New Jersey Diners (2013 Edition)

Double Chili Cheeseburger
2013/11/16 11:37:39
It seems that every year or three, there is a new discussion about New Jersey Diners. This makes extra sense these days, as the diners change styles, change owners, expand or contract with alarming frequency. Recently, the Tick Tock Diner was featured on the front page; if you note, the recent comments show how far down this once great diner has become.
My wife's and my favorite diners have changed since the last thread, as well. We have noticed that some of our favorite diners have been trying to go more "upscale", much of it on the surface; a cleaner look, uniforms on the waitstaff looking like black versions of kitchen staff outfits, non-circular plates (oval, square, etc.). As far as the food goes, they are trying for smaller portions with higher priced ingredients (not necessarily tasting any better), and MUCH higher prices. Yes, there has been inflation, but even going by today's pricing, when more than half the entrees top $20, and $12 plus for a "deluxe" 6-8 ounce burger, that's not really the diner experience for me.
But more traditional diners do exist; my wife and I recently discovered the Saddle Brook Diner. Nothing fancy, but good standard diner food at still great prices (I paid $8.75 for a gyro platter; pre-made strips, but a decent portion and fresh-made Greek salad, tzatziki sauce; the fries were fresh and crisp, but they were the Burger King style battered ones, albeit a bit thicker). One thing that I noted (my wife and I have visited 3 times since the summer) is that they realize that customers can add salt to their own food. They also have a "low carb" menu so that I can easily find foods on nights when I am not having a "high carb" dinner. Cakes and pies (standard New Jersey Diner, which is still pretty good) are under $3; a cup of coffee was $1.35. Most entrees tend to be in the $10-15 range; a 6 ounce topped burger + fries will run you about $7 while an 8 ounce one will run you about $8. One thing that does stand out about this diner (rather than being a holdout from the new trends) is that the staff either genuinely enjoy their jobs, or they are doing a damned good job pretending that they are. 
The Suburban Diner in Paramus on Route17 had gone the "upscale" route as has Tom Sawyer near the Fashion Square mall; Matthews in Bergenfield remains reasonably traditional, albeit a bit dull. Coach House on Route 4 near Riverside Square Mall has cleaned up its act a bit, getting rid of the incompetent and uncaring members of its waitstaff that were hurting its reputation, although the cutbacks on the food are visible to long-time diners (smaller portions, more of a balance towards less-expensive items on the plate, cutbacks on the salad bar, which used to always have a protein component like gefilte fish or pickled herring, ending the habit of many diners eating their dinner at the salad bar and taking their main dish & sides home with them). Tiffany's near the New York State border is long gone, and the building is now closed; I haven't been to the Stateline in years, due to too many disappointments about 8-9 years ago.
So, for those who are CURRENTLY going to New Jersey diners, what is your experience? Am I mistaken about any of these? Do you have your own NJ diners that you are still partial to?
Re:New Jersey Diners (2013 Edition) 2013/11/16 11:48:09
I had my 1st visit to The Tick Tock last will also be my last visit.  Plenty of better places in that area.
I was with Baah Ben and he was telling why the place went down hill.  The owners nephew hired a hit man to kill him, with the promise of large amounts of cash once he gets inside the safe in the restaurant.  The hit man was a cop, and now the IRS wants to know about the cash in the safe.
post edited by joerogo - 2013/11/16 11:54:57
Double Chili Cheeseburger
Re:New Jersey Diners (2013 Edition) 2013/11/16 15:58:09
Bart, I agree with Tom Sawyer Diner. I really do love their corned beef hash but I remember when I ordered two poached eggs on corned beef hash and said I didn't want potatoes or toast the waitress argued with me until I agreed to substitute sliced tomatoes for the potatoes and get the toast. I ate neither one. The eggs and hash were good but my son still talks about how ridiculous it was!
Before food shopping on weekends my daughter and usually go to the Westwood Diner and Pancake House. Not fancy for sure but we have gotten consistent results each time. Their pancakes and waffles are good. My son loves the French toast and their typical diner sausage(big and fat, natural casing). They also don't have any problem with alterations to their menu. 
We both feel that The Ridge diner in Park Ridge, since they renovated a couple of years ago, has lost something so even though it's closer to us, we don't go anymore.
Double Cheeseburger
Re:New Jersey Diners (2013 Edition) 2013/11/16 16:38:48
I also went to Tick-Tock once and didn't think it was anything special. In fact, one of the people I was with wouldn't eat more than a couple bites of what she ordered (I forget what that was; this was probably a couple years ago). I believe I ordered corned beef hash and was disappointed with it.
post edited by phlmaestro - 2013/11/16 16:40:55
Re:New Jersey Diners (2013 Edition) 2013/11/16 19:05:13
In Hudson County...

