When I read about the iconic Tops Diner in East Newark being torn down and completely renovated, I had a few takeaways. One was that a 15,000 square foot diner with seating for nearly 300 was huge and $11 million was quite a chunk of change. Two, with the addition of things like a barista station and a champagne case and a $5,000 a month filtered water system, this didn’t sound like a diner.

A restaurant is a restaurant. A diner is a diner. A diner can be nice, but it still has grit. Example, years ago I went to a place called Americana Diner that has since changed its name. It’s a place that serves terrific food. But it didn’t look like a diner. It didn’t feel like a diner. And when we were seated the first thing I noticed was white linen tablecloths.

No no NO!

They hung the word diner on the building but the place is a restaurant. Which leads me to my point. To be a true Jersey diner there are certain inviolable rules. On Thursday’s show we set out to find them. Thanks to Lynn, Dee, Pete, Sal, Debbie, Mark and all the other callers who added to this list.

A real NJ diner has to have...

Paper placemats with ads of local businesses on them

Photos on the wall of any celebrity who ever walked into the place

Breakfast served anytime

A dessert case with cheesecakes, lemon meringue pie and rice pudding

Matzo ball soup and disco fries on the menu

Kitschy, pointless game machines like the Love-O-Meter in the vestibule

An oversized menu with laminated pages and occasional dried ketchup on the laminate

A counter with swivel stools

Jukeboxes at every booth if you really want to go old school

Staff that calls you hon and sweetie, never sir or ma’am

A ton of mirrors (but not sure why)

A framed first dollar they ever made

The post above reflects the thoughts and observations of New Jersey 101.5 talk show host Jeff Deminski. Any opinions expressed are Jeff Deminski's own.

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