In the U.S., diners were originally diner cars on trains, or even horse-drawn roofed carts in the city streets. They served a standard array of fairly bland foods; eggs, coffee, hamburgers, steak, ham.

The waiters developed an amusing slang to yell orders back to the cook; this diner code varies in different regions, and some of it made its way into the English language. The exact origin of the more popular terms, like "86-ed", is hotly debated.

Part of the point of diner slang is to make up new and clever ways to refer to the food. A cook who has to ask what it means loses a cool point.

Diner slang

Adam and Eve on a raft = poached eggs on toast
deadeye = poached egg
wreck 'em = scrambled eggs

first lady = spare ribs (another Adam and Eve reference)
Pittsburgh = meat cooked rare but charred on the outside
on the hoof = meat cooked rare
Noah's boy = ham (Ham was Noah's second son)
groundhog, bow wow, Coney Island = hot dog
burn one, clean up the kitchen = hamburger
two cows, make 'em cry = two burgers with onions
take a chance = hash
bowl of red = chili
radio = tuna (like saying "tuna" or "turn it down")
Bossy in a bowl = beef stew

city, city juice, 81, dog soup = water
moo juice, cow, 5 = milk
java, joe, draw one = coffee
pair of drawers = two coffees
blonde and sweet = coffee with milk and sugar
sinkers and suds, life preservers = doughnuts and coffee
fifty-five = root beer
51 = hot chocolate
41 = lemonade
squeeze one = orange juice

fish eyes = tapioca pudding
bucket of mud = bowl of chocolate ice cream
houseboat = banana split
nervous = Jello
Eve with the lid on = apple pie

sand, yum-yum = sugar
twins, Mike and Ike = salt and pepper
burn the British = English muffin, toasted
birdseed = bowl of cereal
shingle with a shimmy = toast with jelly
pin a rose on it, corsage = with onions
cut the grass = no relish (on a hot dog or hamburger)
paint it red = with ketchup
in the alley = serve it on the side
high and dry = serve it plain, with no ketchup or mayo
on wheels, take it for a walk = an order to go
86 = the kitchen is out of it, or, cancel the order

The following are expressions I have encountered in my various stints in the food service industry. Like all forms of slang, these are specific to both region and speakers.


Walking in means that a new ticket just came in. As in "Three house salads walking in."

All day means that there are X number of orders for a particular menu item in a given period of time.

HOT SOUP! indicates that the speaker is carrying a container of piping hot soup. If you hear this, stand back!

S.O.D. is an acronym meaning soup of the day.

Right behind you is usually spoken softly by someone unseen carrying something heavy or delicate. This is a request for others in the area to stand still or step aside.

On your left/right similar to the above.

Corner means that someone is coming around the corner carrying stuff. Look out!

On the fly means to expedite an order or correction as the customer is waiting and/or impatient.

86 may mean that the kitchen is out of a particular menu option or to cancel an order.

Black and blue means meat that is cooked rare on the inside but charred on the outside.

In the weeds means that a line cook has more tickets than they can handle without the customers having to wait too long.

Dish pit is the corner of the kitchen where dirty dishes and utensils are kept and cleaned.

Hot pot indicates that something just went from the stove to the dish pit and should be allowed to cool before handling with bare hands.

Order up means that food is ready to be served.



if you know of any others, /msg me and i'll add 'em on. —and if you find yourself about to embark on the grand adventure that is working food service, do rememeber to keep to the right as much as possible.

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