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A Recap of 250 NJ Diners

A Recap of 250 NJ Diners

Since starting my NJ Diner quest, I’ve been to just over 250+ diners in New Jersey and about 50 diners in other parts of the world.  There are approximately 600 diners in NJ, but that changes from month to month.  I’ve been to at least ten that have since closed!

You can see reviews here or use the link at the top of the blog.

How did it start? Why do I go to diners?

I get this question a lot. 

My husband and I moved to New Jersey in October 2013.  Before moving to NJ, we didn’t know much about the state.  I had no ties to NJ. Like most people, I assumed it was just a densely populated state with a lot of traffic.

That’s just one misconception of the state. NJ is the most densely populated, but it also has hundreds of small towns, each having its own personality.  New Jersey is known as “the garden state,” and there are miles of fields and gardens.

stairway to heaven nj

We started going to different diners to see different parts of the state.  A diner along the shore of NJ is going to be far different than one on the outskirts of New York City.  It’s been a fun way to explore the state and see all different areas.

Do I only eat at diners?  No, of course not.  Have there been many weeks where I haven’t made it to a new diner?  Of course but it’s been a fun hobby to do. Plus I’ve seen so much of New Jersey!  I’ve traveled the majority of roads in NJ.

I started reviewing diners in March of 2014.  Keep in mind, this just a personal experience.  An experience at any restaurant is different depending on the day, time, or who you go with.  I’m not a diner professional, food critic, or anyone other than a person who likes diners.  I don’t eat the same thing at every diner. I used to think that was a good way to review, but then got tired of that very quickly.

Here are a Few Highlights and Lowlights:

First some of my favorite meals:

Favorite Diner Drink: Coffee, although some diners do have their liquor license
Favorite Breakfast: Omelets or steak and eggs
Favorite Omelet: Nova lox (smoked salmon)
Favorite Appetizer: Appetizers with a greek flair with hummus, pita bread, grape leaves. Many have a Greek flair to begin with.
Favorite Lunch: Gyro
Favorite Salad: Greek salad
Favorite Dinner: Pork chops, salmon, steak, (whatever I’m in the mood for)
The most unusual thing I’ve ordered at a diner: Octopus
Favorite Dessert: Cake followed by bread pudding

All-Time Favorite Diner: Mastoris

Mastoris isn’t a typical diner. It was one of the first 50 diners I went too and still one I frequent. It’s more of a modern and upscale restaurant, but I like their food and cake.   I think the food is excellent at Mastoris. However, I think the service is lackluster.  Is it the best overall? Due to service, maybe not but I like the food.

Mastoris Cake

But which cake to get?

Least Favorite Diner: The Ridge DinerLakehurst Diner, or Garden State Diner

Each diner was a letdown.

Diner review number 200, the Ridge Diner, had burnt crusty steak, poor service, and sitting on top of people.

The Lakehurst Diner outside of the Navy Base, Lakehurst, looked like a meal served right out of a deployment. Luckily, my company was good. Lakehurst Diner lakehurst nj

Diner went to the most times: Vincentown

I used to live closer to Vincentown.  Sadly, the quality of the food and service has gone downhill, so I haven’t been much at all.  I went from going three times a month to maybe once every few months.  Once the wait staff essentially assumed I was too young to afford my meal.  The woman said to me, do you realize how much this will cost? Yes, that is a true story, and yes the meal was less than $20.

Another time, we overheard another waitress talking about her stripping job.  Personally, I don’t care, but when you hear a waitress talking about that to co-workers, it’s a unique experience.

Here are a Few Diners that Stand Out to Me:

I guess many of my favorite diners are due to their cake.

Northwest:

Stateline Diner: Great cake and service

Jefferson Diner: Great food and service

Northeast (NYC area):

Brownstone: Best pancakes in the state

Chit Chat Diner: Fun and unique diner

Shore:

Mustache Bills: You can’t argue with mustache shaped pancakes

Mustache pancake

 

Central:

Tropicana: Most unique and Carribean themed!

Mastoris: Best all around

South:

Larrys 2: Great food, fast service

Larrys 2 vineland

Monarch Diner:

The Monarch Diner replaces PB Diner and it was a great replacement. The food is fresh and they have a lot of fun options like cauliflower bread.

monarch diner glassboro

Healthiest Diner: Silver Diner

The Silver Diner is a small chain, and there are a few across the east coast.  How many diners have Quinoa pancakes or a roasted vegetable salad?

Best Coffee: 

Any diner that serves the local Lacas coffee and has homemade whipped cream.

