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Best Jersey Diners (Lots good eats, little $)

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OK, time for a Best of...for Jersey. Instead of the pretentious restaurants that have a nom de plum of diner (where a plate of pancakes will run you over ten bucks with tax and tip), which are your fave REAL diners where you can get lots of good eats, cholesterol and passable coffee and still come out with change and a few good waitress smiles?

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  1. I like the Americana in the Eatontown/Shrewsbury area. I've tried All Seasons many times and don't like their food as much as the Americana although All Seasons does a great business.

    1. Check out the "Best Diners in NJ", started last June 20. Sorry, I gotta learn how to find the post number! I find many diners over pri9ced for what one gets. So I look forward to some good cheap diners, it such a thing still exists.

      2 Replies
      1. re: Passadumkeg

        Mustache Bill's in Barnegat Light on LBI - give me a bowl of hot, steaming grits topped with a couple of poached eggs, while watching the fishing boats head out to sea - heaven!

        1. re: Passadumkeg

          Here's the discussion you're thinking of...

          http://www.chowhound.com/topics/188229

        2. Town & Country for breakfast gets my vote. Not a fan of lunch or dinner but they have a consistently good & reasonably priced breakfast (the usual suspects: eggs the way you like them, hash brown potatoes, bacon/sausage/ham steak choice, toast choice lightly buttered) and the coffee is HOT and strong. Under $10.00 and everyone at Town & Country smiles. If I have work along Route 35 North, I tend to stop for a quick and satisfying breakfast.

          4 Replies
          1. re: HillJ

            Where's the Town & Country....????

            1. re: vtt7

              My bad, vtt7-The Town & Country is in Keyport btwn Broadway and the jug handle to Matawan Train station. Open 7 days a week.

              1. re: HillJ

                Thanks, HillJ....I'll have to get there and try their breakfast. I love breakfast.

                1. re: HillJ

                  You had me confused too. There’s another Town & Country diner on Rt. 206 in Bordentown right across from Mastoris’s diner.

                  My son recently gave me a book entitled, “Jersey Diners” by Peter Genovese. It’s really interesting in that it covers most of the diners currently in the state and the history of diners in general.

            2. Another nod north of me is The Cranford Diner. Just good comfort food at not so crazy prices. Love their triple deckers with slaw & sour pickles, rice pudding is quality, mac n cheese superb but their blueberry pancakes are killer-good. Off the main drag (I believe that's North Avenue) heading in the direction of Garwood.

              1. Recent issue of "New Jersey" magazine made the almost the whole issue about diners. Not a bad issue....

                I prefer Mastoris. I think the prices are good comparatively speaking. The filet mignon benedict is great....and the cheese bread is better...and of course the desserts...

                for the best "bang for your buck" though.....i hate to say it...but perkins isn't so bad.

                I live close to the seville (which I hate) colonial (almost worse) and don't care for either. The atmosphere at Seville is horrible, very rude guy thats always seating you...you ask for a booth, he brings you to a table....rush you in and out...when its busy. One of the owners was shot, mob style, maybe it was that guy and I should give it another chance....

                colonial just doesn't have that great food.

                7 Replies
                1. re: RPMcMurphy

                  I too live near to the Seville and Colonial, and have eaten at both. In all honesty. I think I get a a better meal at Denney's Have you noticed that not even the East Brunswick and South River cops eat at these diners anymore?. My choice for the best diner would have to be Americana in Eatontown. consistant, and hearty.

                  1. re: currymouth

                    The Alexis Diner on Route 10 West in Denville. Consistently GREAT food, service, and overall diner experience. The Greek Salad is wonderful. The burgers are among the best in Morris County. The more complicated dishes are fantastic--his fish is as good or better than so-called seafood restaurants in the area.

                    1. re: currymouth

                      if frequent dennys if the sausage didn't have a pine sol taste (just a weird mind thing with me)

                      but I like iHop and perkins. I like peterpank in slayerville too, but from more of a nostolgia/grew up stand point....

                      I hit the diner on Easton ave on the way to bound brook this weekend and it was great.....somerset diner? good prices.

                      and if you go past a diner and there isn't a patrol car out front...move on! first sign!

                      1. re: RPMcMurphy

                        Do people seriously think of Dennys, Ihop and Perkins as diners?....they are just chain restaurants with average food to me...

