A pioneer in the American dining experience and the forerunner to the modern day fast food restaurant,was the diner which provided inexpensive meals that were served hot in a short amount of time. Located in downtown Warren, the Streamliner Diner on the corner of East Market Street and Pine Avenue N.E. next to the First Federal Savings and Loan Association, the diner was the place to eat between 1940 and 1952.
The Streamliner was a prefabricated structure made by the J.B. Judkins Company in Merrimac, Mass. The model was one of the most distinctive that the company made. It was a Sterling style that mimicked the look of the railroad dining cars of the era which had one or two rounded edges to the outside structure.
Fewer than 20 models of this style were built.
The Streamliner Diner was at the corner of East Market Street and Pine Avenue N.E. in Warren, where First Place Bank is located today. Between 1940 and 1952, the diner was a popular place to eat in downtown Warren.
The 41-foot cream and burgundy diner with porcelain on steel exterior panels was placed over a basement so that small banquets and meetings of approximately 50 people could he held there. The downstairs also provided storage.
Sam D'Agati began working at the Streamliner in 1941 as a teenager, first as a short order cook, then counter person and eventually as a night manager. The diner had a kitchen window behind the counter where the counter person communicated with the head chef and a grill in the front of the counter section for fast cooking. The kitchen was concealed behind a wall.
The interior of the building had 13 swivel stools at the counter and four tables. The entire diner could seat approximately 40 people.
- Josh Nativio maintains a Flickr page of historical photos of downtown Warren and other sites in the Mahoning Valley. The old photos of the Streamliner Diner came from this collection. View these photos at www.flickr.com/photos/down-townwarrenhistory. Nativio is always looking for more historical photos. Contact him at 330-393-3137 if you have photos you would like to share.
This new way of eating out was originally introduced in the late 1800s to serve workers in Rhode Island as a lunch wagon selling sandwiches and coffee. By the time the Streamliner came to Warren, the diner had an inside counter and table seating with a front step entrance.
"I remember going there with my mom when I was 3 or 4 years old," Don Andres of Niles said. "I would get a cheeseburger, french fries and a chocolate shake. I also remember spinning on the swivel chair at the counter while I sat there."
Andres' mother Rose worked downtown, and she would take him to visit her brother, Sam D' Agati.
Richard Marino of Niles also recalled going to see his cousin Sam at the Streamliner.
"I would go there in the afternoon. The restaurant was always busy. I was proud of him working there."
The opening day menu advertised a variety of dishes such as roast young tom turkey, oyster dressing, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, Bird's Eye peas, assorted bread or hot rolls, coffee, tea or milk, hot mince or pumpkin pie for 75 cents.
To attract customers, the opening day advertisement emphasized the motto of the diner, "Only the Best is Good Enough." This included the quality of the food and service, and emphasized the diner's wish to please the customer in every way.
The diner encouraged feedback to the servers to make each dining experience the best dining experience possible.
The daily diner menus at that time offered mostly typical American cuisine, and the Streamliner followed suit, serving T-bone steaks, roast prime rib of beef with Bermuda french-fried onions for 75 cents.
But the 24-hour restaurant was best known for some of its other menu items. According to Andres, it was their breakfast and burgers.
Virginia Santone of Warren said that she remembered the Streamliner made the best burgers in town.
The diner was a perfect location for night owls. Located downtown, shift workers and revelers leaving shows would frequent the eatery for a late night meal. Anyone passing the Streamliner at 3 a.m. would typically find a busy establishment.
The Streamliner offered a hot meal to anyone who came to the restaurant, but during the weekdays, many prominent businessmen, courthouse workers and other downtown employees frequented the diner.
Though a popular gathering place for good food and conversation during its residence in downtown Warren, the population started to shift to the suburbs and First Federal Savings and Loan Association (now First Place Bank) wanted to expand. When First Federal purchased the land that housed the diner, it ended the era of the Streamliner in downtown Warren.
The Streamliner was removed from its location in 1953 after closing in 1952, but resurfaced in Ellwood City, Pa., as Brady's Diner. It remained there until it was put up for sale in 1987.
The diner was purchased and moved to Cleveland by Steve Harwin. In 1988, he planned to restore the outside structure of the Streamliner to its original condition. Unfortunately, because the diner was too large to house inside a warehouse, it was stored outside. During unusually high winds, weather caused damage to the front and side of the outside structure. Fortunately, the original inside seating remained intact.
As of 1992, the Streamliner was being restored for relocation to Duluth, Minn. Restaurateur Tom Meagher wanted to place a historic diner at Lake Superior as a tourist attraction.