City is a lot of transient people. It’s like a train station.”
Diner Porn, the blog, is emphatically not a review site. Instead, through vivid photographs and thoughtful prose, Smith and Eberhardt bring the diner experience to life, from the booths and food to the proprietors and regulars. Village Diner in Saugerties, a local favorite of the pair, has made an appearance and is a good example of how people can find familiarity and local nuances in a small-town American diner.
“Their huevos rancheros is amazing, and you don’t find huevos rancheros at every diner,” said Eberhardt. “It’s not exactly a diner standard. It’s nice to see what the owner and what the community flavor can bring to a diner as well.”
“A lot of people, when they think of a diner, they think of the cheeseburger and French fries, and that’s all great, we appreciate that,” added Smith. “But the truth is, there’s something else. A diner can be a place where the salad is better than the cheeseburger.”
“Diner Porn,” the book, will expand upon that premise as Smith and Eberhardt document a month-long, 20-diner road trip which will take them through the deep south and Midwest. In order to make it happen, they’ve enlisted the crowdsourcing website Kickstarter, and as of press time, they’ve raised $6,003 of their $6,500 goal. All the proceeds from the Kickstarter campaign will go into the project, and anything above and beyond their goal will result in the printing of more copies of the book. Any donation of $30 or more will secure a signed copy of the completed book; initially 50 books were planned, but as of this week they already had over 70 different donors reaching the $30 threshold.
The road trip, which will likely begin in April, was plotted thanks to suggestions from friends and fans of the Diner Porn blog. The diners selected, Smith and Eberhardt believe, are “true diners.”
“We just went to a diner a couple of days ago, and right away we knew it was going to be a true diner experience,” said Smith. “The waitress was making sassy comments and just making me feel at home… I think you know right away when you walk into a diner what you’re going to get, and I think there’s something nice about that.”
The couple are looking forward to each community’s twist on what constitutes a true diner.
“One of the goals of the road trip is to try to figure out what that means translated into regionalism,” said Eberhardt. “We’re trying to figure out what those differences are and also what is universal about all those establishments.”