Diners in New Jersey are a dime a dozen. (There are roughly 530, according to here.) But find one that has all your favorite diner grub AND a convivial, quirky, maybe gimmicky ambiance that will keep you coming back? Yeah, that’s a Jersey diner combo that works. Tell your kid’s Instagram feed that those unicorn-themed sundaes will be there, too. (See #2.)
1. Brownstone Pancake Factory
Not all diners are created equal. Some have hand-spun salted caramel pretzel milkshakes and “ultimate insane milkshakes” that you can sip on as you eat things like peanut butter bacon pancakes and Jersey french toast while you sit in a cleverly placed inverted outdoor park on the ceiling. Got all that? Like at Brownstone Pancake Factory, for example. Nope. Not equal.
860 River Rd., Edgewater, NJ 07020
2. The Pop Shop
Want breakfast all day? You can get it here, at least until closing time. The Pop Shop promises “fountain shop nostalgia and futuristic blue plate sophistication” – we honestly have no idea what that means, but go. You won’t be mad. Bubblegum pink and like-minded pastels are the backdrop for three decades of vintage touches – a 1940s soda fountain; 1950s style leather booths and Seeburg jukebox; and 1960s inspired faux wood and metal tables. Some things just go together. Like Coke and cherry syrup, and mint chocolate chip ice cream and brownies (Fly Eagles Fly!). Or puppies and cuteness, but that’s not the point right now.
729 Haddon St., Collingswood, NJ 08108
3. Clinton Station Diner
Dine inside a turn-of-the-century Blue Comet observation car and get loopy watching the model trains go around suspended from the ceiling. The old train dining car is the star of this show, but we hear the fish tank is pretty unique, and so is the “Diner” counter that offers folks a schmooz-y coffee shop atmosphere. The only way to improve Clinton Station Diner’s easy weekend atmosphere of Hungry Man’s Breakfast Platters fresh off the griddle and cold sodas is by adding in a 50lb burger named Mt. Olympus. Consider that last one highly optional.
2 Bank St., Clinton, NJ 08809
4. Broad Street Diner
Breakfast at Broad Street Diner with eggs any style, pancake stacks, and fresh fruit waffles is good. Retro breakfast with Elvis French Toast, an omelet called The Hangover, and a root beer float is even better. Add in ’50-kitsch style with gleaming chrome exterior, swivel stools, and red and white padded booths and… anyway, your fam will totally be into this diner. We’re partial to breakfast but you can get lunch and “dinner classics with a twist” like Mom’s Meatloaf. There’s no computerized system; orders are written on paper and carried into the kitchen just like in the days of yore.
83 Broad St, Keyport, NJ 07735
5. Doo Wop Coffee Shop (closed for the winter season, reopens April 2018)
Head to Doo Wop for more than just coffee. There’s a delicious breakfast and lunch waiting for you in a totally random setting inside the Tangiers Motel. There’s also neon signs, vinyl records, and posters of Marilyn and Elvis. It’s just a block away from the beach. Feel free to dress up in your best Pink Lady outfit or just your swimsuit, whatever, there’s no worries here at the Jersey Shore.
6201 Atlantic Ave., Wildwood, NJ 08260
6. The Chicken or the Egg (closed for the winter season, reopens April 2018)
Fat Chegg. Buffalo Wings (with Obscene Sauce). Super Macho Nacho Chicken Nachos. Don’t mind us. We’re just rattling off a few very good reasons for you to fall off the resolution wagon at The Chicken or the Egg, which is a staple amongst South Jerseyans that you’ll probably like for their chicken and stuff but also the quirky, mismatched brick and warm wood interiors and loud comic book style plastered tables. As you were.
207 N. Bay Ave., Beach Haven, NJ 08008
7. The Chatterbox Drive-In
This diner encourages you to listen to 1950s and 60s music, eat throwback things like a Sinatra Burger, and drink ice cream sodas and egg creams. Though you probably only need to be regularly encouraged. Model trains run above, movie posters and memorabilia on the walls, vintage vehicles right in the dining area and you’re just hanging out in the middle of it all. No wrong turns here. But you’d better run fast to soak it all in – word on the street is Chatterbox is selling to Wawa and the deal may be complete later this year.
1 NJ-15, Augusta, NJ 07822
8. Skylark Diner
Things you don’t hate: cinnamon French toast, lobster mac and cheese; Guinness braised short ribs. Skylark Diner may bill itself as a diner, but it’s nothing short of a diner with bling. Propelling Skylark to a league of its own is the diner’s 1960s jet-age inspired architecture. The futuristic and retro murals, a nod to the heyday of commercial air travel, bright colored tiles, and sleek vinyl seating – it all makes us feel boss, in a Don Draper kinda way.
17 Wooding Ave., Edison, NJ 08817
9. CHiT CHaT Diner
There’s just something about black and white checkered chic. That’s how CHiT CHaT Diner describes themselves. Somehow, the shiny red leather booth seats, blue and green mosaic tiles, and black and white accents all just work together to improve our Sunday moods. Maybe it’s the empanadas and Pad Thai egg rolls. Perhaps it’s the Mediterranean flatbread and Mexican mole hand cut fries. Maybe it’s all of those, plus peanut butter Nutella shakes. This is going to be some tricky research.
515 Essex St., Hackensack, NJ 07601
10. Mustache Bill’s Diner (closed for the winter season, reopens March 20, 2018)
Before or after the beach, you can swing by and partake in their creamed chipped beef on rye, get a solid hot coffee, or eat pancakes in the shape of – you guessed it – a mustache. Hang out on mint green stools around the counter and stay awhile; this beach diner is laid back retro without drowning in kitsch.
704 Broadway, Barnegat Light, NJ 08006