Paterson Museum Exhibit to Serve Up Jersey Diner History

“Order’s Up! Paterson and the Rise of the New Jersey Diner,” cocurated by local diner expert Michael C. Gabriele, will spotlight culinary cultural icons.

A black-and-white photo of the shuttered Double S Diner in Wantage
A new Paterson Museum exhibit celebrates diners like the now-closed Double S in Wantage. Photo: Giacomo DeStefano

When Michael C. Gabriele was finalizing details for the upcoming Jersey-diner exhibit at the Paterson Museum, he and cocurator Heather Garside got together at—where else?—one of the Garden State’s most iconic greasy spoons.

A few miles from the museum, they lunched at the Tick Tock Diner in Clifton, where Gabriele—New Jersey’s foremost diner expert and the author of the books Stories From New Jersey Diners, The History of Diners in New Jersey and Colonial Taverns of New Jersey—has been eating since he was a teenager. “My sentimental favorite,” he says fondly.

Order’s Up! Paterson and the Rise of the New Jersey Diner” opens at the Paterson Museum on Saturday, July 8, kicking off with a public gala from 1-4 pm.

Featuring a panorama of photographs—many taken by Gabriele himself over the years on his many road trips around New Jersey—the exhibit celebrates statewide diners past and present, including those built by the old Silk City Diners division of the Paterson Vehicle Company. Visitors can also expect factoids, artifacts, and a spotlight on Paterson’s legendary hot dog grills and luncheonettes.

And on Saturday, August 5, at 1 pm, Gabriele is presenting “A Roadmap to the Diner Capital of the World”—a 30-minute discussion about the important role the diner has played in Jersey history. “It’s part of the culture, part of the spirit, part of the mythology,” he says. 

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“Order’s Up!” will be on display through September 24.

Gabriele estimates that New Jersey is currently home to somewhere between 500 and 525 diners—making the Garden State the diner capital of the world. Although that number is slightly lower than the figure during the state’s diner heyday around the 1950s, it is still more than anywhere else in the country and the world.

As for Gabriele’s go-to meal at the Tick Tock? Two eggs (over easy), corned-beef hash (well done), home fries, wheat toast and coffee. And, if he’s in the mood for dessert, a slice of lemon meringue pie.

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