Elmwood Park Diner


Visited Friday, June 8, 2018
Location: 375 Market Street, Elmwood Park, NJ
Hours: Sun.–Thu., 6 a.m.–12 a.m.; Fri.–Sat., 6 a.m.–1 a.m.
Website: epdiner.com

This visit was both of our first time at Elmwood Park Diner, which is in a convenient spot on the edge of Bergen County, a short way from the Passaic River and at the convergence of Route 80, Route 46, and the Parkway. The Parkway Diner, also in Elmwood Park, can’t be more than three minutes away, and choosing one over the other was a coinflip. We’ll have to do a head-to-head comparison sometime soon.

BUD

DAN

Main Dish

Santa Fe Chicken Wrap

Our loyal readers know that Dan and I consider wraps and paninis (wait, isn’t “panini” already plural? Dan, help me out) to be two of the fundamental diner foods. Elmwood Park Diner does an interesting thing: there’s a single shared wrap/panini section of the menu, and you can choose any of the options in either style. Because, hey, sometimes you feel like a wrap and sometimes you feel like a panini (panino? Dan, help me out). This is such a common-sense way to do it that I’m surprised I haven’t seen it at another diner before.

Anyway, I went with the Santa Fe option and ordered it as a wrap. Chicken, lettuce, tomato (no thanks), bacon, cheddar, barbecue sauce. First of all, they either used the most mild barbecue sauce ever formulated or they just forgot to include it at all. Without the expected tang of barbecue sauce, the wrap was aggressively bland. The crunch and salt of the bacon was the only thing that rescued it at all. None of this is to say that the wrap was bad, per se. If anything, it was my fault: I knew from the start that I wasn’t making a terribly ambitious order. It’s hard to mess up chicken, bacon, cheese, etc., and I don’t think they did (except by accidentally omitting the most flavorful ingredient). It was simply…unremarkable.

Main Dish

Chicken Portabella Panini

I looked it up, Bud, and it’s actually panoonoo.

I myself got a singular panini, a classic and one of my go-to options when I’m not quite feeling a burger. I was torn between the panini with chicken, roasted peppers and mozzarella and a panini with all that PLUS a portobello mushroom. Considering they were the same price, it was a no brainer cuz this gal loves a bargain.

The panini was fine…I felt like it was 80% portobello though. It didn’t help that portobellos, being arguably the most portly member of the mushroom family, made the sandwich a bit sloppy and I had to eat it mostly with a fork. I ordered a side of balsamic to dip the sandwich in, and it was so good it bumped this whole category up a burger.

If you guys find yourselves at this diner, randy for a panini and are a gal/guy that loves a bargain like myself, learn from this poor fool’s mistake and opt for the one without the portobello.

Fries

I found the fries to be very typical of the diner style. A little on the crunchier side, which I prefer, but not overbrowned or so well-done that they become virtually super-duper thick-cut potato chips.

It’s worth noting too that Elmwood Park Diner has an unusually generous selection of fry substitutes: for a dollar you could swap in sweet potato, curly, waffle, zucchini sticks, or onion rings. I prefer the classic, but kudos for the variety.

Fries

Elmwood Park Diner: So, it says on your resume that you are fluent in several varieties of fried potato?

Interviewee: Yes, I have perfected the waffle fry. I chop up a potato uncomfortably thick, undercook it, and then rub it with enough seasoning to make it orange, but not give it any flavor.

Elmwood Park Diner: When can you start?

Really very disappointed in these guys. Some of the fries I ate here were so thick that it felt like I was taking a bite out of a baked potato (and they were as bland as one). The honey mustard was good though!

Dessert

Oreo Cheesecake

The dessert case at Elmwood Park Diner is on the smaller side, but there are still ample options. I’m beginning to think that when a diner has a dessert case as long as a city block, it’s just showing off. Variety is great, but if I wanted seventeen cheesecake options, I’d go to a factory that makes cheesecake.

This time, I recall that Dan was advocating for the Oreo cheesecake even though we usually do strawberry. I welcomed the change of pace, though in the end I wasn’t crazy about the cheesecake. With the chocolate and cookie pieces mixed in, it begins to feel more like a generic creamy-textured chocolate cake than a cheesecake. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that, and I’m not even saying that this particular Oreo cheesecake was done poorly by Oreo cheesecake standards. It just didn’t hit the spot for me.

