Sunday, October 25, 2009

Road Construction Doesn't Deter Diner's Regulars

Since you live in New Jersey, the likelihood that you've been to a diner is pretty high.

In fact, New Jersey is often referred to as, among other things, the diner capital of the world, having more diners across the state than we probably even know what to do with. But while every diner might appear the same on the surface, regular customers know that each diner is unique for both its history and its food selection, and the Chester Diner is no exception.

"When you look at the pie case, you're going to faint," says manager Nick Mates,who has been working at the diner for three years. "It's like a full bakery."

Along with the elegant cakes and pies, which range from traditional apple, cherry, and lemon meringue to more elaborate strawberry and chocolate cheesecake and chocolate mousse, the Chester Diner also has a deep-fried favorite that quickly is becoming a regular sweet treat in this country: fried ice cream.

Mates says: "Usually, we put in vanilla, but the customer can change it up. Some people don't like vanilla, you know.

"The people love it, they just love it. It's such a big plate, so for two people, it's enough. It's a big, big portion."

But the stellar dessert menu isn't the only thing about which Mates can boast. The diner has traditional Greek-American diner fare, with Greek wraps, paninis, sautees and seafood being very popular items on the menu. The diner also has special theme nights: Tuesday and Wednesday are pasta nights, and Thursday is steak night.

There's one item in particular that Mates cites as being the bestseller at the diner: the Greek salad with the grilled chicken on the lunch menu.

But it's not all clear skies for the diner. Road construction on Route 206 has hindered business a bit.

"The construction outside," Mates says, "has affected the business, especially in the daytime, but in the end, to get something better, you have to suffer. There's going to be three lanes on this side, and three on the other side. It will be pretty much easier for everybody."

The roadwork hasn't kept away the regular customers, some of whom have been coming to this diner every day for decades.

"We have people who come here for 20 to 30 years," Mates says, adding a hello to a cutomer who enters the eatery. "And they still come here 6 a.m. in the morning. They're very lovely people, and we look forward to always having them, and we do our best to keep them. They feel like they are home."

It's a home that has grown. Forty or more years ago, it was no bigger than a trailer, "and then, every year, the diner's founders expanded it to be better and better and better, so that's how it became what it is now," Mates explains.

The great diner is in a great town, he adds: "Chester is, I'm telling you, one of the very, very, very good areas, one of the very safe areas, and the people are so lovely, so you don't even have to worry about it for your kids and schools. And the people are so friendly, and everybody watches over everybody, you know. I'm really thrilled to be working here."

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