A Must-See Modern Diner: Inside Clyde’s Fine Diner

by Andrea Reynolds

Diner design is perhaps my favorite kind of restaurant design. While there are the trendsetting fast-casuals, the stylish farm-to-tables, even the wildly creative 80s concepts, something about a diner puts me at ease. Maybe it’s the simple comfort food or the well-worn, cracked vinyl booth or the gentle tings of spoons swirling into coffee playing like choir handbells. It’s an easy and comforting mix of smells and sounds that feel familiar and fond. Whatever that diner aura is, it’s special.

wood-diner-chair-and-wood-diner-tableImage by Ben Easter Photography featuring Hugh chairs

Which is why I’m thrilled to tell you about Clyde’s Fine Diner in Des Moines, Iowa. The design has that unmistakable diner feel—just reimagined for the modern day.

The Inspiration

Designed by principal and designer Anna Squier of Modern Studio, Clyde’s Fine Diner was inspired by and named after the chef and owner Chris Hoffman’s grandfather, Clyde. Along with the menu, Hoffman’s foodie grandfather was incorporated into many aspects of the design including the classic and clean branding and signage.

Modern-diner-table-and-chairsImage by Ben Easter Photography featuring Hugh chairs

The Design

Now, there is a reason the word “fine” is in the restaurant’s name. Although Clyde’s maintains some classic diner elements, each of those elements are interpreted through a refined and modern palette. The swivel barstools, a classic diner nod, gets a luxe update with tufted teal upholstery. The U-shaped bar, the architectural element that anchors the space, features both the nostalgic corrugated aluminum edge and a brass foot rail, yet it’s also topped with a shiny white quartz. 

diner-barstool-modern-designImage by Ben Easter Photography

Like Hip City Veg, another modern diner, Clyde’s uses a neutral palette accented with rich teal and blue tones. While black and white harkens back to retro diner floors, the rich wood paneling on the bar, timber beams, and Windsor-style black Hugh dining chairs and sleek diner tables add a modern elegance. 

It’s an expert mix of modern finishes and familiar diner moments that give this space depth. Perhaps the most special design detail—and Squier’s  favorite element—is the custom neon sign hanging above the kitchen pass-thru. “It’s a custom doodle created by Clyde himself for a G.I. newspaper when he was stationed in San Juan, Puerto Rico. It’s the heart of the space in which everything else fosters from,” said Squier.

Bolt-Down-Diner-Stool-Diner-DesignImage by Ben Easter Photography 

Are Diners Making a Comeback?

The diner concept is not revolutionary, but the energy behind revitalizing and reimagining this space seems to be. From Des Moines to Pittsburgh to California and New York, modern diners are popping up in every part of the country. Squier noted, “I think people have a desire to go back to simpler times which leads to the exploration of how to create simpler spaces and support unique ideas through design. This leads to a resurgence in popular design trends from existing eras, including diner designs. A diner comes with the tag of laid back and cool, but with high-end quality food. It is the perfect combination of casual, yet sophisticated people are looking for these days.”

For more inspiring diners, cafes, and restaurants, check out our new Best Installs of 2019 guide.