Dessert

Oreo Cheesecake

I imagine a factory that makes cheesecake pumps them out of a machine while this is playing.

This cheesecake was very average. Forgettable, even. I’m a huge fan of cookies and cream so my expectations were maybe too high. The texture was fine and like, look…I’ve had worse cheesecakes. I just wouldn’t get this one again.

Service

We call this category “service,” but let’s stop kidding ourselves: it’s really a measure of how willing the waiter is to tolerate our obnoxious banter. Miguel was down for it. Dan did the thing where she makes a choice from the menu but then requests twelve adjustments so that it’s virtually unrecognizable. I was right on time to call her out to Miguel—“Women, right? Heh heh”—and he played along. That’s really all we ask for.

Service

Let’s just ignore Buddy’s ease at which he resorts to misogyny.

Poor Miguel. I was getting so nervous (social anxiety whazzup) prepping myself for what ended up being the most obnoxious order in all diner history:

Could I please have the chicken portobello panini? And instead of regular fries, could I get waffle? It says pickle upon request so could I have a pickle, and also a side of honey mustard and a side of balsamic?

My man Miguel not only got it all right first try, but even joked around and said “The side of honey mustard is going to be $20 dollars, is that ok?” At which point Bud and I simultaneously said “[S]hes paying!” and an audible groan was heard throughout the diner as Bud and I reassured ourselves that everyone loves us.

Value

We each ordered a sandwich and fries, I threw in a soft drink, Dan spent an extra $1.00 on waffle fries, and we shared a dessert—and we got out of there for under $30. I think that’s a pretty good deal. My wrap was $9.75 and the cheesecake was $3.95, very fair prices.

Value

Couldn’t have said it better, my love. Great value. One of the more inexpensive diners we’ve been to.

Ambience

Elmwood Park Diner has a classic style, with all the usual stainless steel and neon signage. What I noticed immediately, though, was the clientele. There were a lot of elderly folks. And I say this in the warmest way. I wouldn’t ask a senior citizen where to get my skateboard repaired (I don’t own a skateboard) or how to catch Mew in Pokémon Go (I don’t play Pokémon Go), but I would definitely defer to his opinion about a good diner. We got there around 6:30 on a Friday evening—not exactly primetime for the older crowd—but still there were several old couples, groups of friends, etc. I took that to mean something.

Ambience

All you need to do is complete all 8 levels of A Mythical Discovery and you’ll be rewarded with a Mew, Bud! You were there when I got it!

This diners design embodies every diner trope you can imagine, and I mean that in the best way possible. It was a very sweet place and you can tell it’s THE spot that families go to after work on a Friday. At least that’s what I imagine families do…I grew up as an orphan in a small town in Italy.

OVERALL

On the quality of my food alone, Elmwood Park Diner really did not perform well. But that’s why the overall rating is supposed to be an independent number, not a composite of the other scores. I feel confident that my mediocre meal was just a consequence of the dishes I chose to order, not the quality of the joint overall. It was a pleasant place to visit, the service and surroundings were lovely, and I would go again. (But not right away. We still have several dozen other diners to review.)

OVERALL

I lied about being an orphan. I have a wonderful family. Sorry guys.

This diner was fun and cute and seemed like a great family place. The food didn’t blow me away but the ambiance and service made up for it. I’d give it another try for sure.

 

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6 Replies to “Elmwood Park Diner”

  1. I’m quickly becoming the number one fan of, not only this blog, but you two as a couple and pair of writers. My only complaint is the lack of chocolate! Someone should be reviewing the chocolate chip pancakes at every establishment. Consider this a humble, but very firm, request.

    1. Thank you, mysterious chocolate lady. You make a good point — we’ve written three posts and not a single breakfast in sight. I intend to fix this in the next review (but no promises because hey maybe I’ll want a burger, can’t predict these things).

    2. Sounds like SOMEONE needs to be considered as a guest blog poster for some chocolate chip pancakes??? Perhaps some chocolate milk on the side?!

      1. I was hoping you’d say that.

  2. I wasn’t invited. But since the Chocolate Lady sounds very nice, maybe next time I will get the chocolate chip pancakes. If I am invited.

    1. Hey, I thought YOU preemptively told ME that you were unavailable!

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