Diner historian hopes Tick Tock Diner renovation bridges old and new
CLIFTON — Mick Jagger will have to find someplace else to have a Taylor Ham or pork roll sandwich for the next couple weeks as the Tick Tock Diner gets renovated.
The diner, with its distinctive stainless steel exterior, has been the site of many political get-togethers and late-night bites to eat. It closes Sunday night for a renovation project that includes a new bar, new furniture, new interior design and upgraded kitchen, spokesman Michael Tulipan told New Jersey 101.5 in an email.
Don't fret: The signature Tick Tock neon sign is being preserved as well, according to Tulipan.
"The changes are so extensive that the entire restaurant will be closed for about 4 – 6 weeks," Tulipan said, adding that the work will be complete by the end of October.
The Tick Tock opened in 1948 with the current owners in place since 1986.
Michael Gabriele, the author of "The History of Diners in New Jersey" and the upcoming "Stories from New Jersey Diners: Monuments to Community," told New Jersey 101.5 the Tick Tock's location has contributed to its iconic reputation.
"It's had that reputation of being a go-to diner. It's fairly well positioned on Route 3, it's in the New York vicinity. People enjoy it and it's a diner everyone is well aware of on the New Jersey scene," Gabriele said.
Governors Chris Christie and Andrew Cuomo met at the Tick Tock for breakfast in May 2017, cashier Maria Portalakis told Politico at the time. Chelsea Clinton and Jerry Seinfeld have also been sighted at the diner.
Gabriele said he remembers going with friends but the real highlight was a stop at the Tick Tock on the way home after a late night out.
"The real show was to go to the Tick Tock at 1 o'clock in the morning and see who was going to be there. Anybody you could think of. Policeman, politicians, firemen, musicians, businessmen, hippies, that was part of the show. You'd walk in the door and look around and say to yourself, 'Oh my God what the heck is going on here.'"
Gabriele said there have been three versions of the Tick Tock, beginning with the first built by the Kullman Company in Lebanon in Hunterdon County and put up in sections on the same property in 1948.
The building being renovated was erected in 1994, which he says "synthesizes" the era of traditional, 20th century pre-built diners and newer styles of sprawling diners with large dining rooms.
He is a little anxious about the renovation and hopes it will maintain some of the integrity of the other incarnations of the Tick Tock.
"For me, the diner architecture is a big part of the whole diner 'thing.' But they gotta do what they gotta do," Gabriele said, adding that he is a stainless steel fan. "I don't like rocks. I don't like bricks."
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