For the ones who had a notion
A notion deep inside
That it ain’t no sin to be glad you’re alive
I wanna find one face that ain’t looking through me
I wanna find one place
I wanna spit in the face of these badlands
One constant throughout all my trips to Jersey has been frequent visits to that great American institution, the humble diner. To most Americans, diners are ubiquitous. They are little regarded everyday elements in a complex landscape. To us foreigners, however, Hollywood and TV have afforded the diner a certain exotic mystique and even a window into the American psyche.
Upon screens, both large and small, countless dramas have played out in the booths and at the counters of a bewildering variety of diners. From the New Mexico Badlands to the mean streets of Chicago, New York or LA, the diner has been the backdrop for murders, break ups, and deals gone wrong on shows as varied as Twin Peaks, the Sopranos, Fargo, and House of cards.
For this – perhaps dubious – reason, a visit to an authentic American diner was high on my list of things to experience in New Jersey right from day one. I think Jersey girl was a little perplexed by my enthusiasm, but since she had a favourite place in Clinton Township, the Station diner, where she often took the kids for a treat, there was no problem working out where to take me first.
And so, just a few days after my arrival in New Jersey, I had my first authentic American diner experience. This is one of those larger restaurants with several sections (one being a repurposed train car from which the diner presumably takes its name). It is also the home of the “Mt. Olympus”, a 50 LB Burger worth $178 that, if you and 4 friends can finish entirely in 3 hours or less, will net you $1000 courtesy of the owners.
For that first visit it was just Jersey girl and I and we had a fine lunch of impressive (though not Olympian) proportions. The food was wonderful, I had a (regular) burger and she her favourite wrap, however, the coffee was really, really awful. In fact, it was this coffee experience that launched my quest to find a decent cup of Joe in New Jersey. Ironically, after hunting high and low, I eventually found it in the very town where my quest began (at the Riverside café in Clinton).
In the years since, I have discovered several other places which also do good coffee (none of them diners unfortunately*) and my caffeine anxiety has been mostly assuaged.
Clinton has three fine diners which I have now made the acquaintance of. The Station remains the favourite with the kids, but my tastes lean towards the Towne Restaurant situated on Main Street; more of a classic diner vibe.
Where ever we go, I’m always on the lookout for the perfect diner experience. I’m not convinced I’ve found it yet. I’m actually in no hurry to either; I’m very much enjoying the hunt.
*It seems to be an inviolable rule that all diner coffee must be truck stop quality or less.
I do not know who the image used in this post belongs to. If you have any information regarding ownership, please let me know so that I can credit appropriately.