A couple of weeks ago, I took a look at my schedule of meetings and such and started laughing: on one single day, I had three meetings at three separate diners. As a native of South Jersey, I knew that this was the epitome of the Jersey diner scene.
First Meeting: Breakfast at Diner #1
If you are from Jersey, you know the story. Huge menu with lots of choices. So I ordered an omelet, subbed out the potatoes for tomato slices, and rye toast. It was fine. Nothing wrong with it, but nothing really right about it. Coffee was decent and plentiful. The service was somewhat friendly, relatively efficient, and reasonably accurate. Overall experience wasn’t not particularly good for the money, but they didn’t rush us out and we didn’t have to bus our own table.
Second Meeting: Lunch at Diner #2
Further down the road, another diner, and again, it was fine. Plenty of parking and the restaurant wasn’t particularly busy, but the staff brought a “charming” (ahem) attitude that practically said, “I’m doin’ ya a favor by being here so you’ll get your food when I’m good and ready to give it to ya, got it?!” I had soup and salad, which were both relatively fine, and came with a big basket of bread. Food was relatively cheap and relatively decent. Nothing wrong with it, but nothing right about it.
Final Meeting of the Day: Dinner at the Silver Diner
I was invited to attend a special event that featured Silver Diner co-founders President Bob Giaimo and Executive Chef Ype Von Hengst. After meeting the others at the event, tasting a few nice treats. Bob Giaimo opened the event.
Next up, Ype shared his passion and introduced what we were about to eat.
Looks like we’re not in the typical diner anymore.
I’m not a food critic, but I do enjoy eating. Compared to the two other diners from earlier in the day, there was no competition. This was delicious.
I think that I managed to cram a little bit of everything onto my plate. Simple things like locally sourced tomatoes (I usually don’t even like tomatoes) made the food taste fresher and better. Softer breads, crispier vegetables, and even locally sourced coffee (courtesy of Lacas Coffee from Pennsauken, NJ) made a difference. It appears that Chef Ype has found a way for franchises to source food locally, provide a broad diner menu, and serve food that just tastes a heck of a lot better than the average diner.
Now to be fair, the Silver Diner was having a special event, the top brass was there, everyone was at attention, so of course everything was going to be perfect. So I went back for breakfast a week later, ordered the Farmer’s omelet to test the system: no coupons, no special requests, just an average guy getting breakfast before the business day. (I didn’t even check in on Foursquare.)
Compared to what I typically get from diners in the area, again, this was simply superior. Food was delivered quickly, service was friendly and lacked the “doing you a favor” attitude, and the food was obviously fresh and tasty. But of course, this was going to be more expensive than my breakfast as described earlier, and it was, by about 50 cents.
So why do people in Cherry Hill tolerate the “typical diner” when the Silver Diner is right across from the mall? That’s something I’ll need you to explain to me.
(In the interest of full disclosure, I was invited to this event by a friend at Thomas/Boyd Communications. I was not asked to write this post.)