Worst Coffee: 

Princetonian: they charge for refills!

Biggest portions: 

Tropicana: For $24, I received all of this food.  I had run 15 miles and still made a full meal out of leftovers. 

Best Pancakes: 

Four Seasons in Toms River.  Any pancakes with red velvet in them are always good to me!Four Seasons Diner Toms River

Best Egg Breakfast: Amys Omelet House (Over 200 omelet choices!)

My nova lox and rye toast

Pauls Family Diner had great steak and eggs

Pauls family diner mountain lakes nj

Best Dinner Option:

The Pork Chops with NJ fresh Blueberries from Larrys 2

Larrys 2 vineland

Cheapest Diner: Angelos (around $5 for a meal)
Most Expensive: Alexis Diner or Vincentown (typically $20+ for a meal)
So cheers to 250 diners. Hopefully, I’ll make it another 100 but who knows what will happen.

Questions for you:

Have you been to a diner before? 

Where is your favorite place to eat? 

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Soda Jerk Diner (Hummelstown, PA)

Soda Jerk Diner (Hummelstown, PA)

Recently, I was driving through Hummelstown. I haven’t been out in the area in years (it’s right near Hershey Park). I was driving through the mid-morning, and while I wasn’t starving, I was hungry, so I decided to stop.

The Soda Jerk Diner is located in a small strip mall. When I arrived mid-morning, I got the last parking spot in the lot.

Soda Jerk Diner (Hummelstown, PA)

Atmosphere: A
The Soda Jerk Diner stands out in the strip mall. It’s a large shiny, chrome restaurant front.  When you walk in, you feel like you are in a blast from the past and walking into a diner. It’s everything you picture in a restaurant from the checkerboard floor, shiny tables, and jukeboxes. You couldn’t ask for a more picturesque diner if you tried.

Soda Jerk Diner (Hummelstown, PA)

Coffee: A

The coffee was brewed hot and fresh, and it was delicious. I have no complaints.

Soda Jerk Diner (Hummelstown, PA) coffee

Food: B
I wasn’t sure what I was in the mood for. The Soda Jerk Diner has everything from breakfast specials, lunch, and dinner. Since I wasn’t starving, I decided to order the Greek salad with salmon. I also added a cup of spicy crab soup because it sounded good.

The spicy crab soup was a pleasant surprise. I like spicy food, and the spicier, the better. The soup had a nice kick but wasn’t overly powerful.

The salad was ok. It was by no means the best salad or best diner salad I’ve had. I could have used more greens as well as pita bread, grape leaves, or anchovies. I doubt I would order it again.

Soda Jerk Diner (Hummelstown, PA) salad

Service: A
The waitress was friendly and my food came out quickly. I have no complaints.

Cost: $
For my soup, coffee, and salad, it was $20.

Overall Thoughts/Summary:
I liked the Soda Jerk Diner in Hummelstown. I would go back, but I would probably order something else.

Atmosphere: A
Coffee: A
Food: B
Service: A
Cost: $10-20

Overall: A

You Can See All Diner Reviews Here.

Questions for you:

Have you been to Hershey Park?

Do you like spicy foods?

West Essex Diner (Fairfield)

West Essex Diner (Fairfield)

Recently I was at the West Essex Diner in Fairfield, NJ. I was in the area and googled diners closeby, and it came up. I’ve been to Fairfield a few times, and I wondered why I hadn’t ever discovered the West Essex Diner. Once I got there, it was abruptly clear. The West Essex Diner takes the place of the Versaille Diner which I went to last year. I didn’t “love” the Versaille Diner, so truthfully I wasn’t surprised it closed. I did laugh, when I got there, and I was like “I’ve been to this location before” and realized it had closed and reopened.

Atmosphere: A
The West Essex Diner is clean and modern. The outside is welcoming. When I was there last, it was under construction, and I remember watching construction workers do work on the outside. The inside is clean, bright, and looks exactly like what you picture in a NJ diner.

West Essex Diner Fairfield nj

Coffee: B
The coffee was brewed hot and fresh, but there wasn’t anything unique or unusual about it. It was terrible but not surprising either, somewhere in the middle as diner coffee goes.

West Essex Diner Fairfield nj

Food: B
The West Essex Diner has everything you can imagine. There are pages of breakfast options, different lunch and dinner options and a full page of specials too.

West Essex Diner Fairfield nj

I decided to order the “Heart Attack Burger.”  It was two patties with American cheese, grilled onions, and mushrooms. It also came with fries. The burger itself was good. It was a lot of burger, and there was plenty of grease that dripped off. The fries were bland, but they weren’t terrible. I would order it again.

