About 1/2 mile off of exit 4 (NJ Turnpike) is the Sage Diner. Pay the toll, get onto 73 South, and it's next door to the Wendy's on the right side (south side). It's not a 'great' Jersey diner, but good for the basic things, and it's very clean. It's probably the easiest on and off you will find on the turnpike. No kidding in that it is less than one minute off the turnpike. Mastoris is huge with a gigantic menu; I'm not so crazy about the food. Americana is better, but not so easy with the on and off the exit.
If you prefer, right next door to the Sage Diner, there is a Macaroni Grill and an On The Border. If you want something a bit better, there is a nice Italian restaurant La Posada, about 1 1/2 miles off of the turnpike on Route 73 South, in the shopping center with the Whole Foods.
the ny-to-dc ride is four hours or so depending on traffic.
pulling off I95, eating some rest stop food, getting back on I95 would probably stretch the trip by one hour if you were lucky, much, much more if it pushes you into rush hour traffic.
i would eat after i arrived in dc. in a perfect world, i would train down and avoid a lot of hassles.
I know this will sound crazy but trust me and you will love your lunch. At exit 80 (Belcamp Md)going south on 95, make a left and cross over to a strip mall that has a place called Riverside Pizza.
Riverside Pizza has the best CRABCAKES I have ever had and that includes places in NYC, Philly and up and down the east coast.
Last time we went there on the way to DC, the place was packed, one table had pizza and 20 tables had the crabcakes.
That pretty much tells the story. Maybe someone else can chime in about this unknown gem.
I have been to Mastoris and think its not worth the hype. Although I've never been, friends have recommended that I try the Americana in West Windsor instead.
I also recall Tapas52 being a big fan of the Iron Skillet at the Petro Truck Stop at Exit 7 NJ Tpk and Rt 206.
I think anyone who likes "NJ style" diners (big menus, etc.) should experience Mastoris at least once- BUT *I* sure wouldn't do it during a busy holiday travel period, since it's going to probably add at least an hour to one's travel time.
The Americana (in EAST Windsor - not West- NJ TPK Exit 8- Hightstown) once attempted to be somewhat "upscale" in price and quality (they did have great omelets, but they were in the $10 range...) The last few times I've gone, it was only upscale in the price category- quality and service was reduced to "bad diner". I've taken to eating in town at the Hightstown Diner or the Claremont which is just a bit south of the Americana, also on Rt. 130 N, not as attractive, but solid diner food.
As has been discussed numerous times, there just aren't a lot of "easy on/off" food choices off the Turnpike. Not that there's aren't great places to eat off many exits, but you usually have to travel a bit into town or a business section of a highway and spend a little time eating, as well.
The stretch of Rt. 1 between exit 9 and 10 is perfect for this kind of thing. Going south or north you never have to backtrack. Rt. 1 runs right along the turnpike so you can continue your trip on rt1 and then pick up rt 18 or rt287 and be right back on the turnpike.
Within 15 minutes of either exit you have:
A ton of Korean places.
The food court at the Asian Market
Pho Ahn Dao
Edison Noodle House
Pithari an extra 4 minutes down Woodbridge ave for Greek.
The Pakistani lunch counter place the other way down Woodbridge
The Skylark Diner
The White Rose system on woodbridge
Indian place on 27 is right around the corner along with 7 hills, King's Village, Shanghai Park, La Bonbonierre bakery. another Pho place. and Wonder Seafood.
Ryders lane with Lox Stock and Deli is pretty close too
there's the philly pretzel place on amboy ave as well.
Mastori's is a big "meh" for lunch, though it can be ok if you stick to basics for breakfast. (and that cinnamon bread is pretty darn tasty.) The good diners have closed in my area (as a kid, I remember loving Jim's Country Diner on 130 on the way to East Windsor).
I have never been to the Iron Skillet, but I too have heard and read rave reviews of the place. My feeling is that if you're hitting the Skillet though, you might as well go into Bordentown and try any of the little restaurans there, like Oliver or Under The Moon, since you're just passing through and won't likely get another chance to do so.