                      2. re: JessKidden

                        Here's what I posted in May of 2007 about our experience at the Skylark in Edison:

                        We had dinner at the Skylark in Edison last night--I was hoping the quality of the food would be similar to the the similarly wacky-formatted and upscale (different owners) City Limits Diner in White Plains and Stamford, where I've always eaten well. Meal immediately started off with service issues--waiter seemed to have serious problems communicating beyond grunts. Then he disappeared after giving us menus--we had to ask another waiter to find him for us.

                        Long after we ordered, he brought a platter of bruschetta, served on slices of bread that were not given enough time to get crisp. Salad that came with my main course was very good.

                        I ordered the special of grilled hanger steak, and it was good, came rare as ordered, meat and sauce were flavorful and satisfying. Roast potatoes were terrible--thick slices of Idahos (the iceberg lettuce of the potato world), dry and flavorless. Wife ordered flank steak rare. We both agreed that what came out was not flank steak, taste and texture was more like shoulder london broil. Plus, it came out medium and dried out, like it sat under the lights too long. She was too tired to send it back and endure a wait, so she suffered in silence. They have an interesting sounding wine by the glass list. I ordered a glass of Zig Zag Zin. It tasted like it had been sitting in a bottle that had been opened weeks ago. By that point I was getting disgusted, so I didn't send it back.

                        After main course, waiter came over and tidied up the table by scooping up the crumbs in his hand. Utensils obviously optional with this guy.

                        Ordered a slice of tres leche cake for dessert. Waiter brought the cake--I had to ask for forks (see above). Cake was OK, but nothing special.

                        Because it was a weeknight, we got a table right away. But there was a pile of beepers on the counter--I guess they do a huge business on weekends.

                        Overall, I'd say you can probably get lucky and have a good meal at the Skylark. Our service problems, which became comic after awhile, seemed to be isolated to this one guy, because the rest of the waitstaff seemed friendly and competent. The ingredient substitution was inexcusable--in fact, it's outright fraud--, but a customer can never win a dispute over that. We will settle that one by not going back.

                        1. re: albinoni

                          FYI, The Skylark has the same ownership as the Americana Diner in East Windsor, and the Colonial Diner in East Brunswick, and also the Pines Manor. http://www.americanahospitality.com/

                          1. re: albinoni

                            I know this is an old post, but it seems like the expectations were a little high for a diner. There are some great diners out there, but you get what you pay for. Michelin star quality isn't what I would be expecting. Complaining about the type of potatoes used seems very strange for a diner.

                      3. My votes go to the Park West Diner in Little Falls and the Chester Hills Diner in Chester.
                        Both have always been consistent in high quality food. The Chester Hills Diner has some of the best specials I've seen in a diner.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: wytewyz

                          I fully disagree about the Chester Hills Diner. It has been hands down the worst diner I have ever been too. I spend my weekends in Chester and we used to brave it for our Sunday breakfasts, occasional lunches and quick dinners. The food is terrible and the service is slow and untrained (like the rest of the restaurants in this restaurant group including the Long Valley Brew Pub.) We once went there for a "quick" dinner before a road trip. Our waitress completely disappeared and we waited about 20 minutes for our check. When no one came, we went up front and got the check from the cashier. Who would go to a place like this with Marilyn's Cafe right around the corner? Worse diner ever.

                          1. re: njeggy1

                            Agreed njeggy1
                            Sadly, the Chester Diner once was a place were palatable fare was served with family pride. But some ten years ago, the diner began a downward slide that has yet to stop. The service sucks. The coffee is dishwater. The Greek dishes taste like McSouvlaki and McGyro. All that remains of value there is the bowl of free cookies by the cashier. But since that means one must eat something and pay before snatching them up . . .
                            Ah but fear not! Just around the corner, right past the Dairy Queen is Gill and Gallagher's Specialty Sandwich shop, a remarkable little place whose chef used to cook at the Bernardsville Inn. The sandwiches are exquisite, and concocted with care, while the soups are complex and refined. Take a simple carrot and ginger soup which is anything but simple, blending carrots, ginger, orange juice, celery, onion and some secret spices into a creamy but creamless concotion. Same with the rich and woodsy mushroom soup; you'd swear it was cream based but there's not a drop of cream in it. The breads and baquettes are home baked and, save for Coco Luxe in Peapack, as good as you'll find in the area.

