When is a Jersey diner a REAL diner?
I had an odd moment of genuine Jersey pride the other day. Bill and I were talking about movies shot in Jersey and someone called in the Barry Levinson movie Diner from the 80's. We both thought no way was any of that shot in Jersey because Levinson has always had a love affair with Baltimore and the coming of age film centers on friends there. It turns out the caller was right. Every part of the movie was shot on location in Baltimore except the diner scenes. Those were shot in Hasbrouck Heights, New Jersey at Route 17 and Williams Avenue at the Bendix Diner.
The pride came into play realizing they must not have been able to find a diner that looks like a real diner anywhere in Baltimore. For that they had to come all the way to New Jersey. Pretty cool!
This weekend my wife and I took Atticus, who just turned 16 months old, to his first diner. We've taken him to restaurants before, but it occurred to us we hadn't taken him to an actual diner and if he's going to be a Jersey guy this had to be rectified! So Sunday morning we brought him to the Flemington-Raritan Diner. Apparently nothing beats the vibe of a Jersey diner because he loved it! He was soaking up the energy and looking around the whole time.
But that brings up the question of when is a Jersey diner a real diner. When my wife and I were dating we went to a place that called itself a diner but wasn't. How do I know? For one thing, they used fancy linen napkins. No. Just, no! A real diner has to have certain things. Paper napkins is a must. Also the menus should be laminated. If old ketchup is encrusted on the laminate here and there then that's all the more authentic. Paying on the way out at a cash register is essential versus leaving your payment in a leather fold at the table. If you're leaving your payment at the table, you're in a restaurant not a diner.
What else does a diner have to have to be legit? Does it have to have lots of stainless steel and be designed to look like an old railroad car? That's classic, yes, but I think you can be a diner without that these days. Does it have to be open 24 hours a day? Ten years ago I'd say yes, but economic realities after the so-called Great Recession forced many legit diners to not be open all night and I wouldn't take away their status over it. Juke boxes at the tables? Again, classic but I'd still call it a diner without. Oh, one thing I'm sure of. It cannot be a chain. Our daughter made the mistake of calling Denny's a diner. My wife sat her down and had a talk with her. If you're going to be a Jersey girl, you have to know that's not a diner.
So let us know. Send us an email to DD@nj1015.com or just use the comment section below. Tell us what a diner has to have to make it a REAL diner.