Old-School Never Gets Old: These Classic Diners Still Shine

Romance is written in chrome and neon at these old-school diners.

The Bendix Diner in Hasbrouck Heights.
The Bendix Diner in Hasbrouck Heights.
Photo by Frank Marshal

Vintage New Jersey diners have been demolished in recent years, breaking hearts and leaving holes in the culture of the communities they served. The casualties include Mom’s Diner in Avenel, the Elgin Diner in Camden, Olga’s Diner in Marlton and the Forum Diner in Paramus. At least two notable eateries, the USA Country Diner in Robbinsville and the Little Falls Diner, have been vacant for years, reduced to haunted hulks.

However, diner fans can be thankful that many classics still thrive in the Garden State. Last year, the regal Tops Diner in East Newark, purchased by the Golemis family in 1972, was named best diner in America by Time Out magazine.

The Dumont Crystal, built in the early 1930s by New Jersey’s pioneering O’Mahony Company, maintains a loyal following, as does the Summit Diner, a well-preserved gem.

The postwar Bendix Diner is still a haven for big-rig truck drivers, thanks to its accommodating parking lot. It carries the former name of the adjacent Teterboro Airport, which was known briefly in the 1940s as Bendix Airport. Miss America, a glistening Jersey City beauty—also manufactured by O’Mahony—celebrated its 75th anniversary in 2015.

The Tick Tock, a crimson-and-chrome Kullman masterpiece in Clifton, is the third generation of diners on the same spot. The first Tick Tock was a compact, stainless-steel model built in 1952 by Silk City in Paterson. The second, which opened in April 1977, was a larger, restaurant-style establishment, built by the Musi Dining Car Company of Carteret. The third and current Tick Tock arrived in June 1994. The second version moved to Mays Landing, where it was remodeled with a new main entrance, roof and vestibule, and operates as the Mays Landing Diner.

Mustache Bill’s, a stainless-steel jewel that sparkles in Barnegat Light, was built by the Fodero Dining Car Company of Bloomfield in 1959. The Salem Oak Diner, a Silk City model, opened in September 1955. Another classic Silk City contribution (circa 1948) is the Roadside Diner in Wall. In Keyport, the Broad Street Diner, a small O’Mahony built in 1952, is an award-winning eatery revitalized in 2015 by new ownership. The Forked River Diner, a circa-1953 Kullman model, features a distinctive wrap-around exterior awning.

Among the eateries standing watch along the state’s Western edge are the Key City Diner in Phillipsburg, a 1955 Mountain View; the Crossroads Diner, which opened in Belvidere in 1956 and is perhaps the only diner produced by the Campora Dining Car Company of Kearny; and the Blairstown Diner, a 1949 Paramount creation.

Click here to leave a comment
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 (1)

Required not shown
Required not shown

  1. digby

    Jersey diners are Americana……always good food and a lot of it……and usually a very good pastry shop