People throw the word iconic around a bit too easily these days. In the case of the Menlo Park Diner it fits. It’s been there since 1960, the white and red building alongside Route 1 in Edison. Even if you never dined there once, you’ve seen it.

You may not see it again.

The current owners ran it for 30 years and because they were looking to retire they listed it for sale earlier this year for $4 million. At the time they said they’d love to see it change hands and remain as a diner but they were open to any offer. That’s the state of diners in New Jersey today. It’s become a tougher business.

Screengrab via Google Maps.
Screengrab via Google Maps.

And that was before the fire.

The Saturday before Halloween around 10pm a fire erupted in the kitchen. Firefighters responding to the two-alarm blaze managed to knock it down quickly and the fire damage was contained to the kitchen. But there was extensive smoke damage throughout the diner.

Menlo Park Diner Fire Oct. 28, 2023 (Mayor Sam Joshi via Facebook)
Menlo Park Diner Fire Oct. 28, 2023 (Mayor Sam Joshi via Facebook)

Even before the blaze the Menlo Park Diner had drastically cut back on hours from what once was a classic 24 hour operation. Lately they were closing at 3pm.

Between the already reduced hours, the owners looking to retire from the business and having listed it for sale, and now having to make big decisions regarding repairs, the future of the Menlo Park Diner is in doubt.

Fire officials familiar with the damage say the place can be rebuilt with proper permits from local code enforcement. It’s not a matter of a total loss. It’s simply a matter of what the owners will decide is best.

It certainly feels New Jersey is losing more and more diners. Let’s hope for the best but expect the worst.

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