                        2. We used to live in Long Branch and were frequent diners at Eatontown's All Seasons and Cobblestone (underrated and cheaper) diners. We live in Mercer County now, but still go back at least once every 6-8 weeks for All Seasons' buffalo wings, chicken caesar salad and Texas chicken wrap.

                          Locally, Mastoris and The Americana (East Windsor) are both great in terms of food, pricing, and menu options, but they're always way too crowded. We rarely bother trying them anymore. Up 206 is the Hillsborough Diner. Good eats, great pricing, friendly staff.

                          Growing up in Freehold, the Golden Bell was a "must go to" place on the weekend. We've gone back twice in the last two years and were rather disappointed.

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: Jaxie Waxie Woo

                            no longer living in jersey, but i was always a fan of the tic toc. for the post about cranford diner, not sure i put it too high on the list and not certainly higher than the westfield diner...

                            i sure would love some disco fries. i try to explain this to people in nyc and they look at me like i have ten heads. nothing better than disco fries after a long night of drinking....

                            1. re: cdog

                              Now that's interesting..I think the Westfd Diner is the disappointment.
                              Last time I was there the coffee was cold and so were the eggs.
                              Different strokes..

                              1. re: HillJ

                                i don't find either to be that strong, but i would certainly chose westfield over cranford and probably Vicki's in westfield as well.

                          2. My nomination (in Hunterdon County) is the Spinning Wheel Diner on Rt.22 East in Lebanon (just west of Whitehouse Station). It's been going strong for over 40 years and is a popular spot for locals.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: grampart

                              The Spinning Wheel is great for breakfast and pretty good for lunch but I cannot recommend it for dinner, unless you're having a burger.

                              The same holds true for the Bridgewater Diner which is owned by the same people as the Spinning Wheel. The BD is on Route 22 near the intersection with Route 287. You can access it from either the east- or west-bound lanes.

                              My favorite in Hunterdon County is The Fine Diner in Clinton. Outstanding food and service.

                              1. re: ambrose

                                Almost a year later, and I'm sorry to say the Spinning Wheel has really gone down hill in that time. We've been for breakfast twice in the last three months and both visits were very disappointing. Service is still good (and very friendly) but the quality of the food has deteriorated badly. I've also noticed fewer people there, even during the morning rush hour. I don't know if it's the economy in general or whether others, like me, have simply decided to go elsewhere.

                                In Hunterdon County, I continue to frequent the Fine Diner in Clinton as well as the Country Griddle which has locations in both Clinton and Flemington.

                            2. Without a doubt the Americana on Route 130N in East Windsor or Mastoris in Bordentown are way at the top of the list.

                              3 Replies
                              1. re: Nursemegg

                                Went down to Phila area from NYC last weekend and ate at Americana (East Windsor) for dinner on way down and Mastoris for lunch on way back. Both were good but we preferred Americana. Americana's menu seemed a touch more upscale (I had salmon with southwestern spices on a warm rice/vegetable salad - at Mastoris I has a "Tuscan" omlette which included portabello mushrooms, cheese and not-exactly-Tuscan-but-good Kalamara olives). Everyone strongly preferred Americana's french fries, which were slender and possibly double-fried; Mastoris' fries are more like the larger steak fries. Americana provides at dinner a type of free bruscetta (in this case slightly toasted Italian bread with chopped tomatoes); Mastoris provides its famous cheese/cinnamon bread (careful, it's sweet). Americana looks more like a diner when you walk in, Mastoris seems much larger with a front desk and bakery at the entrance. I'd love to hear of any other diner recommendations for this route, especially off of the NJ Turnpike or Route 130.

                                1. re: amstrgy

                                  We had dinner at the Americana last night based on the recs on this Board, and we really enjoyed the salads, which were huge, with very fresh and flavorful ingredients (I had the Mediterranean salad, which was great).

                                  1. re: albinoni

                                    Americana I can't speak for, but their sister (same owners) of Skylark in Edison serve consistantly good food....Some people consider the service super important, I don't, as long as the server is civil, thats all I care about.

                              2. no votes for the Summit Diner? Broadway Diner in RB?
                                what about those gone from our realm? REX (Red Bank), Claremont (Newark?), Pat's (Belmar), the original Middletown Diner....any others?

