With heavy hearts (and arteries) yesterday we said goodbye to the Prime Burger, one of the last remaining greasy spoons in Manhattan. While our beloved, 74-year-old burger joint couldn’t be saved, its short-order slang must live on.

Diner lingo is by no means exclusive to the Prime Burger—temperamental waitresses and short-order cooks have employed the lippy jargon since the late 1800s. While at times crass (and mildly racist), there’s something undeniably comforting about a gum-smacking gal named Flo commanding some invisible force in the kitchen to “burn one, black and blue, and drag it through the garden.” (Well-done cheeseburger with lettuce, tomato and onion.)

These may come in handy the next time you’re short on the bill…

Adam & Eve on a raft and wreck ’em: two scrambled eggs on toast
Angels on horseback: oysters rolled in bacon and served on toast
Axle grease/cow paste: butter
Baby: glass of milk
Birdseed: breakfast
Bloodhounds in the hay: hot dogs and sauerkraut
Bossy in a bowl: beef stew
Break it and shake it: add egg to a drink
Bridge party: four of anything
Bronx vanilla: garlic
Bubble dancer: dishwasher
Bucket of cold mud: bowl of chocolate ice cream
Check the ice: a hot woman just walked in
China: rice pudding
Clean up the kitchen: hash
Dog soup: water

Foreign entanglements: spaghetti
Gentleman will take a chance: plate of hash
Hot blonde in sand: coffee with cream and sugar
Indiana Jones: customers arriving just before closing time
Keep off the grass: no lettuce
Let it walk: to go
Lighthouse: bottle of ketchup
M.D. : Dr Pepper
Mother and child reunion: chicken and egg sandwich
Mystery in the alley: a side order of hash
Nervous pudding: gelatin
Noah’s boy: a slice of ham
On a rail: make it quick
One on the city: a glass of water
Shingle with a shimmy and a shake: buttered toast with jam or jelly
Sinkers: donuts
Splash of red noise: a bowl of tomato soup
Wax: American cheese
Whiskey: rye bread
Why bother: decaffeinated coffee with nonfat milk

Let it walk,

Mark Powers Smith contributed to this report.


  • C. Brian Smith