Mar 15th, 2020, 10:11 PM

Best Diner in New Jersey

By Kayla Lopez
diner food
Typical Diner Food from Tops Diner, Image credit: Kayla Lopez
Discover the Quirks of New Jersey Diners

Not many people get to say that they know someone that has been to 275 diners and counting, but I sure can. It’s been the goal to go to every single diner in New Jersey for my former high school teacher, Marc Jenkins, and he won’t stop until he reaches his goal.

The state of New Jersey is most famous for its popularization of diners starting out in the 1910s and 1920s. Since then, diners have become a part of New Jersey culture and the trend does not seem to be dying out anytime soon. The current number of diners in the state has reached 525 but varies as many new ones open up while others get shut down. 

Growing up in New Jersey it's not uncommon to go to diners with friends after a football game or for brunch on a lazy weekend. No matter the occasion you could always count on your local diner for a quick bite to eat.

Diners are home for many New Jersey residents and customer loyalty is taken seriously. No matter if the food is good or not it all comes down to the environment and the locals meeting up for a nice and affordable meal. Most people stay loyal to their local diners solely for the fact that they grew up with it. They have become part of the everyday culture we live in as a state, and there are no rules when it comes to the time in which you and your friends would like to indulge.

My friend and I enjoying our diner food, Image Credit: Kayla Lopez

After interviewing one of my favorite high school teachers, Marc Jenkins, the New Jersey diner aficionado, he has enlightened me on the pure New Jersey diner culture that many other states crave to emulate.

“I'm huge on New Jersey, I really like New Jersey culture and identity and everything we do, and diners just represent New Jersey so much because it's a quick fast food that we’re famous for”

During his college days at The College of New Jersey (TCNJ), Jenkins got the idea to go to every single diner in NJ during his spring break with a few of his buddies. Obviously, he did not complete it in a week, but since then he has continued to go on diner runs all around the state and his goal is to eventually hit all the diners. This task won’t be easy though, as new ones are always opening up while others shut down. Nonetheless, his determination and perseverance has allowed him to get this far even years after making that promise to himself as a young college student.

And what makes NJ diners so special you may ask? Well, they’re notorious for their vast and extensive menus. There are a plethora of options for any time of the day and any craving you can imagine. You could go in for a simple grilled cheese or for a full course meal. It's convenient and affordable. You'll find all types of people there from construction workers on break, to family gatherings, to cute old couples all enjoying a nice, greasy, homey meal.

Tops Diner, Image Credit: Kayla Lopez

In order to really experience the NJ diner culture, I did some research on the most famous diner in the state. In 2019 Tops Diner was rated the best restaurant in the state and it’s located in East Newark, NJ and fortunately for me, it was only a 30 minute drive from where I live. The appearance on the outside is exactly what you would think a diner should be, super retro and filled with an eclectic group of people. Not only did the food come out in less than 15 minutes, but it was delicious and filling and exactly how I imagine diner food should be. Like traditional diner culture, the service and staff were exceptional and the overall vibe in the diner was comforting. Leaving the diner, it was obvious how it was rated number one in NJ. I was so glad I got to experience it and I know I’ll definitely be back there.

New Jersey and it’s diner culture will forever be close to my heart and I think it’s something everyone should experience at least once in their life...but that also might just be me being biased toward my home state.

Here are some of my personal favorite diners, if you’re ever in New Jersey and want to give them a try!:


Chit Chat Diner

515 Essex St, Hackensack, NJ 07601

Tops Diner

500 Passaic Ave, East Newark, NJ 07029

Suburban Diner

172 Rt. 17 North, Paramus, NJ 07652

Tick Tock Diner

281 Allwood Rd, Clifton, NJ 07012

Tom Sawyer

98 E Ridgewood Ave, Paramus, NJ 07652