                                8 Replies
                                1. re: grampart

                                  I'll just cut to the chase here and say there are no good diners Freehold, Manalpan or Marlboro with the gold star for worst offender is the Golden Bell - truely terrible! I have heard good things about The Spinning Wheel though have never been; and the diners that the food network guy from Diners and Dives went to looked good. Does anyone know about Reo diner in Woodbridge...I used to hear it advertised a lot on the radio.

                                  1. re: shesallthat

                                    Thanks, Shesallthat. My eye doctor is on rt 9 in Manalapan and I've wondered about a couple of dowdy looking diners. Have you ever tried the Turkish restaurant on Rt. 9 S in Manalapan?

                                    1. re: Passadumkeg

                                      Marmara is sooo delish!!! I have never had a bad meal there!

                                    2. re: shesallthat

                                      shesallthat,

                                      I agree with you one thousand percent about the lack of good diners in Freehold, Manalapan and Marlboro. However, my award for "Worst of the Horrible Diners" (couldn't possibly be a *gold* star!) goes to the Marlboro Diner. When it re-opened year before last, we went for a late supper. I was served what had to be the most disgusting looking Reuben on the face of the earth and beyond. Just one bite confirmed that it tasted as awful as it looked. My husband had not touched his food (I think he ordered a burger), so we decided to leave. When we asked for the check and told our waitress why we were leaving without eating our food, she asked if I'd like to try something else. I declined. When we got to the register, the manager, who had been informed of the situation, waived the bill. Since then, new owners took over, but I would never consider going there again.

                                      1. re: shesallthat

                                        The Reo changed hands a few years back and it went way downhill. I went twice since the change and will never go back.

                                        1. re: shesallthat

                                          While I have heard people rave about the Reo, when I went the food was bad and the service was terrible. And there are too many other diners in NJ to go back and give it another shot.

                                        2. re: aklein

                                          OK I'll speak up for Summit Diner. Great Corned Beef Hash!!! Its homemade, from corned beef (Imagine!) Not the dog food you get everywhere else. Also, grilled cheese and ham on a roll... they give nice thick slices of baked ham. The split pea soup (Wednesdays I think) is really good too, just don't order it late in the day when its an El Bulli concentrated pea-sludge ready for slicing.

                                          On the bad side, the place- especially the bathroom- is dirty, which for me does not equal charm. Some don't mind. The coffee sucks so bad, its a crime. They have two waitresses, Grumpy and Dopey, so sit at the counter and deal directly with the cooks.

                                          Try it, you'll like it.

                                          1. re: aklein

                                            Summit Diner rocks.

                                          2. the union plaza diner.. in union on the center island of rte22... always great food..and always crowded.. their chicken parm is the best.. their pasta is not great.. but if you get meat sauce it helps.. but the chicken parm... id put it against any italian restaurant. (enough for 2 people).. also their prime rib dinner is very good... its a must do

                                            1. Folks, discussion of diners that no longer exist is off-topic for this board, and we've had to remove several posts on that topic. Please keep discussion focused on diners that are open for business.

                                              The Chowhound Team

                                              1. Mastori's in Bordentown, NJ.

                                                1. I would like to nominate Tops diner in East Newark(dont be scarred its in a good area with free parking) I have been there several times and have not been disapointed,the service is friendly and efficient, the usual large portios and nice desserts,one of my favorites is a salad pizza thin crust with nice greens and shaved cheese(not melted)on top its on passaic ave rt 21 cross over bridge left on passaic

                                                  1. I've been on a search for a good local diner in the Hamilton area (Mercer Cty) since we moved here a couple years back. If anyone has a suggestion for a good diner in my area, I'd very much appreciate hearing it. I see these places with these amazing house specialties for which their famous and giant plates of food on TV, but I've yet to find anything like it around here. It's pretty disappointing when you get down to it. I kind of miss my West Coast places where I could get hash browns instead of home fries and a real chicken-fried steak that's never been frozen, but I'm trying to fit in to the Jersey lifestyle. I'm not certain about some of the comments or the need for a diner to be "upscale" since when I'm at a diner I want diner food. When we eat upscale, we go to a upscale place. I want my diner to be a diner.

                                                    Below are some of the places we've been to. If you can steer me to a place I've not mentioned for some great food, it'd be appreciated.

