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The Jersey Diner - A Changing Tradition In Dining

Apr 25, 2008
The Jersey Diner is going the way of many traditional institutions with changes to keep pace with the times. If you have not yet eaten at a Jersey diner, do it now before it becomes a lost opportunity.

New Jersey, often referred to as the "diner capital of the world", with more than 500 diners, it has the largest concentration of diners in the United States.

For a true New Jersey experience, eating at a diner is a must. They have a beloved "Joizy" ambiance, family friendly, in-expensive, offer a huge variety of food, and are usually open when other eateries are closed.

The Jersey Diner is Changing

The Jersey diner ranges from the shiny chrome rail-like cars with neon signs and lighting to the more modern stone-walled structures that are replacing the rail-like car, brightly lit buildings. Many of the original diners were long and narrow, one room eateries with a long counter and booths with juke boxes on the tables. Today they are giving way to multi-room structures with multiple dining areas with some large enough to host a private party or banquet.

The ownership of diners is also undergoing change. Anyone who has eaten in a diner associates the ownership with first generation Greek immigrants. Today, many of the children of the Greek immigrant diner owners have been through college and have become non-restaurant professionals and are not interested in the long workdays and limited vacations. With this, the Greek owners with no children to pass their business to, are selling out to other immigrants, mostly Asian, who are willing to endure the sacrifices of time.

Another change in the traditional diner is the hours of operation.

In the past many diners in New Jersey were open 24 hours a day and now there are probably no more than a dozen diners in NJ open 24 hours a day.

The Definition of the Jersey Diner

There is considerable debate on what the definition of a diner is.

The most popular view of the definition of a diner is a place where you can get cheap eats, with a very large menu, and open 7 days a week for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. They also have at least one room with a long counter and booths. Refrigerated glass displays with dessert trays are usually located at the entrance. The variety of food offered and the size of the menu is gigantic. They serve up almost all of the basic traditional meal items from the usual breakfast pancakes, eggs, waffles, etc., to sandwiches, burgers, fries, and traditional American hot dishes and soups.

Favorite New Jersey Diners

Elgin Dinner
2621 Mt. Ephraim Ave. Camden
A landmark in South Jersey for more than 45 years. This 50's style diner has the "Joizy" ambiance with very good food and service. It's one of the few diners that are still open 24 hours a day

Routes 130 & 206
Mastoris is a very popular and huge diner with many dining rooms. During normal dining hours, a wait is not uncommon. While many of the rooms do not resemble a diner, there is one room that looks like a traditional diner with booths opposite a counter with stools. Before all meals, including breakfasts, they serve cheese bread and cinnamon bread, one small loaf per person. These are soft, warm white bread-based loaves filled with either a cinnamon-sugar filling of Italian cheesecake-like filling.

Summit Diner
1 Union Place
The atmosphere alone is worth coming for. It's an old time railroad car diner, with limited seating, loud, and packed.

The diner has not been renovated probably since it went into business - the ceiling looks like it's crusted over with years of cooking grease, the tiled floor is vintage, wood paneled walls. It's such a throwback.
It's the kind of diner you love to hate. It has wood paneled walls, eight booths and 20 stools.

Lines are now formed outside the diner door especially on Saturdays. They are noted for their sliced ham, baked on the premises.

White Rose
1301 East Elizabeth Avenue
White Rose's distinctive bands of bright white and gleaming chrome can't be missed. It sits along a Linden street lined with small industry.

They are noted for the pages of paper tacked along the counter that serve as a menu giving it a unique "Joizy" look to the traditional lunch counter offerings
About the Author
Frank Dalotto is a freelance writer and travel consultant. His specialty is writing articles about New Jersey travel, including attractions, events, and restaurant reviews. Frank is the editor ofNew Jersey Leisure Guide and a travel consultant forLeisure Travel Mart.
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