It's Worth Getting Sloppy For This Grilled Cheese Taco
The Summit proudly carries the title of being Jersey’s oldest dinner, dating back to 1929. It was built by the aforementioned Jerry O’Mahony, which means eating here will give you that old-school, vintage diner-car dining experience. There are no actual menus (just a board on the wall), no website, and no credit cards accepted. Just grab a booth and order from the list of omelettes, home fries, meatball parm sandwiches, cobb salads, and Greek classic spanakopita, and you'll truly feel like you're teleporting back in time.
The Pop Shop looks as though it's been around for decades -- with its bright bubble-gum colors, old-fashioned juke box, and 1940s soda fountain -- but it’s really only been open for 10 years. Don’t let its lack of street cred deter you, though. The Pop Shop boasts over 30 different varieties of grilled cheeses -- none of which resemble the kind your mom packed you for lunch in the fourth grade. Selections include the Lobster with lobster (duh), brie, and garlic aioli served on sourdough, and the must-try Sunset with grilled shrimp, pepper jack, avocado, tomato, and tomatillo on sourdough. Or gluten-free bread, should your heart desire it. It’s also vegetarian friendly, offering tofu Buffalo wings and scrambles.
Don’t let the unassuming exterior fool you -- this family run business is truly a bastion of all things pancake. Peanut butter and jelly, coconut, and even MEAT pancakes (ham, bacon, and pork sausage) make the menu, but the best one is the Honky-Tonk, filled with peanut butter chips and bananas. Brownstone goes so far as to even serve pancake wraps, including the Muscle Man with turkey sausage, egg whites, and cheddar cheese. You can get the regular diner fare as well, but going to what amounts to pancake heaven and ordering an omelette is not wise.
Judging by its stone front and reddish brown booths, family run Ponzio’s appears to be a typical suburban diner, but don't write it off so quickly. Have you ever experienced the wonder of eggplant fries? Or Philly cheesesteak egg rolls? If not, you haven’t truly lived. Ponzio’s holds the distinction of being the oldest restaurant in Cherry Hill, and in addition to the aforementioned delights, its Snickers cake will immediately perk you up, even on your worst days. The best part, though? Ponzio’s offers a hoagie salad. It does not get any more Jersey than that.
The Americana is a diner for the modern age, setting itself apart from the rest with grass-fed beef, locally grown food, fresh-squeezed vegetable and fruit drinks, and a decidedly more upscale environment. A fancy diner is pretty oxymoronic and may not seem appealing, but once you've tried the lavender martini and chicken Milanese you'll be sold. Plus, the the kitschy, retro ‘50s-style décor that verges on Disneyworld-esque certainly balances things out.
Purchased from the 1939 World’s Fair, the White Mana is an actual historic landmark. If you're from Jersey, you've had at a cheeseburger here at least once in your life -- if you're smart, you've been back more times than you can count. It’s less diner and more burger joint, but it has all the makings of a traditional diner -- open 24/7, offering (in addition to its delicious cheeseburgers) onion rings, milkshakes, and mozzarella sticks around the clock. The food is cheap, good, and perfectly greasy.
If you don’t know what a pork roll is, it’s clear you’re not from here. Made of cured and smoked pork product somewhat similar to bologna or Canadian bacon, pork roll holds almost god-like status in the Garden State (there’s even a Pork Roll Festival). It’s typically served with cheese and fried egg on a roll (sometimes a bagel) and you can find it all over Jersey, at bagel shops and diners alike -- but the White Rose Diner in Linden has some of the best in the whole state. It’s about as casual as you can get, so don’t expect anything fancier than a blue counter stool and a good pork roll.
1. Ponzio's Diner Bakery Bar7 Route 70 E, Cherry Hill
2. Americana Diner359 US Highway 130, East Windsor
3. The Pop Shop729 Haddon Ave, Collingswood
4. Brownstone Diner & Pancake Factory426 Jersey Ave, Jersey City
5. White Mana470 Tonnele Ave, Jersey City
6. White Rose Diner1301 E Elizabeth Ave, Linden
7. Summit Diner1 Union Pl, Summit
This Cherry Hill diner has got it going on. Seriously. So much more than a typical suburban diner, Ponzio has a multi-page menu that reads like an encyclopedia of comfort foods, featuring everything from perfectly-cut French fries; veal, chicken, and eggplant parmesan; loaded omelets; and one-of-a-kind creations like a hoagie salad. You could eat every meal Ponzio's and never get tired of the food.
This East Windsor diner sets itself apart from its greasy contemporaries for its locally-grown ingredients, grass-fed beef, fresh-squeezed juices, and craft cocktails. We know -- "fancy diner" is an oxymoron, but once you've the Americana's lavender martini and chicken Milanese, you'll be sold. Plus, the kitschy, retro '50s-style decor balances things out.
Modern meets retro at this New Jersey soda fountain that's decorated to look like it's been around for decades, even though it's only been open since the mid-aughts. The menu is straight up diner fare, featuring more than 30 kinds of next-level grilled cheese. Even though the ambience might feel a bit 1950s (ahem, the old-fashioned jukebox), new age things like gluten-free bread and tofu Buffalo wings will bring you back to the 21st century.
Nicer than the average side-of-the-highway diner, the Brownstone in Van Vorst Park is the best diner in Jersey City mainly because of its signature pancake wrap. It's exactly what you're thinking: an entire breakfast meal wrapped in an oversized pancake. We always suspected that bacon, egg, and cheeses tasted better with pancakes than English muffins. Brownstone's long and eclectic Greek-American menu makes the spot a great ambassador for Garden State dining.
This Jersey City diner is a historical landmark. The building was purchased at the 1939's World Fair, and though it's decidedly retro now, it was deemed the "diner of the future" when it first opened. White Mana is less of a quintessential Greek/Italian diner and more of a burger joint, doling out juicy cheeseburgers, onion rings, mozzarella sticks, and milkshakes 24/7. The cheap and greasy food is destination worthy if you're looking for a taste of old-school New Jersey eats.
Also known as the White Rose System, this retro, counter-seat only diner in Linden is widely known for its unfussy American classics. Among typical diner fare, White Rose doles out an incredible pork roll sandwich (or, to North Jersey natives -- Taylor ham, egg, and cheese) and one of the state's best burgers: a thinly pressed 75/25 beef patty, pressed with onions and flanked by two rounds of crusty bread. Everything at this ultra-casual mainstay is prepared on an ancient, well-worn griddle.
Set in an art deco dining car, Summit's eponymous diner has been in operation since 1929, making it the oldest in New Jersey. Located in the heart of downtown (it's across the street from the train station), the diner serves reliably good and greasy Greek and American comfort food. There's no menu, no website, and no credit cards accepted. To get the real New Jersey experience, show up early on a weekend morning and order the Taylor ham and eggs, it's a classic.