Sunday, August 30, 2009

Award Winning Diner Great Place to Sit and Eat

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The slogan on the cover of the menu at the Country Coffee Shop in the Mendham Village Shopping Center on Route 24, is, “Where Friends Meet to Eat!!” and customers who come inside will get no better friend in the diner, which is comfortable and cozy, than owner, John Paxos, who comes right over to his customers and says hello.

“We have almost all regular customers who come in here,” Paxos says, who runs the diner with his father, cousins and sister, “[and] I know, I’d say, 90% of the customers by first name, and they know my name.”

The space, nestled in the corner of the Mendham Village Shopping Center, was already an established eatery before John and his “pop” Andrew bought it 12 years ago from its former owners.

“It was always some kind of place to eat,” Paxos says, “They called it the Mendham Eatery at one time. But since the mall was built, it’s been a place to eat—for forty something years.”

The area inside the diner has your comfortably typical diner look to it. There are your typical diner stools right at the counter where people can pick up a quick coffee or a meal. There are the typical booths where people can sit and face each other while they eat. There’s the typical cake on the countertop underneath the glass, the typical specials of the day posted on a whiteboard, and even the typical U2 music playing on the radio in the background. Just about the only thing not typical about this place’s diner décor are the dogs that layer the walls, many of which may look familiar to some of the frequent customers.

“The dogs?” Paxos says about the various pictures of man’s best friend that cover the walls, “Just one of my customers. He’s a canine photographer and he came in and asked if he could put up some pictures to drum up a little business. He puts in the Invisible Fence for people, and he’s also a canine photographer, so after he puts up the fence, he’ll ask, ‘hey, do you want me to take a picture of your dog?’ So a lot of these [pictures] are [of] local dogs in the area.”

Kids often want to sit next to their own dog when they come in, and it adds to the whole “homey” atmosphere that the Paxos’ family is trying to portray.

“We try to focus on being a family oriented type of business,” Paxos says, “I gave a great staff and I couldn’t do business without them. One of the managers is my sister, and the other is my cousin.”

The menu itself is also quite in the vein of diner food, with breakfast specials like double fried egg sandwiches, pancakes, and even healthy options, like the Egg White Vegetable Omelette, served with dry toast and homefries.

Lunches and dinners range in the same diner fashion, with seafood, sandwiches, pita pockets, and again, a waist watcher option with meals like Tossed salad with Turkey Breast, hard boiled eggs, and Chicken salads.

They also cook up specialty items, including home cooked meals and chicken sautés. In fact, anything not on the menu that you want, they’ll cook it right for you if you ask for it.

“You come in here and you can have anything you want,” Paxos says, “If you’re looking for something, we’ll make it for you.”

One of their main selling points, though is their burgers, which Paxos holds in very high regard.

“We have the best burgers around,” Paxos says, “We have a nice, juicy, 8 oz. burger. It’s big and juicy and we cook it on the Charbroil and the thing is just delicious. I can’t eat a whole one.”

With its great atmosphere and great selection, it even won the 2008 Daily Record Reader’s Choice Award for best coffee shop.

“I put up flyers, approached regular customers, and talked to the employees to vote online,” Paxos said, who wants to win the same title again this year, “I put out flyers again this year and I’m trying to beat the drum to get it going.”

If Paxos sounds like he knows a lot about the business, he does—he’s been in it for 35 years. He originally started out in East Hanover but came over to Mendham for one reason.

“Mendham’s a great area,” Paxos says with a smile.


Country Coffee Shop

WHERE: Route 24, Mendham, New Jersey
TELEPHONE NUMBER: 973-543-7173
HOURS: 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. weekdays, 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. on weekends.
CUISINE: Diner food
PAYMENT: Cash only
PRICE RANGE: Breakfast $3.25 to $10.95; Lunch $4.25 to $11.95; Dinner $6.95 to $10.95; Desserts $2.75 to $5.25
RESERVATIONS: Sit down and eat
DRESS: Casual
ATMOSPHERE: Lively, warm, and friendly
THE SCENE: Nestled in the Mendham Mall on Route 24, this award winning diner has a wide assortment of meals to choose from
PARKING: Free in lot
OWNERS: John Paxos

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