25 Diners We Love

Hey, who luvs ya? Who's always happy to see ya and treats ya rights? Jersey's plebeian palaces, the gleaming diners, are a state staple. We've picked 25 of our favorites.

The Skylark Diner in Edison.
The Skylark Diner in Edison.
Photo by Frank Marshal

Nothing says “New Jersey” like a meal in a diner, preferably a retro diner, with plenty of neon and glimmering chrome. Who doesn’t love those piled-high pancakes, endless menus and bottomless cups of coffee? In some ways, a diner is like an old friend, comforting, familiar and always welcoming.

North Jersey

Allwood, Clifton

“We were raised in diners,” says Gus Logothetis of himself and brother George, and the pedigree shows. At the Allwood, which the brothers opened in 2010, all baking is done on premises, and the cooks are as adept at quesadillas, chicken parm and lox benedicts as they are with Greek staples like spinach pie. The booths are deep and comfy, which you appreciate when sliding out after devouring a big slice of Allwood’s popular cheesecake.—Tammy la Gorce
913 Allwood Road, 973-365-2575

Brownstone, Jersey City

“& Pancake Factory” is the latter half of the Brownstone’s official name, and for good reason. Opened in 1968 by the Bournias family, the Brownstone has a full bar and offers a typically sprawling menu, but the epicenter is the 25 treatments of the “unwritten and exclusive to our family” buttermilk pancake recipe. The Brownstone will even wrap a breakfast sandwich in a pancake tortilla for you. All baking is done in-house.—TLG
437 Jersey Avenue, 201-433-0471

Chit-Chat, Hackensack

Modern and geometric outside, eye-poppingly colorful inside, the Chit-Chat, opened by Frank Shizas in 2009, goes its own freewheeling way and lets you do the same. Options range from pizza burgers on Hawaiian buns to short-rib hash and eggs to design-your-own quesadillas (options include shrimp, steak, chorizo, jalapeños and peppers) and, keeping up with the times, gluten-free pancakes. Covering all bases, there’s also a bar.—TLG
515 Essex Street, 201-820-4033

Elias Cole, Colesville

Named for the settler who founded Colesville in the early 1800s, the Elias Cole is a come-as-you-are favorite in rural Sussex County. Founded in 1965, it’s a wood-beam cabin with hand-carved wooden booths. While it neither looks like nor calls itself a diner, it sure cooks like one, with made-from-scratch lasagna, soups, and a memorable meatloaf from the family of owner Nancy Lain, 73. Lain herself bakes the breads and the worth-the-drive fruit and cream pies. “The lemon meringue has this effect,” she says. “People get this dreamy look and tell me the last one they had like that was their grandmother’s.”—Karen Tina Harrison
1176 Route 23, 973-875-3550

Jefferson, Lake Hopatcong

Covered with decades of Yankees memorabilia, some of it gifts from customers, the Jefferson serves sports and news on a fleet of flat-screens as well as food ranging from a seared swordfish special with sautéed broccolini to a Frankenfood sandwich of country-fried steak, ham, melted Swiss and Russian dressing on a pretzel bun. The Seretis family were scraping by running the tiny Lakeside Luncheonette until son Nick won $20,000 in a church raffle in 1993—“the most money we’d ever seen in our life,” he says—triggering the first of several expansions creating the present Jefferson. The bar offers 24 craft beers on tap.—Debbie Galant
5 Bowling Green Parkway 973-663-0233

Ritz, Livingston

Marion Feldman fled Hungary after the failed revolution of 1956. At the fabled Claremont Diner in Verona, she fell in love with the German apple pancake. Though the Claremont is long gone, the apple pancake, really a plate-covering crêpe, lives on at the Ritz, which Feldman runs with business partner George Mazzucco. Feldman runs the front of house, while Mazzucco oversees the kitchen. Other traditional Jewish delicacies coming out of the kitchen include blintzes, matzah ball soup, matzah brei, kasha varnishkes, chocolate babka and challah. The menu also covers all the traditional diner bases. The most popular item, says Feldman, is her Marion salad, chopped and studded with sesame chicken. “I am not a good cook,” she admits. “In fact, I’m probably the worst cook ever. But I know what I like.”DG
72 East Mount Pleasant Avenue, 973-533-1213

Scotchwood, Scotch Plains

Aris Vlachos is proud to be 71 and still running the Scotchwood, which he bought in 1977, when it was six years old. “People come for the homemade soups and the cakes,” he says. “We do all our own baking here, and we’re famous for our French toast, which we make with our own challah.” His Greek roots come through in baklava, moussaka and spinach pie. There are daily specials and a full bar. “No matter what day you come,” Vlachos says, “you’ll get the best service and the same high-quality food you got last time. We work hard at that.”—TLG
1934 Route 22, 908-322-4114

Summit, Summit

Jersey’s oldest continually operating railroad-car style diner (made in 1938 by the Jerry O’Mahony Company of Elizabeth), is a lot livelier than most 80-year-olds. Owner Jimmy Greberis, who took over in 1980 from his uncle and father-in-law, who bought it in 1964, has a knack for remembering regulars’ favorite beverages and pouring them as soon as they enter. Pancakes and waffles sell well, as do housemade soups and Philly cheesesteaks. “Basically, it’s comfort food in a comforting environment,” Greberis says. Most comforting is that humblest of desserts, rice pudding, here executed with homespun care.—TLG
1 Union Place, 908-277-3256

Tops, East Newark

Despite being named the most famous restaurant in New Jersey by Thrillist in 2015 and one of the top 20 diners in America by Time Out in 2017, Tops has stayed humble. During a recent busy lunchtime, the wait for one of the 180 seats was blessedly short (facilitated by a text from the hostess stand), and the service was swift and cheery. Meatloaf in mushroom gravy is justly famous here, as is chicken Alfredo and cheesecake. Ask for your burger, steak or fish rare, medium or well, and the busy kitchen actually makes sure to cook it that way.—TLG
500 Passaic Avenue, 973-481-0490

Click here to leave a comment

You are on page 1 of 3 of this article

1 2 3Continue

Read more Eat & Drink articles.

By submitting comments you grant permission for all or part of those comments to appear in the print edition of New Jersey Monthly.

Comments (2)

Required not shown
Required not shown

  1. Sanford Josephson

    Here are some of my favorites: Vicky’s in Westfield, Parkwood in Maplewood, Nevada in Bloomfield. I think the Ritz in Livingston is overrated.

  2. Peter Beck

    Sorry I missed the deadline…I would have voted for the Skylark Diner in Edison.
    They have a great chef, not only the food is great, but he does a great presentation as well.
    Never had a bad meal there!