Eating fads and trends may come and go, but in New Jersey, diners are forever. The Garden State claims to be the “The Diner Capital of the World” and this is not hyperbole. Although the original diners were actually horse-drawn wagons converted into serving cars, the first stationary one was created in 1913 by the Jerry O’Mahony Diner Company. This was where the traditional diner-style, which resembles a long, narrow railroad car, was born.
There’s a second reason why Jersey has so many diners. Its close position to New York City, Philadelphia, and Wilmington, DE necessitates a complex system of roads, highways, and byways. As drivers populated those roads, the need for food pitstops was very necessary.
These iconic eateries have reputations for serving hamburgers, omelets, pancakes, steaks, chops, and fried chicken in large portions at affordable prices. Although many of the neon signs and gum-cracking waitresses have disappeared, it is not surprising that there are still hundreds of diners in New Jersey. Here are five that we have handpicked for our readers.
Mastoris Diner – Bordentown
Routes 130 & 206
This vast diner holds court in Bordentown at the intersection of Routes 130 and 206. The Mastoris family’s diner business actually did start out with a lunch wagon built by Jerry O’Mahony Diner Company. The current building opened in 1961 and can seat up to 600 people.
In addition to its diner, it has a fantastic bakery. Stop in on any Sunday and you will encounter a sea of cars and trucks in their parking lot. They can serve up to 2,800 customers on their busiest days. Patrons do have to wait for tables when it is crowded, but usually not for too long. Mastoris serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and they also have a liquor license. They are well-known for their Sunday brunch, all-day breakfast, pork chops, seafood dishes, and homemade desserts.
Silver Coin Diner – Hammonton
20 S White Horse Pike
Folks that are traveling down towards NJ’s southern beach towns and attractions can stop at the Silver Coin Diner for fast service, an extensive menu, and jaw-droppingly good grub. Opened in 1982, its 1950s-style shiny exterior is a real attention-grabber that draws in hungry customers.
The Monte Cristo sandwich and oversized onion rings get rave reviews, as do their buttermilk pancakes. For lighter fare, there are 16 salads on the menu. Traditionalists will feel right at home ordering a blue plate special like meatloaf, a big bowl of pasta, or a thick and juicy steak.
Park Wood Diner – Maplewood
1958 Springfield Avenue
Diners are known for their homey atmospheres and Park Wood Diner owner Pete Kikianis is the diner’s best buddy. He can usually be found in the dining area stopping by tables to make sure that every customer is happy. Park Wood is a newer addition to the NJ diner landscape as it has been around for about five years.
It has moderate curb appeal but its food has earned it a stellar reputation. Gourmet salads are not the main staple at diners but Park Wood serves them up beautifully. In addition to basics like chef and cobb, they offer an innovative autumn salad with butternut squash and cranberries, as well as the Mediterranean with grilled zucchini and artichoke hearts. The full menu also includes sandwiches, platters, seafood, and a large kids’ menu.
Readington Diner – Readington
452 US Highway 22 West
Chicken and waffles with Hollandaise sauce? Yes. Creamy rice pudding? Of course. This is the Readington Diner, located in rural Hunterdon County. It does not currently have a website but it does have a liquor license, which can make your meal even more enjoyable.
This place is known for its diverse and ever-changing menu. Some of the more unusual offerings include a pierogi appetizer, Ketchikan salmon salad, buffalo burgers, and a Cajun shrimp wrap. The menu is also filled with the sought-after favorites like the three-egg omelets with hash browns, crabmeat-stuffed flounder, and chicken parm.
Broad Street Diner – Keyport
83 Broad Street
This Monmouth County landmark has earned high honors in many best-of-Jersey lists of top diners. It was ranked as the number one diner in the state by NJ.com and CBS filmed a segment about diners here with Bobby Flay.
Broad Street Diner has an appealing mix of a small-town, cozy diner feel combined with modern, gourmet cooking. Their menu is not massive but it is imaginative. They do eggs benedict four ways (classic, Nova, Florentine, and crab cake), and offer sandwiches like Texas BBQ brisket, shrimp po’boy, and a Philly cheesesteak. Their honey-dipped fried chicken, baby back ribs, and year-round Thanksgiving Feast entrée are all legendary.