Tops in East Newark...does an outstanding job on an amazingly long & diverse menu. Everyone in NJ usually has their own "markers" at Diners (coffee...milkskakes...onion rings...waffles...etc.) and Sangria is usually not part of the landscape....but Tops spins a nice pitcher of Sangria.

People rave about their burgers...but the closest I came at Tops was short rib burger (hold the burger...extra short ribs) and it was excellent. More expensive vs. the average Diner...but nobody want to dine in an average Diner.

Coach House.... (sister restaurant to the other Coach House) in North Bergen....always enjoyed the food (haven't been in about a year or so) never been on the Diner side....always sit on the more "traditional restaurant" side with cushy booths.

I agree the staff has always been either "rode hard & put away wet" or very new & inexperienced. But these are things that don't bother me much...because I don't let much bother me.

Brownstone Dimer & Pancake Factory in Jersey City...always fun for a great pancake or waffle breakfast. It's been featured on DD&D so of gets ridiculously crowded when that show airs...which is quite often.

Broadway Diner(s) uptown & downtown...always solid & I have a lifetime of memories in both locations. I have pre-lifetime experience in downtown since my mother needed one more cup of coffee before leaving for the labor.

I never stray far from what I usually order...and you can have whatever you wish whichever way you want it...whenever. They are "knock yourself out" & "more power to ya" kinda places. Waffles - onion rings - red cabbage - bread pudding? Enjoy!
post edited by CCinNJ - 2013/11/16 19:17:12
Double Chili Cheeseburger
Re:New Jersey Diners (2013 Edition) 2013/11/17 09:23:35
agnesrob Before food shopping on weekends my daughter and usually go to the Westwood Diner and Pancake House. Not fancy for sure but we have gotten consistent results each time.

There are a few diners that I have found decent enough, but not sufficient to justify going there. Westwood was one; another is the River Edge Diner in River Edge. But you have reminded me; on a shopping trip on Rt. 46, I looked up the Park West Diner on Rt. 46; this was a couple of years ago, but it is near the top of our list should we want a diner meal out there.
Double Chili Cheeseburger
Re:New Jersey Diners (2013 Edition) 2013/11/17 09:25:35
Coach House.... (sister restaurant to the other Coach House) in North Bergen....always enjoyed the food (haven't been in about a year or so) never been on the Diner side....always sit on the more "traditional restaurant" side with cushy booths.

According to Yelp reviews, the two restaurants split up, and yours has kept up its quality better than mine.
Re:New Jersey Diners (2013 Edition) 2013/11/17 11:22:24
The person on Yelp who framed Coach House North Bergen as seated quickly & wait wait wait as several members of the waitstaff walk by...painted it well.

The remedy for that is a request to be seated in the back room on the traditional side of the restaurant (a beautiful room & usually quiet compared to the rest of the place). The request will gladly be honored as long as there aren't any very large gatherings happening. That's the section served by the current (most experienced) waitstaff who are usually the friendliest as well. That must be the service award section for the Coach House.

There's usually a cushy booth available back there because people assume that if their seated in the middle section (surrounding the salad bar) they are sure to be noticed. Nope not there...& you are surrounded by salad bar traffic as well.

They have great lunch specials....very inexpensive. The prime rib is delicious . That comes with the salad bar (still very fresh lovely choices always stocked well spotless & watched like a hawk by the manager who has a front row seat) or soup. Soups are very good...and for an little extra charge with a lunch special the French Onion soup is excellent.

The fish & chips are also excellent. I believe they are only on the special menu during lunch.

They also have good & wildly popular cheesecake. Another very modest charge & you can upgrade to cheesecake with a lunch special...and be full for the rest of the day.
post edited by CCinNJ - 2013/11/17 11:28:34
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Re:New Jersey Diners (2013 Edition) 2013/11/20 06:38:21
Delicious fish & chips looking yummy. I love to eat delicious food. the French Onion soup is excellent.
Double Chili Cheeseburger
Re:New Jersey Diners (2013 Edition) 2013/11/21 11:27:08
I don't go to Diners all that much, but I do like Tops very much.   I've only been twice, but both times were outstanding.
I went to the Coach House in North Bergen a few months ago, it was OK, not much more.
My one time at Tick Tock was fine, but that was several years ago.
Been to Brownstone about 3 times in the last couple of years (two of our out of town relatives love it) . Always loud and crowded, but always good service and good food. I try not to hold the DDD connection against it. And the fact that it has a parking lot in Jersey Ciy is a major plus.
One that hasn't been mentioned yet is the Skylark on Rt 1 in Edison. I was prepared not to like it (too sleek, too upscale, too new, and so on) , but I was very pleasantly surprised. Food was great, server was great, prices were a little higher than most, but within reason. If I woke up tomorrow and decided to go to a Diner, I'd go there.
Re:New Jersey Diners (2013 Edition) 2013/11/21 11:36:08
I miss the Flamingo...which was not far from Brownstone in Jersey City.

It was a gritty little place...but lots of fun.


Now it's City Diner.