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Aug 11, 2007 07:49 PM

Best diner along the NJ Turnpike?

We'll be heading for E. Brunswick after wrapping up business in Philly for the day. Gotta do a diner! But which one?

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  1. I'm not sure if this would be convenient for you, but, it is definitely one of the best diners in NJ.

    1 Reply
    1. re: nizza

      Checked the map and it looks totally doable, and the menu looks killer. Thanks for the tip, nizza!

    2. Colonial on route 18 right in EB is very good. not really on the way though, more at the start of your trip.

      1 Reply
      1. re: yankeefan

        Actually, GG will be coming from Philly to E.B., so the Colonial would be at the end of the trip.

      2. As some folks have noted in the recent "Can't take it anymore: Need recs off the NJ tpke and 95" thread on the same subject, Mastoris can get pretty crowded and, ultimately, it IS just standard diner food (save for the "cheese bread" which someone else noted in that thread is more "cheese Danish" than bread- still good, but some might expect something else).

        Sometimes, especially at the beginning or end of a trip, one doesn't want to deal with the crowds, either.

        My alternative suggestions would be Exit 8, Hightstown/East Windsor. The Americana Diner strives to be "upscale" and generally it is. The Clairmont is a notch or so below, but then is a bit closer to Mastoris in quality and menu. (Big "Early Bird" special crowd lately, I notice). Both are on Route 130N, on either side of the intersection with Rt. 571 (Princeton Rd.). It's a short trip from the Tpk., either through Hightstown, or, take the "by pass", by going Rt. 33E, Rt. 133W, Rt. 130S. There's a light to make a left into the Americana, and a U-turn exit right after the Clairmont.

        If you're looking for an true "old fashioned" classic diner experience (rather than a "NJ diner- big menu" experience in a retro-look, new diner), the classic Hightstown Diner is still downtown, on Mercer St. (Rt. 33) and W. Ward. The outside was long ago "updated" (aka "ruined") but inside it's still pretty authentic. Most diner meals I eat are breakfast, so I can't say I've had anything else there but it's still popular with locals, from what I see.

        4 Replies
        1. re: JessKidden

          I'd recommend the Americana but would totally tell you to steer away from the Clarimont. It is WAY below a notch or two from the Americana. The Hightstown diner is always a classic experience, mostly due to the size of the place. Mastoris is something everyone should experience at least once.

          1. re: Nursemegg

            Well, I suppose when giving diner rec's one should specify both what one expects from a diner *and* what kind of diner. Even tho' I've spent the majority of my life in NJ, I'm partial to what I think of as the "classic diner" (small, narrow, based around the counter, with only a few booth lining the outside, ideally with the grill behind the counter in open view) as opposed to the "New Jersey/Greek Diner" (huge, many paged menu, "dining area" of tables, etc.)

            For the former, I'd say the Freehold Grill is a good example (and, sadly, one of the few remaining in NJ) with many of the other mentioned diners (Mastoris, Americana, Clairmont) clearly in the latter camp.

            Also, for me, the classic diner meals are breakfast or a Cheeseburger Deluxe. Unless I know a diner specializes in "home made" food, I'd NEVER order, as CHdog did below, items like Moussaka (despite it's Greek origins), lamb or pasta at a diner- simply because I'd expect it to be of "food service-cafeteria-frozen" grade. Certainly the size of many "Greek" diner menus, and the prices, suggests that most of the food is going to be of a "mass produced" quality or one sort or another.

            Last year (when I posted the above), the Clairmont had re-opened (after a brief period as the USA Diner) and was serving up a great, cheap breakfast special which came, unannounced, with a fruit cup and a danish as free extras (first time it happened to me I thought, "WTF? This ain't my order!"). Since then, the freebies have disappeared (IIRC) but I'd still stop in there over the vastly overpriced Americana Diner (aren't the omelettes approaching $10?)- the last time I went for breakfast (long after my post above) at the Americana, I thought "Well, I *used* to think it was "upscale" but the only thing left that's upscale is the price."

            I suppose part of the probably is that the quality of a business can go downhill FAST (or vary, inexplicably, from day to day) so a "review" from even "only" last summer might not reflect the current situation. I recently ate in East Brunswick's Colonial Diner after having moved from that area 5 or 6 years ago. The Colonial was, at the time, the best Rt. 18 choice in an ever decreasing number of diner choices in Middlesex county. Solid but not outstanding. Since then, the Colonial was bought (and given one of the weirder "renovations" a diner's received in NJ- is that "astroturf" on the facade?) by the same outfit that owns the Americana and that Skyline "thing" in Edison ( opened after I left the area) so I thought, if anything, the food at the Colonial might have been improved. I was disappointed to find it hadn't- if anything, seemed to be worse.

            1. re: JessKidden

              To add to your first type I would suggest Carmine's in Rahway on Elizabeth Ave.


              The Country Kitchen on Main St. in Sayreville has a pretty loyal local following as well. Grill is behind the counter and there are daily specials.


              1. re: JessKidden

                <that Skyline "thing" in Edison>

                It's called Skylark Diner, Rt. 1 (

                Wonderful place, despite its garish fifties-style outer space exterior. Everything tastes like it's made from scratch. Skylark was my first choice for my graduation from Rutgers dinner this past May. Even my in-laws and teenage boys, who hate everything, loved the place.

          2. For the record,
            I had the worst meal ever in a diner at the Americana yesterday. This was the first time (and last) time I have ever been there dispite living all of my life in Central NJ.

            My first impression was that the menu was weak. There didn't seem to be much to choose from since i didn't want breakfast or a burger.

            I ordered the Moussaka which seemed like it was cooked and reaheated several times over the past few days. My wife had a lamb wrap which which had cous-cous on it. Totally dry and flavorless. Had to beg for a piece a bread to go with my in-laws pasta dish.

            There is no excuse to get a bad meal in a NJ diner no matter what you order, and when you order it!

            Head for Mastoris cause the American sucks

            2 Replies
            1. re: Chowhounddog

              There are several with that or a similar name. Where was this one?

              1. re: Chowhounddog

                Sorry, It was the Americana in Hightstown