                                                    We've eaten at the Americana on 130, but it's been a while. I remember that I enjoyed it but not so much to drive half an hour for breakfast.

                                                    The Princetonian in Lawrenceville (rte 1 southbound side) is pretty good. The lunches are better than the breakfasts and healthily proportioned. Breakfasts are pretty standard, but good.

                                                    The Golden Dawn in Hamilton (hamilton ave) had a good, standard diner breakfast. It's always packed, but it nothing really jumped out as special. It's close by and we go there for want of other choices.

                                                    The Golden Gate in Hamilton on rt 33 is the closest diner to us and by far the worst diner I've been to in my life. They should have been embarassed to serve us the slop they gave us. Went once and will never go back.

                                                    The Hightstown Diner in Hightstown has very good CB-hash and my wife really liked her belgian waffle. The hash browns were nice and crusty too. The only down side it's not closer to where we live. Parking sucks too.

                                                    Mastoris in Bordentown: We've been there a few different times and the menu can be overwhelming, but the food's pretty reliable. Breakfast there seemed ordinary to me and I was underwhelmed by the cheesebread--although I seem to be the only person in the county with this reaction.

                                                    Crystal Diner on route 1 business in Hamilton. Pretty solid, standard fare. Nothing exceptional though. Open 24-hours so it's good for the late night stop.

                                                    18 Replies
                                                    1. re: Citizen Rich

                                                      Citizen Rich - You are not alone with regard to your feelings about the Mastoris cheesebread. I too was unimpressed with it as well as my one and only experience at this venerable diner.

                                                      1. re: Citizen Rich

                                                        CR - A few comments. Try Fame in Hamilton on White Horse at Kuser opposite K-Mart. I finally stopped there for breakfast a month ago after driving by for years, and was pleased. Golden Dawn II is also on White Horse, I think, not Hamilton Ave. I haven't been back there for several years so I won't comment. Crystal Diner is actually in Lawrence. As you say it's OK but nothing special. I don't get very excited about Mastoris either and like you and bgut1 can pass on the cheesebread. The cinnamon is a bit better but still too sweet for me. Other bakery goods at Mastoris are quite good. For breakfast in Bordentown I actually prefer Town & Country but would not recommend that for dinner.

                                                        1. re: carl555

                                                          A little further south from Mastori's on Rt 206 is the Vincentown Diner. Great menu, not overwhelming like Mastori's. Seasonal specials with lots of local ingredients. Reasonably generous portions with very reasonable prices. Pleasant atmosphere. Our family loves this place...plus they are always really nice to our kids. My favorite is the pork or chicken Italiano sandwich. The sweet potato pancakes are extremely yummy too.

                                                          1. re: Hofhombre

                                                            I've seen the Vincentown diner, but about the only time we make it that far down is when we are driving to the Flea Market at Columbus and I can't stop at a diner when the Amish food court awaits me at the flea market. I'll keep it in mind if the circumstances have us in the area with an appetite.

                                                          2. re: carl555

                                                            I've driven by Fame a couple of times. I always assumed it was a sports bar because of the name. I looked on line and it used to be something called a "Burger Chef" until 1980. I guess that was a chain here in Jersey. It's not too far away, so I'll give it a shot. Thanks for the tip.

                                                            1. re: carl555

                                                              Had lunch today at Mastoris. I've been there more times than I can count, but it really was totally unmemorable today. I must say, the pea soup was actually very good. but my meat loaf was so ordinary. Huge menu, of course, but I remain underimpressed. Our young waitress had a loud booming voice that sounded like a fog horn, and her manner was rough.
                                                              The Americana Diner in E Windsor is heads above iin presentation, food, and service.

                                                              1. re: mschow

                                                                The soups at Mastoris are usually quite good. We occasionally get them take out, most often pea,. bean, or gazpacho, but there are others that are also delicious. The bakery has some good things: cookies, apple strudel, and danish, but we stay away from the breads. They are generally rather airy and bland, not like the heavier cheese and cinnamon rolls which so many folks rave about. I think some of the vegetables they serve are also good but they haven't changed that part of the menu in years. I'm not sure why this place is so highly regarded. Many of the entrees are just boring, OK but not great. Of course, what appeals to many is the large portions, and I don't need that.

