Maple Valley Diner

Visited Friday, May 17, 2019
Location: 116 Route 46, Clifton, New Jersey
Hours: 6 a.m.–10 p.m.

You thought it was all over, didn’t you? A nearly three-month hiatus? No blog has ever recovered from that. It just can’t be done. But you were wrong. Refreshed, rejuvenated, and newly engaged–a shared lifetime of diner adventures awaits us—this week we visited the Maple Valley Diner here in Clifton.



Main Dish

Buffalo Blue Chicken Wrap

My thoughts on this wrap will be cynical from the start, and it’s Maple Valley’s own fault: I expressly requested no tomato, yet here I was staring down the barrel of two halves of a wrap visibly tomato-packed. Not an auspicious beginning.

The good news, I guess, is that I was able to pick out some of the looser tomato chunks without compromising the structure of the wrap. And the other good news, I guess, is that the bits that remained were not overpowering. (Are tomatoes often characterized as “overpowering”? Maybe I’m being dramatic.) Once all that’s accounted for, this was actually a very nice little wrap. It was heated and pressed, which is both aesthetically and flavor-ly superior to a wrap delivered unheated and without those lovely grill marks. But really, the one thing that saved this dish from utter mediocrity was the chunks of blue cheese instead of a slather of blue cheese dressing. Don’t get me wrong: I quite like a Buffalo wrap with blue cheese dressing, either within or on the side, but here the creaminess and tang of the blue cheese chunks was a welcome twist.

Main Dish

Peanut Butter and Banana French Toast

It’s been a long week, and I decided that I needed both something ridiculously sweet, and something that would also fill me with regret regarding my life choices. Enough about Buddy, though. For dinner, I decided to order peanut butter and banana French toast. One of my favorite breakfast dishes. There were four hefty pieces of French toast coated with powdered sugar and banana slices, with peanut butter drizzled on top. As far as this dish goes, it was absolutely fine. I, however, am spoiled, and have had this same meal at Tops Diner (review coming someday??) and they just knock it out of the park there. I don’t know WHAT Tops does differently but their PB&Banana French toast it probably one of my top ten dishes of all time.

Back to Maple Valley’s French toast. It was good, actually. What wasn’t good was the syrup, surprisingly. It came out of the bottle like Jello that’s just a little more watery than usual. WAY more viscous than syrup has any right being. It grossed me out but not enough to stop me from eating almost everything on the plate.


The portion was small (likewise with the wrap), but the crunchiness and the salt were on point.


Just sampled a few of Bud’s because I didn’t get any potato options with my meal. They were ok. A real “Danielle” type of fry—inoffensive, boring, plain, a little greasy.


Red Velvet Cake

Dan abandoned me by ordering a shake at the start, so I was a lone wolf when it came time for dessert. (That’s a Burger Deluxe first, I think.) In reality, this freed me to test something that Dan normally wouldn’t try—which was a downright necessity, because I don’t think there was a single thing on this dessert menu she could’ve tolerated. The dessert case was sparse (and that’s a charitable description), and the only cheesecake was plain, but it was in such a sorry state that it immediately triggered nightmare flashbacks to this catastrophe.

It came down to carrot cake and red velvet cake—two desserts which, in my estimation, exist purely for the purpose of transporting frosting. I flipped a coin and took the red velvet. It arrived warm, and that was a nice touch. (The plate was hot, in fact. That may be a bit much for a dessert.) But I can’t say much more complimentary about it. The cake layers had a nice flavor but were noticeably dry. The frosting layers—while tasty enough—were more evocative of vanilla pudding than of the cream cheese frosting (icing? I don’t even know the difference) I had dared to expect. The raspberry on top of this disappointing experience was the raspberry sauce drizzled around the plate. I respect the little flourish, and I’m sure many or most people appreciate the extra touch of flavor, but I very much don’t like raspberry and I wish they’d omitted it.


Monkey Business Milkshake

I tried something different this time regarding dessert: I ordered a milkshake. The truth is, their dessert offerings looked SO pathetic that I knew I’d better hedge my disappointment by staying away from them completely. Instead, I got myself a “Monkey Business” shake. This shake has everything I love all blended together: chocolate ice cream, fresh banana, and peanut butter. It was…pretty good. I guess because of the banana and peanut butter, the shake ended up being kinda on the warmer side of cold, so that was a little weird to deal with while drinking ice cream. Also, it was smaller than what I’m used to when ordering a shake. My favorite shake of all time, the Nana-Nana Moo-Moo at Red Robin, is SO big, they give you two cups. Now that’s what I’m talking about.

I’d never go so far as to boast myself asmilkshake aficionado, but considering the temperature and texture of this offering, this beverage reminded me more of a smoothie than a nice refreshing shake.


