garden state parkway boogie

the Post offers up a mini travelogue of New Jersey diners… well, those up Route 130, anyway. it’s amusing for me, as i have passed a zillion tour busses at Mastoris a gazillion times and i have eaten with my parents, kids, nieces, nephews, etc., at the Americana. (nice to know that the place i’ve taken my kids is the place with the good diner food. like there’s any difference?) i feel it’s part of my cultural legacy to take my kids to real diners when i’m up in the Garden State (home of my birth); otherwise, all they know of diners is the Silver Diner, a place for which i had high hopes but which i currently loathe.

when i’m doing the garden state parkway boogie in my mind, i think about my favorite diners. i remember olga’s diner in marlton, halfway between nowhere and somewhere. as i’ve mentioned in older posts, we drove to my grandparents’ in florida a few times a year, a 26+ hour drive back then. we’d start before dawn, and if we were really, really lucky, we’d stop at Olga’s for breakfast. yummy, yummy baked goods. all at 5 a.m. or whatever ungodly hour we showed up.

i think of the tick tock diner in clifton. i bet jimmy hoffa is gone because he ate here. i imagine that martha stewart has eaten here, considering she grew up not too far away. i know i’ve been here with friends; i think i stopped here with my cousin after we went on our ill-fated trip to studio 54. (i know. me + disco. what a combo.) i’m not entirely sure. it’s kind of a landmark of sorts of jersey diners.

all those diners on route 18 and route 9. you all looked alike. you all had similar menus. then, in the 1980s, you all renovated to look more like restaurants. all you did was end up becoming these mauve, stainless steel behemoths. i never understood why. perhaps it was your response to the reaganization of the nation.

in any event, i’ve eaten in them all.

but probably my favorite diner, bar none, is the somerset diner. every single rutgers student — and there are probably 50,000+ each year — has eaten here. come here at 3 a.m. and you’ll likely find it packed with drunk, formerly drunk, or the designated drivers of said drunk students, chowing down. having been among them, i am wildly proud to announce that i once ordered the happy waitress special one night at some insane hour of the morning. (it’s an open-faced grilled cheese sandwich with bacon, tomatoes, and fries, but memory fails. yes, i ate bacon once upon a time.) at the time, i was deep in my existential phase of english major life. (i was also probably deep into several fuzzy navels.) i remember looking the waitress in the eye and asking her: why is it called the happy waitress special? does it make you especially happy to serve it? is it lighter to carry? or is there some other deep reason behind the nomenclature?

see, there’s this thing about diner waitresses (or waitrons?). they don’t exactly have a sense of humor. they don’t exactly suffer idiot college students gladly. (nor should they.) that woman glared at me, holding the plate near my head. and glared. and glared.

i am very lucky that the happy waitress special didn’t turn into the drunk college student hair accessory.


8 Responses to “garden state parkway boogie”

  1. AJS is a DINER LOVER, too, my friend. If there weren’t diners off the garden state parkway, I’d never get AJS to Connecticut to visit my extended family. The last few times, he had a map carefully labeled with the diners he wanted to hit on the way out and back. The other thing that gets him to Meriden, CT? Steamed cheeseburgers. They are a greasy spot of heaven.

  2. the edison diner was my regular afterhours spot. and white rose. i don’t think i even went to the somerset diner during my time at rutgers.

    but my favorite diner is the tastee in silver spring. which may be sacrilege to a nj resident, but still.

  3. well, of COURSE the System. i visited the System. i still see the convicts in my dreams, saying: ketchup on yer fries? i just didn’t include that, as it didn’t fit in the diner mold. i don’t know: is there a white castle genre i could write about?

    and i hit the edison diner, too, especially when i lived there.

  4. Somerset Diner has changed much since our days on the banks of the old Raritan. I live in Highland Park, so every once in a while we go to the Somerset Diner and although it is decent, it is not like it used to be. You should see the new crop of diners opening up in Jersey. They are giant monstrosities that are far from the old fashioned diner you remember. Its too bad, because this is something that is so special about Jersey, and its being lost as we speak.

  5. when i lived in plainsboro, i used to take guests to jim’s country diner on rt. 130.

    and i do remember all those route 18 diners. i especially liked the name “peter pank diner.”

  6. hehehe. peter pank. i remember that. and love it:

    although for the life of me, i always wanted to correct the sign and remove the k. ever the english major, i am.

  7. Have you been to Plato’s diner in College Park? Come, experience the love.

  8. oh girl. post passover, i am THERE. plus i have to try the tastee, if it still exists, in silver spring (as per mike above.) i am such a poseur.

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