25 Jersey 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

Central Jersey

Americana, East Windsor

Apart from the car-charging stations in the parking lot and the servers’ mannerly, “Are you ready to make a selection?” the menu itself signals the aspirations of Constantine Katsifis’s flagship diner. (He also owns the Skylark in Edison and a banquet hall.) You’ll find raw oysters, organic juices, asparagus risotto, sophisticated salads and a cheese course from Bobolink Dairy in Milford. Almost everything is house made, even the ice cream, and certainly the cocktails, all in a setting worthy of Mad Men.—Kelly-Jane Cotter
359 Route 130 North, 609-448-4477

Broad Street, Keyport

The little lighthouse replica outside this 1950s classic refers to Keyport Harbor a few blocks away. The diner itself is a local beacon for staples like turkey breast with cornbread stuffing, matzah ball soup, linguine with red clam sauce and house-made rice pudding. Owners Nick and Maria Kallas revved up its interior with a ’50s sports-car motif in 2015.—KJC
83 Broad Street, 732-497-0808

Clinton Station, Clinton

The Central Railroad of New Jersey is gone, but a renovated 1927 observation car from its Blue Comet train lives on, attached to the diner and outfitted with tables and tasseled curtains. Opened in 2004 by brothers Michael, Costas and Andy Zambas, the Clinton Station is a feast for train buffs. In the main dining area, you can watch model trains make their rounds on a track suspended from the ceiling. Clinton Station does all its own baking and has a salad bar and a full liquor bar. It’s known for its burger challenges: the 3-pound Atlas, 7-pound Zeus and (brace yourself) 50-pound Mt. Olympus are free if you and a set number of friends can finish one in a set amount of time. Most people find plenty of pleasure in the regular burgers and classic diner dishes.—Shelby Vittek
2 Bank Street, 908-713-0012

Comfi, Old Bridge

The sizzle of the grill and the aromas of coffee and fried onions greet you as you enter this breakfast and lunch spot in a strip mall. Very popular and rather small (you may have to wait for a table), Comfi is that rarity, a Polish diner. In addition to diner standards, owner Jacek Mastalerczyk prepares his maternal grandmother’s recipes and does them well: pierogies, blintzes, potato pancakes, kielbasa, and smashed grilled potatoes with crumbled bacon and sautéed onions, which he bills as “Our Grandma’s Best-Kept Secret.” It’s so good it’s a secret no longer.—KJC
2638 Route 516, 732-588-5385

Menlo Park, Edison

Mini jukeboxes still function in each booth; patches donated by police officers are hung with pride by the cash register; and the Happy Waitress is an open-faced grilled cheese with bacon and tomato. “Happy to see you” describes the staff, who back it up with cheery efficiency. Owner Nick Siliverdias keeps gyros and a Greek salad with anchovies and feta on the menu, along with staples like chocolate chip pancakes. Customers range from students fresh from cross-country meets at Roosevelt Park to shoppers and moviegoers from Menlo Park Mall.—KJC
1475 US-1, Edison, 732-494-1760

REO, Woodbridge

Named for a brand of truck that was big when the diner opened in 1935 as the Hy-Way, the REO has been renovated top to bottom since Alex Koufamihalis bought it in 2004. All baking is done on premises and all fish is fresh, with crabmeat-stuffed tilapia in lemon butter sauce leading the way. The breakfast bargain is the Hungry Man: French toast or pancakes, bacon, ham, sausage and eggs, for $9.95.—Eric Levin
392 Amboy Ave, Woodbridge, 732-634-9200

Seville, East Brunswick

Corinne Lagano, whose family has upgraded the almost 50-year-old mainstay since taking it over in 2004, has just introduced its first new menu in five years. Don’t worry, favorites are still there, including the salad bar. “Hardly any diners do it anymore, because it’s not cost effective,” Lagano says. “It costs me thousands of dollars a week, but people appreciate it.” The new menu adds pierogies, paella (“We make it really well”), a Mediterranean platter, and sandwiches like the Mensch, a burger topped with house-made pastrami and melted Swiss, and the Meshuga, turkey, corned beef, pastrami and Russian dressing on a toasted bagel.—KJC
1035 Route 18 South, 732-254-1125

Skylark, Edison

Sitting in the Disneyesque interior of the Skylark, you discover that Edison is an international city, at least if you go by the clocks on the wall that give you the time in, left to right, Tokyo, Chicago, Edison, London and Paris. Skylark, opened in 2006, is a colorful hoot, but tasteful and quite comfortable. Speaking of taste, some of the food has international accents, including Bavarian soft pretzel sticks, pulled-pork nachos and rice cracker-crusted seared tuna. Add Trivia Night (Thursdays), half-price bottles of wine (Fridays), and kids eat free (Monday-Thursday), and Skylark is quite a lark.—KJC
17 Wooding Avenue, 732-254-1125

