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?