                                                                1. re: carl555

                                                                  I totally agree with you about Mastori's. I don't find an enormous serving of bland food all that appealing. Even the cinnamon and cheese breads are as you describe...so airy that they taste stale and dry. My local, smaller diners are much better and the staff are not nearly as rude as they are at Mastori's.

                                                            2. re: Citizen Rich

                                                              Citizen Rich, if you want a pretty decent diner (LOVE their fries), you may want to hit Pat's on South Broad. It's not the greatest neighborhood (my buddy used to have to regularly shoo away a crack addict who had taken to sleeping on his porch), but I've always had decent food there - better than my last meal at the Crystal, at least. One caveat: many of the times I ate there I was pretty wasted (sadly this requires about three beers), and when drunk, I usually opt for a grilled cheese and fries. I really don't like the Golden Dawn anymore for anything but breakfast, and even then I've been disappointed the last couple times.

                                                              1. re: Heatherb

                                                                Are you saying that I should get drunk before going there? That can be arranged! Thanks for the excuse!

                                                                Yeah, South Broad isn't exactly where I like to park the car and hang out at the diner. We went to Fame last weekend and we're pretty happy with what we got. Smaller plates than most diners we've been to recently, but my home fries were crispy and my hash had a nice crispy crunch to it as well. The only bad thing about the place was the long wait to get a seat. Since we were waiting outside, it's not a place I'll visit during the winter, but it was definitely a place we'll return to. I'm up in the air about Golden Dawn. I really didn't like their little fried potato cubes.

                                                                1. re: Citizen Rich

                                                                  I enjoy the BLUE FOUNTAIN on rt37 in Toms River, good food, fast service, nice salad bar too with 3 soups, plenty to eat! They just closed the Dover Diner on rt 9 what a shame great place original greasy spoon since 1949.

                                                              2. re: Citizen Rich

                                                                I agree w/ your assessment of Golden Gate...Ugh. Prison food might be better. Golden Dawn is good but their prices went sky high. Diner's should be on the cheaper side or you might as well go to a reg. restaurant. Princetonian makes a good chargrilled burger but, again, prices a on the high side. Americana--the menu is so huge I can never make up my mind--also pricey.

                                                                1. re: gbean

                                                                  I don't get anything at the Golden Dawn but grilled cheeses anymore. Last few real meals have been terrible. And one night when I asked for a slice of the cheesecake in the case, they told me it had gone bad. Huh? So throw it the heck out! A little weird. I go there a lot, but like I said - I just get grilled cheeses. I don't mind that Americana is pricey, though. They are reasonably reliable. And I don't think they serve instant mashed potatoes.

                                                                  1. re: Heatherb

                                                                    Oh, that's too bad abt Golden Dawn. I have to say I haven't been there in a while. I agree, Americana is worth the price but I think it's in a category of it's own. It's hard to compare it w/ a typical diner.

                                                                    1. re: gbean

                                                                      Forgot to mention that I was also recently at the Broad St. diner that used to be Manetta's. I think it might be the Broad Street Diner now... or something to that effect. It was very shiny and new inside, and the service was good. My usual grilled cheese and fries - both excellent. Of course, it was close to 3 AM on a Sunday morning. I remember thinking that I would have to go back during normal dinner hours and try some real food.

                                                                      1. re: Heatherb

                                                                        I haven't been there since the reopening. My neighbor mentioned the fish and chips were fab.

                                                                        1. re: gbean

                                                                          I'm not too familiar with that part of town, but is this different from Pat's Diner on Broad?

                                                                          1. re: Citizen Rich

                                                                            Yep. There's Pat's diner which is actually in Trenton, but I think the Broad Street Diner or whatever the heck it is called is technically in Hamilton, I think - though I could totally be wrong. Both are on South Broad.

                                                              3. Haven't seen a review of the Plaza Diner on Rt. 27 @ Talmadge Road in Edison, so I thought we'd give it a try last night, based on positive feedback it received on some other site (Yahoo restaurants, maybe?).

                                                                Anyway, turns out that they had an early bird, which I didn't care one way or another about, but it was a pretty decent-sounding menu that included a main, soup or salad, and anything you wanted for dessert (not just jello or rice pudding). I ordered broiled flounder, with a salad. The salad was mostly iceberg lettuce--not a very good sign. The next part is kind of gross-- the oil and vinegar came in cruets that were translucent and sticky with grime. Totally inexcusable. The flounder was broiled within an inch of its life, the "baked" potato was steamed -- tightly wrapped in aluminum foil, and the stewed zucchini, while good, came out room temperature and had to be sent back. German chocolate cake for dessert was not worth the calories.

