Smudged windows, counter with pies under glass domes, metal napkin holders, stools lining the counter, cheap Formica tabletops with chips, scratches, names carved in them, gum stuck to the bottom, dull &/dented metal cutlery, checkered tile floor, dingy/dusty curtains or blinds, white coffee mugs/plates/bowls, paper menus, baskets of fries, plates of food heavy on grease and gravy, salt and pepper shakers on tables, gum-snapping waitress in a one-color uniform holding a coffee pot or a pen and order slip, patrons seated at booths, sugar container, cash register, board with diner specials written on it, fry cook with a stained white apron, jar for tips by the cash registers, public washroom, newspaper left on counter, salt spilled on counter, hooks for coats, paper place mats, truckers wearing beat up caps, tired looking families, singles nursing coffee
Cutlery clinking on tables and scratching against plates, the farty squish of a ketchup bottle, a waitress drawling out orders to the fry cook in diner-slang, smoker's cough, creaking stools, slurping coffee from the cup, setting cups and glasses down, the clink and clatter of change hitting the tabletop, a spoon stirring sugar into coffee, the sizzle of burgers on the grill, the cook calling an order up, doors swinging open, bells on the doors, big trucks outside with their motors running, street noise, a radio belting out country music, a waitress asking customers for their order, the clunk of a coffee pot sliding back into the urn slot, the burp and hiss of a coffee machine brewing a fresh pot, the crinkle of waxy paper holding a tray of French fries, customers calling out for refills, talking, laughter, grumbling, mumbling, the papery rustle of counting out bills to pay for the meal, the glug of coffee as it's poured at the table
Meat grilling, onions frying, hot oil from the deep fryer, warm steam in the face, spices, spicy chili, soups, stews, astringent tang of vinegary coleslaw, strong coffee, over sweet or burnt coffee, pine cleaner from a freshly washed floor, bacon & sausages, cinnamon french toast
Coffee, greasy fries, hamburgers, hot dogs, smokies, subs, breakfast meals (steak and eggs, bacon, sausage, pancakes, grits, buttered toast, etc), chili, ketchup, mustard, hot sauce, pepper, pies (blueberry, apple, strawberry/rhubarb, peach, lemon meringue, etc), grilled cheese sandwiches, steak, soups, stew, saltine crackers, spices, water, carbonated pop, juice, milk, salads, water, bacon and eggs, toast, pancakes, hash browns, ice cream, milk shakes
Sticky counter, greasy menus, salt or sugar granules left on table, cold metal cutlery, blowing on hot food or coffee, burning the tongue, jerking a napkin from the holder and having it rip, squinting at the bright light coming in the window, grease sticking to fingertips, globs of food at the corner of the mouth & licking it away, placing hands around a coffee mug to warm up, shaking a sugar packet, squeezing a condiment bottle, slouching back after a big meal, digging in the pocket for a wallet or tip change, a cold glass or can of pop or beer against the palm, stabbing fries and swiping them through a puddle of gravy, smearing food into the sauce or ketchup to soak it up, pulling a plate closer, leaning across the table to talk to someone across from you, hunkering down over a plate of food, over your food, bending a mangled fork back so it looks like a fork again, scraping a piece of dried gunge off a knife with a fingernail or napkin
--The words you choose can convey atmosphere and mood.
The man wandered in and hesitated briefly just inside the door, his hand giving his jean pocket a slight touch before moving toward an empty booth. His head stayed ducked, alternating between the tabletop and the view of the parking lot outside. He didn't even glance at his menu and it took all of ten seconds for Rena to size him up as a drifter, one who barely had two dimes to rub together. She swung by his booth, not bothering to pull out an order pad. "Just coffee?" she asked.
When Carl said this place was a greasy spoon, he wasn't kidding. The room permeated with the scent of deep fry. I glanced up at the specials listed on the chalkboard: deep fried fish and fries, corn dogs and fries, fried chicken and you guessed it, fries. Two empty plates sit on the counter, the crumpled napkins tossed on top sodden with smears. A waitress collects them into a stack from behind the counter, a cigarette jutting out of the corner of her mouth. With her free hand she wipes the counter using a stained rag, ashes from her smoke falling onto the counter and sticking to the wet surface. Her flinty stare catches mine and she barks, "You want somethin' or what?"
--Similes and metaphors create strong imagery when used sparingly.
Example 1: (Simile)
My meatloaf lay in the congealed gravy like roadkill floating in a mud puddle.
Example 2: (Metaphor)
Duct tape covered the cheap vinyl seats in so many places our booth appeared mummified. Was this a diner or a King Tut exhibit?