Where Have All The Twenty-Four-Hour Diners Gone?

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One of N.J.’s most unique, and one of our best features, was that we had diners, and they were open 24/7. You could sail into your local silver dining car down the backroad of the state or pull into one of our updated shiny spots trying to disguise themselves as high-end restaurants, and as much order fries-with-gravy (sometimes called disco’-fries) as a whole lobster dinner at three a.m. or breakfast twelve hours later. I recall having two friends come in from California, years passing between their visits, and both ladies agreeing they were hungry after the long airplane ride to get to New Jersey but bemoaning the fact that they had landed too late to get food. Driving us to one of so many diners around my ‘burb, they were both surprised and delighted they could eat well after 10 pm during the week.

Yes, this was one of the best aspects of our many excellent New Jersey diners and an aspect that is all but gone now.

Passing as any New Jersian-it does on his or her regular rounds, I am coming across more and more diners, and big, busy ones on significant thoroughfares, closing during evening hours. I am talking wonderful spots where I used to trundle in at two am with my band, all of us festooned in our 80’s stage clothes, not drawing even a raised eyebrow from the other patrons who had either hit a club that night or were just night owls out for an omelet. But these days, good luck finding a diner open twenty-four hours.

I did a quick search, and here are some that need to be commended for keeping the 24/7, any kind of food available at any time, credo alive.

There is a Clinton Station Diner on Rte. 78 West serves, as they boast, some of the biggest burgers in the world. You can sit and eat in their 1927 Blue Comet Train car, which is pretty neat. I have been to this dinner often; it is fantastic.

The American Dinera West Orange staple, features House-Made “Mama’s” Meatloaf. There’s The Boulevard Diner in North Bergen and The Park Ave Diner in South Plainfield, and family-owned for nearly four decades. There is the Park 22 in Greenbook.

But conducting my brief search, I came across more diners closing around 10 pm or 12 midnight than those open in the 24-hour old school style. Blame it on COVID; blame it on people venturing out less and less. Blame it on how much of the modern age is robbing us of our very best cultural touchstones. Either way, I want my diner to stay open twenty-four hours!

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