                                                                My mother ordered crabcakes and French onion soup. Soup was OK, crab cakes were mostly filler, which, given the price of crab these days, is not totally unexpected. She had a slice of cherry cheesecake for dessert, which was sensational. Go figure.

                                                                Can't understand how this place got any positive reviews on any website, but I know that Chowhounders are a very discriminating bunch, and would not have misled me.

                                                                Forewarned is forearmed.

                                                                1. I'm a huge fan of the Ocean Bay diner in Point Pleasant, NJ. The food is always fresh, the service is always fast, and the prices are pretty much "standard" when it comes to diner fare in NJ (considering the $13-15 for dinner gets you enough food for two people, with soup, salad, AND dessert).

                                                                  I used to love the Rainbow Diner in Brick, but ever since remodeling the interior, they've raised the prices, removed some menu items, downsized the portions, and the service has gotten worse. It's still not a bad place to eat if you're in the area, but it isn't the diner that I remember from a few years back. =(

                                                                  1. I was wondering if anybody has been to the Empire Diner on Rte 9N in Freehold. I've been there once a few years ago and didn't like that place at all. But, they always seem to have business and managed to stay open even during that road construction in front of the restaurant. Has anybody been there?

                                                                    2 Replies
                                                                    1. re: wench31

                                                                      I've been to the Empire a couple of times over the years for breakfast only. Nothing memorable; I'd rather go to Perkins. As has been mentioned, there doesn't seem to be a decent pick among the many diners between Freehold and Marlboro.

                                                                      1. re: wench31

                                                                        I like their super soggy thick french toast, but I haven't been there in a long while.

                                                                      2. Although technically not a diner, Woody’s Town Café in Allentown, NJ serves great breakfasts. The CB hash is especially good.

                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                        1. re: TomDel

                                                                          Hightstown Diner has markedly improved. They're cousins of the Mastoris family though the place is much smaller and the menu is too, but CB hash is great, dinner specials are very high quality, and the early bird dinner , at 8.25, can't be beat as it includes, soup or salad, potato and vegetable, beverage and dessert. They make a mean bread pudding.

                                                                        2. On a recent visit to my old state I sampled Alexis in Denville, Mastoris in Bordentown, and Brookside in Whippany/Hanover. All 3 were great, butmy favorite was Brookside for "diner feel", food quality, selection, and cost. Mastoris was top notch in quality (the free cheese danish at breakfast were unreal) and selection, but fell short in feel and cost (is it really a diner anymore?). Alexis has the feel, the quality and selection, but was a little pricy compared to my favorite, Brookside. Brookside's quality for our dishes beat Alexis slightly, has the best feel of the 3, equal selection (variety), and tied with Mastoris for quality. The cost was significantly the best of the 3. Wanted to hit Tick-Tock and Summit but never made them this trip.

                                                                          2 Replies
                                                                          1. re: NJ Plainsman

                                                                            Did you get to have breakfast @ Mastori's in the original diner part? The one with the lunch counter and the giant fish on the wall? That part still feels like a diner, especially when you're eating breakfast among the regulars at 6 AM (who are very friendly). Eating in the bar part is kind of a weird experience though - or in that room that's decorated like an old lady's living room. My friends and I joke that it's like teleporting to different dimensions when you go into the different rooms.

                                                                            Costs are also very weird there also. I felt like I was getting the better part of the deal the ohter night when they charged me about 8 bucks for dinner. Sure, I just ordered a grilled cheese and an iced tea, but the sandwich came with fries (I substituted a baked potato), a good-sized portion of coleslaw and a pickle and was on that really thick bread (which I sometimes enjoy) - oh and a delicious cup of mushroom soup. And I got my own loaf of cheese bread, which I could have taken home for breakfast the next morning. But then there are some dishes that are upwards of $25 and that's just crazy for a diner, as you said. As I've said elsewhere on these boards, it's a weird weird place. The menu has some really great high qualities, but the pitfalls can be terrible - and where you least expect it. (One personal rule is not to order anything described as coming with salsa - soooo not their strong point.)