South Jersey

George’s Place, Cape May

It’s the Clark Kent of diners. From the outside, it’s a mild-mannered brick storefront (albeit facing the beach), with barely a sign. Inside? Comfy little booths and excellent diner food with a strong Greek accent from John Karapanagiotis, whose father-in-law, George Tsiartsionis, opened the place in 1968. Not all is Greek. Creamed chipped beef is a comfort food too seldom seen. Here, it is made each morning in limited quantities and often sells out, so get there early, especially in summer.—EL
301 Beach Avenue, 609-884-6088

Mastoris, Bordentown

The moment you’re seated, you’ll receive a slab of Mastoris’s iconic cheese bread and one of its cinnamon bread. They look like pastries but are savory and could make a meal while you peruse the huge menu. Even longer is the family history, dating to 1927 and a Hightstown lunch wagon. Mary Mastoris, now in her 90s, is the linchpin. Her father, Nick Corcodilos, started the business, and now her grandchildren, Nick and Michelle, run it. With 700 seats, the Mastoris is Jersey’s largest diner. Up front, its retail bakery is bigger than some diners.—TLG
Routes 130 and 206, 609-298-4650

Mustache Bill’s, Barnegat Light

There really is a mustache at Mustache Bill’s, and it belongs to owner Bill Smith, who bought this 1959 diner at the northern tip of LBI in 1972. Everything from the tartar sauce to the red or white clam chowder is made in-house. Given its location, fresh-caught, local seafood is the main attraction, but the chipped beef is classic, and there are pancakes in whimsical shapes (whales, mermaids) to captivate the kids. Cinnamon-raisin French toast is always tender and eggy. Closed in winter.—KJC
Broadway at Eighth Street, 609-494-0155

Ponzio’s, Cherry Hill

“We’ve got it down to a science,” says co-owner Nick Fifis of Ponzio’s famous chicken pot pies. “There’s a vegetable-cutting guy, a sauce guy, a chicken-cooking guy, a guy making crust, and a guy who puts it all together.” Made only on Thursdays, the $15.99 pies are big enough to feed a family of four but have been polished off by stalwart soloists. They always sell out, but there’s lots more to choose from. Family owned since 1964, Ponzio’s has been expanded several times. From the outside, it looks like a stone fortress. Inside, its several large rooms are tastefully decorated and comfortable, with generous space between tables.—TLG
7 Route 70 West, 856-428-4808

Shamong, Shamong

Of Indian heritage, chef Manny Monteiro added vegetarian dishes to the diner’s menu when he bought it in 2006. That came naturally to him. As trends caught up, he added vegan dishes. Whatever the 59-year-old cooks, “it’s flavorful,” he says. “I’ve been a chef over 40 years. It makes a difference.” He makes his own pizza dough for pizza. Biggest draw? His crab cakes. “I use the biggest-size meat, colossal, and no fillers. Nobody,” he boasts, “can beat them.”—EL
7 Willow Grove Road, 609-268-1182

Silver, Cherry Hill

The menu at the bustling, 17-year-old Silver is what co-founder Ype Von Hengst calls Flexitarian, speckled with tiny icons to alert calorie counters, herbivores, locavores, gluten avoiders and other sensitive eaters to happy landings. The menu covers all the expected bases—BLTs, Greek salads, omelets—but you can also get a lamb-merguez burger, quinoa-coconut pancakes and grilled cauliflower with cinnamon, harissa, tahini and pomegranate seeds. Whatever you order, the food is fresh, well prepared and really good.—Adam Erace
2131 Route 38, 856-910-1240

Star, North Wildwood

Guarding the causeway into North Wildwood with the spiky, star-shaped letters of its logo, the curvy, sky-blue Star has been welcoming people to vacationland and bidding them fond farewell, for 15 years. Stopping at the Star for the Halkias family’s fruit-filled crepes, moussaka, Rings of Saturn club sandwiches, Mercury hot sandwiches or Nebula burgers is a ritual as campy as it is comforting.—AE
325 West Spruce Avenue, 609-729-4900

Vincentown, Vincentown

Opened in 1969, the Vincentown, under owner Jimmy Melissaratos, distinguishes itself by using local organic eggs, grass-fed beef from Jersey or Pennsylvania farms, and local fruit and vegetables in season. Desserts, including a gorgeous selection of cheesecakes, are made in-house. The bar’s eight taps serve Jersey and Pennsylvania craft beers, and the wines come from Valenzano Winery in Shamong.—TLG
2357 US-206, 609-267-3033

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  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!