This was definitely one of our poorer service experiences. Our waitress was accommodating at first, as we waited for the whole group to arrive, but it was downhill from there. My wrap arrived improperly tomatoed (which may have been her fault or, admittedly, the kitchen’s). My drink was empty for a good twenty minutes and she never took a look. Everyone’s entrée came out at the same time—except one, which arrived some five minutes later, so one of our fine guests (hi Dad) just sat there with an empty salad bowl. (Again, maybe the kitchen’s fault—but surely it’s up to the waitstaff to coordinate that stuff.) She didn’t have a sour attitude or anything like that, but it just wasn’t at the standard we’d like to expect.


I’m going to hijack Buddy’s review to just add this much: if an order is going to come out later than the rest of the parties, you should either (a) delay the delivery of everyone’s order so they arrive together, or (b) TELL THEM IT WILL BE A FEW MINUTES.

Here we are all watering-mouths over our (still yet unknowingly) sub-par entrees, eager to eat, waiting for the last dish to arrive. And waiting. And waiting. We actually volunteered Bud to go walk over to the waitress (who was just chatting with the other gals on the far end of the bar) to see if maybe they forgot to put the order in. NOPE. “It’ll be out in a minute,” apparently.

One guest asked for brown gravy for their fries and never received it. Bud got tomatoes all up in his wrap. I asked for the shake to come out with my dinner (because I knew I’d fill up on it before I got my entrée otherwise) and it came out immediately. All I know is that if I made this many mistakes in such a short span of time, I’d be promptly asked to go into my manager’s office, close the door, ask to be seated, and then hit with a “What the heck, Danielle?”


Maple Valley has an entire page of their hefty menu naming the “Ten Things You’ll Love About Me,” and top of the list is “best prices in the area.” I find that hard to believe. My modestly sized wrap with modestly sized fries was $9.45, and my modestly sized slice of cake was $4.85. My soft drink was something like $2, which may or may not be a good deal depending on whether it came with refills—but because, as discussed above, a refill was never offered, I guess we’ll never know.

All in all, I didn’t leave with the sense I’d been ripped off, but it certainly wasn’t an unusually good deal.


Unlike Buddy, I DID leave with the sense I’d been ripped off. Maybe it was the fact that we got charged for the gravy we didn’t get. Maybe it was the fact that the very much NOT Nana-Nana Moo-Moo-sized shake was an unprecedented $4.95. Or MAYBE, it was the fact that underneath my reasonably priced French toast at $4.85, there were two additional receipt items, an additional $2.00 added for the banana and $2.00 added for the peanut butter drizzle. Let me get this straight—I was charged two dollars for ONE banana. On top of this, I was charged another $2.00 for peanut butter DRIZZLE. I just can’t wrap my head around the fact that not only does Maple Valley feel that these prices are justified, but at no point does anyone say “um hun, just want to let you know that this squirt of peanut butter and the addition of the world’s most inexpensive fruit is going to almost double the cost of your meal, ok?”

This place is like the Lucille Bluth of diners.


Maple Valley, in my opinion, has an unenviable spot on the side of a busy highway, with a big barren parking lot and little landscaping. So, it’s not the prettiest place. Big deal. The inside isn’t much different, clean and bright but not exactly cozy. The menu had a lot of local shout-outs, including a big “Mustangs Pride” graphic, and because I am a proud Clifton resident (for the last nine months or so), this stirred something in me. So I guess it gets a little bump for that.


Nothing at all made this diner stand out from any of the hundred others we’ve been to. Actually, I take that back. This diner was SO aggressively boring and scantly decorated, that it stands out as the most uninteresting diner we’ve ever been to. I should have been tipped off by how blasé everything about this place was when we first walked in. Upon arrival, our group just stood there…waiting…as the manager and three waitresses, all within five feet of us, avoided eye contact as we looked for someone to seat us.


We’ve driven by Maple Valley dozens of times, so it was about time it got its chance, but I don’t know if we’ll give it many more. There are just better options locally, including a couple (1, 2) just a short way down the same road. The food was fine, I guess. The dessert was kinda sorry. The service was not good. A thoroughly mediocre experience.


Here I was thinking that the biggest lie of the week was “the Game of Thrones finale is going to be amazing!” (Timely and culturally relevant reference, Dan.) Little did I know that the biggest lie would in fact be the front cover of Maple Valley’s menu, boasting “Quality Food/Great Service/Best Prices.” The only way we can make this claim true is to remove every superlative. Here we go, Maple Valley: “Food. Service. Prices.”. Now that’s an accurate summary of what to expect dining here. I can guarantee you will get all three of these things. The quality of which, however, will be unpredictable, but most likely underwhelming.

If you’re in Clifton and looking for a diner experience that won’t make you want to cry, just go to Allwood.


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2 Replies to “Maple Valley Diner”

  1. Agree on all fronts. I could tell the cake was dry just by looking at it and even my sweet tooth was not craving it. It was also painful watching Dad sit there without food when we all had ours. Glad Bud got up, because if I had not been boxed in, I would have and probably not been as nice. I am trying to remember why we left a generous tip, except that its a habit to do so.

    1. The MySpace pic angle on that shake makes it look even less satisfying than your carefully crafted words can describe.


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