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Road Trip! Destination: New Jersey diners |

Road Trip! Destination: New Jersey diners

Mark Kanny
| Saturday, April 4, 2015 9:00 p.m
Mark Twain Diner
Greek and Latino food figures prominently at the Mark Twain Diner in Union, N.J.
Skylark Diner
The Skylark Diner in Edison, N.J., was designed to evoke aspects of mid-’60s airport architecture, with more contemporary accents.
Tops Diner
The Tops Diner in Harrison, N.J., has a 15-page menu with a menu emphasizing American comfort food but with plenty of Italian, Mexican and other ethnic dishes.
Mark Twain Diner
Greek and Latino food also figures prominently at the Mark Twain Diner in Union, N.J.
Americana Diner
Grass Fed Beef Sliders are among the unusual diner fare to be found at the Americana Diner in East Windsor, N.J.
Americana Diner
The all-day menu at the Americana Diner in East Windsor, N.J., includes Nicoise salad, pan-seared salmon and chocolate mousse.

Diners are a social phenomenon, cozy meeting places for friends to hang out and talk. They typically attract a diverse clientele who are as likely to be talking about a business deal as dating.

With more than 600 diners, New Jersey certainly has a claim to the title of “diner capital of the world.” There’s even a book about the history of Jersey diners by Michael C. Gabriele, which notes the state was once a hub of diner manufacturing.

Jersey’s got small diners — with your standard coffee, eggs, burgers and fries — and larger ones with expanded menus one might expect from more refined spots.

Diners are more often family businesses, not chains. Not all of them are open 24/7, or have neon signs and a stainless-steel exterior resembling the streamlined trains of 70 years ago.

But, in all, portions are usually large, service usually quick and the prevailing mood casual and unhurried.

Skylark Diner

Designed to be different, the Skylark in Edison aims to combine a world-cuisine bistro with classical American diner fare. The building was planned to evoke aspects of mid-’60s airport architecture, with more contemporary accents.

Guy Fieri on Food Network’s “Diners, Drive-ins and Dives” calls it “A diner with bling.”

Burgers are a diner menu staple, and Skylark has nine varieties of them, along with filet mignon with shrimp, Portuguese shrimp with linguine, roasted eggplant Provencal, chicken pad Thai and a Southwest gyro.

Skylark will introduce its spring menu in early April, which will feature lighter and brighter flavors. Its revamped beverage menu will include fresh-squeezed lemonade infused with fresh fruits.

Details: 732-777-7878 or

The Tops Diner

Founded in 1972, The Tops Diner in Harrison often has been rated best or among the best diners in New Jersey and has received national recognition.

Its 15-page menu offers a range of choices from breakfast to dinner, emphasizing American comfort food but with plenty of Italian, Mexican and other ethnic dishes. Appetizers alone take up two pages.

The breakfast menu is served all day and includes dozens of egg dishes, French toast, Belgian waffles and pancakes. The omelets are made with four eggs.

Among entrees, Tops is known for its meatloaf, made daily with freshly ground beef, veal and turkey. It is served with red-wine mushroom gravy, mashed potatoes, green beans and carrots.

Desserts include 11 kinds of milkshakes.

Details: 973-481-0490 or

Americana Diner

Named the best diner overall in New Jersey by the Newark Star Ledger, the Americana Diner in East Windsor opened in 1988. It uses local produce, free-range chickens (and cage-free brown eggs) and grass-fed beef. All breads and desserts are made fresh from scratch in-house.

American also was chosen for best diner breakfast by the Star Ledger. In addition to a dozen varieties of omelets, the menu includes poached eggs Florentine, eggs Benedict, salmon Benedict, Belgian waffles and pancakes, French toast. Breakfast sandwiches include the Roman ciabatta, with oven-roasted plum tomato, scrambled egg and pecorino Romano cheese.

The all-day menu includes, in addition to the expected burgers, fries and grilled cheese, Nicoise salad, Greek lamb chops, pan-seared salmon, fisherman’s pie and slow-cooked beer short ribs.

The desert menu is updated frequently. New additions include upside-down clementine cake and chocolate mousse.

Details: 609-448-4477 or

Clinton Station Diner

Running with its historic roots as a stop on the rail line from New York City to Atlantic City, the Clinton Station Diner in Clinton uses a refurbished 1927 Blue Comet observation car as one of its dining areas. Model trains run on a suspended track in the main dining room.

Even serious burger lovers will need to go with friends, a lot of them, for the huge specialty burgers: the 3-pound Atlas, 7-pound Zeus and the 50-pound Mt. Olympus — that’s not a mistake, 50 pounds. And, yes, they have buns to match.

Clinton Station varies its menu day to day for both lunch, up to 3 p.m., and dinner. It serves steak, chops, ribs, veal, chicken and fish. The dishes range from American comfort food to Greek, Italian, German, French, Hungarian, Yankee, Creole and Mexican styles.

The breakfast menu includes 15 kinds of omelets.

Details: 908-713-0012 or

Mark Twain Diner

Founded in 1960 by a man who loved “Huckleberry Finn,” the Mark Twain Diner’s menu includes healthy options for breakfast, called “Doctor’s Choice.” Those not restricted to egg whites will have plenty of choices in omelets, sweet things from the grill and meats and cheeses.

The diner in Union serves 17 types of salads, and more if you count add-ons. The Mark Twain has chicken, tuna and shrimp salads, or sliced turkey or beef patty with lettuce, tomatoes, onion, olives, hard-boiled egg, coleslaw and potato salad. There are 14 specialty burgers, each with their own set of optional toppings, as well as sandwiches, panini and wraps. Greek and Latino food also figures prominently.

There are also children’s and seniors menus.

Details: 908-687-1680 or

Mark Kanny is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7877 or

Categories: Travel
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