                                                                            We also just held a funeral lunch there for one of my close relatives and the costs per person were ridiculously low - especially when compared with what other places were charging. They offered the choice of 5 different entrees or so, along with an excellent salad, the cinnamon and cheese breads, broccoli (which was really quite nicely done in garlic and olive oil), mashed potatoes (not homemade, but still reasonable quality) and a mind boggling selection of desserts. They basically just brought out trays upon trays of dessert, with a few slices of pretty much everything on their ginormous dessert menu. I gained three pounds just looking at it. Of course, this idea of offering excessive comfort food to the grieving seems a bit like handing an alcoholic a bottle of Jim Beam. (One of the dishes was ravioli, and though I always avoid pasta dishes at diners, it got the stamp of acceptability from my cousin's Italian-American husband, who claims Mastori's makes a reasonably successful effort at Italian food.)

                                                                            The other thing I like about it is that all of their staff people in there are sooo ridiculously friendly. The waitresses who were handling our lunch were so sweet at a time of incredible tension and sorrow in my family, but I think the staff their is generally pretty excellent. I never feel rushed or overlooked, even when I'm dining alone.

                                                                            I used to seriously dislike that place though - I'm not sure if they've gotten better or if I've just discovered their strengths in the last couple of years. I head there pretty much any time I'm at loose ends for dinner by myself and don't feel like cooking or ordering in.

                                                                            1. re: Heatherb

                                                                              We did sit in the part with the mounted fish on the wall. For me, true diner feel must involve the long "rail car" look, preferably with some stainless steel and neon on the outside, with an absence of interior separate rooms and chandeliers. When I drove up to Mastoris I felt like I was going into a Holiday Inn. Don't get me wrong-- still a great eat, and if I lived anywhere near I would go back often.

                                                                          2. I love the double S diner in Sussex. On Route 23 right near the Holland American Bakery. Great smoker outside too! Cramped, classic diner waitresses, great greasy spoon.

                                                                            1. The Clinton Station Diner, Exit 13 off Rt. 78. Everything there is made and baked in house. Great sandwiches on some of the best freshly baked rye bread. Salad bar, real freshly squeezed orange juice, and quite possibly the BEST cheesecake you will ever have!

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                                                                              1. re: bobrod

                                                                                Not sure if anyone has mentioned it in the discussion, but I was at the Oakland Diner in Oakland yesterday, and was suitably impressed. Lots of food for the money, decent quality (after all, it is a diner, but for diner cuisine I was more than satisfied), and the service was very friendly and efficient. It does have a retro feel to it for those who appreciate the old-style diners, and members of "The Real Housewives of NJ" have been known to pop up in there on occasion for those who care (I don't; the only reason I mention it is because a friend of mine happened to be in there about a year or so ago, and the "villain" with all the plastic surgery was in there at the same time and made some overtures toward my friend which he, being a happily married man and having good taste in women, rejected as diplomatically as possible).

                                                                              2. Vicki's in Westfield gets my vote. In fact, I'm headed there shortly for lunch :)

                                                                                Enjoy,
                                                                                Ladyberd
                                                                                http://ladyberds-kitchen.blogspot.com

                                                                                1. The Summit Diner in Summit, a classic diner, years ago had food that was "to go back for consistantly"....I can still taste their great Beef Goulash.......however...now it's not the same....
                                                                                  been their several times in the last year, and everything I had was mediocre....probably living on their past.....the goulash was totally tasteless, which means management has "cut corners" because they have "locked in" regulars, now I find the Stirling restaurant and diner in Warren to have top notch food and service....quality all the way.....other good mentions are the Windsor in Clark and Vickies in Westfield.....not impressed by the galaxy in Rahway or the Tick Tock

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                                                                                  1. re: LEOFONT

                                                                                    Sorry, but the Winsor Diner in Clark is horrible. Vickies in Westfield is much better and worth the drive into downtown.

                                                                                    1. re: cke25

                                                                                      I went to Vickies Diner in Westfield yesterday and tried a diner staple.....Yankee Pot roast
                                                                                      and the cut of beef was one of the best I've had in a diner, or any restaurant for that matter along with fresh green beans....I asked the Manager if they ever have beef goulash, another diner staple...and she took my phone number and said she would call me when they have it......a nich touch

                                                                                  2. Love the Vincentown Diner. Great coffee, and I just had bluberry pancakes there that were LOADED with berries