Flash-forward to the present: Since the grand opening last fall, the diner has become the most popular dining destination on Lehigh’s campus, through several dayparts. “Brunch, dinner and late night are all equally popular,” Sleeger says. “Students have responded incredibly favorably to the diner concept. Of the seven stations in Rathbone Dining Hall, we can honestly say the diner is the most popular.”
While a quick, efficient experience was baked into the concept of the diner, it’s also a possibility for students to take a break and settle in at one of the booths for a leisurely brunch any time of day.
Look and feel
The neon green spoon and ’50s-era signage at the diner set a mood that’s retro but also clean and modern. “When we first developed the breakfast-all-day, burgers-and-fries menu, the diner branding seemed to be a natural fit,” Sleeger says.
Diner in the clouds
What a view! The diner has tall windows that look out over campus, the city of Bethlehem and the greater Lehigh Valley.
Smashed and blended
Burgers are the backbone of The Rathbone Diner, proving to be the most popular item. So far, blending the fresh, never-frozen ground beef with 50 percent mushrooms has been working well, “allowing us to offer a healthier alternative to our customers, specifically our student athletes,” Kornafel says. A housemade quinoa vegan burger has also been introduced.
Done right, diner-style
The cooks here do burgers the way every great diner burger should be done: smashed on a searing-hot flat top griddle with a strong spatula, creating that signature crust.
Smashburger topped with egg
The perfectly crispy diner burgers can be topped with a fried egg for that brunch vibe.
And also tapping into the brunch trend, these pancakes are part decadent dessert, part Saturday-morning treat.
Another key facet of the classic diner menu is omelets. One of the original “have it your way” menu items out there, omelets here are customizable and made with cage-free eggs.
Featuring cage-free eggs
The eggs also show up in spinach-pesto egg whites, Sriracha-cheddar egg muffins, eggs any way with hash browns and fried rice.
Grilled cheese, please
The simple menu item that just won’t quit, good ol’ grilled cheese sandwiches made on the flat top are hard to beat. More modern items are on the menu as well, such as the grilled chicken, fig and Brie sandwich, chicken and farro wraps and Korean turkey tacos.
Turkey burger, fries on the side
Griddled onions add flavor to this lighter version of the diner burger.
On the horizon
Looking ahead, fun events like pancake night, chicken finger Friday and steak night are in the future for the Rathbone Diner, along with more of the menu items that have been the most successful: the smash burgers and Philly cheesesteaks, especially. All in all, “we credit [the success] to our expansive menu that focuses on fresh ingredients and also the customer-first interaction between students and staff,” Sleeger says.