Service: B
When we arrived, the diner was about 1/3 filled. We were sat in an awkward location and waited for a long time for someone to come over. It became clear that none of the servers knew we were in their section. Our waiter was friendly, and our drinks were refilled often. I think I blinked and our food came out, in fact, it came out in less time than it took to take our orders.

Cost: $
For my burger and coffee, the cost was $17.

Overall Thoughts/Would I Come Back?
I think the West Essex Diner is a much improvement of the Versaille Diner and I would go back if I’m in the area. They have a lot of fun breakfast options that I would like to try.

Atmosphere: A
Coffee: B
Food: B
Service: B
Cost: $12-17

You Can See All 243 Diner Reviews Here.

Questions for you:
What is your favorite kind of burger?
Have you ever been to a place that’s reopened under new management? 

 

Maple Leaf Diner (Maplewood)

Maple Leaf Diner (Maplewood)

After hiking at Watchung Park, I decided to stop at the Maple Leaf Diner. I wasn’t starving, but I did want to check out a new diner. The Maple Leaf Diner looked like a cute stop in downtown Maplewood.

Atmosphere: B
It’s not a huge metallic diner, nor is it big at all. It’s located in the heart of Maplewood. There is plenty of street parking, but like any downtown, you might need to park and walk.

maple leaf diner maplewood

The inside is modest with several booths and a few tables, as well as a small bar.

Coffee: A
The coffee was brewed hot and fresh. I have no complaints. The waitress refilled it several times.

maple leaf diner maplewood

Food: B
I wasn’t sure what I was in the mood for. The Maple Leaf Diner has everything from breakfast, to lunch, and dinner options. On the specials, they had split pea soup listed which is one of my favorite soups. When I ordered, they were out.

maple leaf diner maplewood

I ultimately went with a BLT which I have no complaints with.  It was packed full.  I decided to order a side Ceasor salad which green with plenty of dressing.

maple leaf diner maplewood

Service: A
The waitress was friendly, and our food came out fast. It was a positive experience.

Cost: $
For my coffee and BLT, it was $12.

Overall Thoughts/Would I Come Back?
I liked the Maple Leaf Diner, and it was a positive experience. It’s not a large diner, but it’s a great local small town. There is plenty to do in Maplewood, so it’s fun to spend a few hours there.

Atmosphere: B
Coffee: A
Food: B
Service: A
Cost: $8-15

You Can See All 240 Diner Reviews Here

Questions for you:
Are there any cute downtowns near you? NJ is filled with small, local, communities.
What is your favorite kind of soup? 

Hawthorne Diner

While driving back from New York, we stopped at one more diner. The Hawthorne Diner wasn’t the original plan, but we ran into a lot more traffic than anticipated, so we decided to stop earlier.

Hawthorne Diner NJ

Atmosphere: A
The Hawthorne Diner is located at an intersection. At one time it was called the “Triangle Diner” because (I assume) the end does look like a triangle. The inside is small but has plenty of booths as well as a bar. There were a few tables in the back but more booths than anything.

Coffee: A
The coffee was brewed hot and fresh with plenty of whipped cream. It was good.

Hawthorne Diner NJ

Food: B
The Hawthorne Diner has everything you want or need in a diner. There are plenty of breakfast choices, as well as wraps, sandwiches, and dinner options.

I was hungry, so I decided to order the pikilia house platter to start. It was massive and came with grape leaves, hummus, tomatoes, cucumbers, pita bread, tzatziki sauce, olives, and hummus. Everything tasted good, and I liked the hummus a lot. I also appreciated how many olives there were. Olives are one of my favorite foods. It was nothing extraordinary but everything tasted good.

Hawthorne Diner NJ

I was in the Greek mood and decided to order a gyro which came with french fries. The gyro was massive, in fact maybe the biggest gyro I’ve had. In all, good.

Hawthorne Diner NJ

Service: A
Our waitress was friendly and funny. She was one of the best waitresses I’ve had in a while. Our food came out quickly, and I have no complaints. We were in and out in no more than 45 minutes.

Cost: $
For my gyro, appetizer, and coffee the cost was $25.

Overall Thoughts/Would I Come Back?
I liked the Hawthorne Diner, and it’s a nice diner to stop. I would definitely go back.

Atmosphere: A
Coffee: A
Food: B
Service: A
Cost: $8-15
Overall: A

You Can See All 233 Diner Reviews Here.

Questions for you:
Do you like gyros?
What is your favorite appetizer? 

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