The Perfect Rest Stop

A recent report says that Jersey Diners are in trouble. Hopefully, places like the Red Lion in Southampton can hang on. After a long day down the Shore, it was the perfect rest stop.

I left LBI early on Sunday, eager to get off the island before the masses headed home. I didn’t have a chance to eat lunch, so I figured I’d stop somewhere on Route 72, just off the island. But I didn’t want McDonalds or Burger King or a sandwich from Wawa. I wanted food—real food, not something eaten from a paper wrapper.


So I continued on my drive home and was halfway across Burlington County when I discovered the Red Lion at the intersection of Route 70 and Route 206. I’d never been before, but I’d rather gamble with a new-to-me Jersey diner than the drive-thru.


The Red Lion is an old Jersey diner, the kind of place where the waitress still calls you “hon.” The interior of faded pastels is out of style, yet not old enough to be retro chic. I didn’t care. All I wanted was a BLT on wheat toast with mayo and a cup of coffee.


I picked a table away from the teenage girls chatting and texting about what boys they wanted to meet up with that night. Instead, I was flanked by elderly couples ordering from the specials menu. No one bothered me as I lingered over a second cup of coffee, nor when I wanted an extra side of fries.


I thought about that report on declining diners as I paid for my lunch (behind a tattooed biker and his raspy-voiced girlfriend). Losing   places like Red Lion — or the Club Diner in Bellmawr, or Phily Diner in Runnamede (yes, spelled with one L) — would be a shame. A hoagie from Wawa couldn’t compare to that BLT at the Red Lion. And no one at Wawa calls you hon. 

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