Park West Diner

Visited Sunday, July 22, 2018
Location: 1400 Route 46, Little Falls, NJ
Hours: Open 24 hours

Little did we suspect that, of all places, unassuming Little Falls, New Jersey is the site of a magical portal to the year 1958. That’s what you might think when you step just inside the doors of the Park West Diner, where you are welcomed by a glass showcase of Elvis and Marilyn memorabilia, classic car models, a framed montage of Yankee greats, and blinding neon pipe-lighting and stainless steel paneling.



Main Dish

Famous Open Steak Sandwich

I’ve theorized before that maybe we should try to sample a diner’s signature item. That would solve the problem of our subjective tastes skewing the ratings. Sure, I might love a buffalo chicken wrap, but maybe you just don’t make it well? (Though if you can’t put together a competent chicken wrap, why are you in the diner business?)

Today I tried Park West’s “famous” open steak sandwich. I’m always skeptical of labels like this. In my estimation, unless it’s been featured on DDD, it hasn’t achieved any kind of notable fame in the diner universe. The menu described sliced Roumanian steak on toasted garlic bread with letuce and tomato, served alongside fries and onion rings. I ordered it tomato-less, as is my way. Also, I’d never heard of Roumanian steak, but Google has proven helpful. (Save you a click: “Romanian steak is the ‘quintessential Jewish steak,’ said Noah and Rae Bernamoff in The Mile End Cookbook (Clarkson Potter). It’s usually made using the humble cut known as the skirt, and ‘the glory of the skirt steak’ is that it’s relatively cheap and ‘full of flavor.’ When you sear it on a skillet, ‘it cooks to a gorgeous, crisp-edged medium rare in just minutes.’”)

The presentation is very impressive: it includes a pepper, an orange slice (I think? I’m colorblind) and some kind of leafy green. I assume this is the lettuce that was listed on the menu, and I also assumed that it and the orange were just an inedible garnish, so I didn’t touch it. That left just the garlic bread, the steak, and the pepper. Dan remarked that it looked rather dry (she actually used some weird Italian phrase)—that it could use, for example, a horseradish sauce. That’s a fine observation and I would’ve welcomed it. However, even served as-is, it was pretty tasty. The steak, which I initially thought was London broil, is wonderfully flavorful. The garlic bread is pungent, which is exactly what you’re asking for when you order garlic bread, though over the course of an entire big sandwich it can become overpowering. I would’ve liked a second pepper, because I tried to portion it evenly and ran out halfway through. (Though, mind you, I ate the dish like an open-face sandwich with a fork and knife. It looks like it would’ve been a good fit if I ate it closed.)

Although I am still doubtful that this “famous” sandwich has earned any kind of fame outside of the menu author’s delusions, I liked it very much.

Main Dish

Mozzarella and Onion Burger

Before I speak about my main dish, I’m going to complain about Buddy’s. He didn’t have anything bad to say about it, but I was shocked at how disappointing it was. To begin with, in the menu, it’s literally listed as a “Famous Open Steak Sandwich,” and I’ve never even heard of it once! Anyway, what he got was less of an open-face sandwich and more of bread-with-meat-on-top-and-a-pathetic-pepper sandwich. There was no panache. It looked pathetic and lazy. There’s an expression in Italian that reminded me of this sandwich. It translates basically to “it’s like a plain baked potato with nothing on it”…mainly, it’s boring. To put it into more relatable imagery, it’s like getting ready for a hot first date with a great guy, getting to the restaurant, and finding out it’s Buddy.* If I were rating this, I’d give it .5 disappointing-looking burgers.

Though I was disappointed at what Buddy got, I was SO happy with my choice. This place, of all the diners I’ve been to, has possibly the best burgers on tap. I knew I wanted a burger, but I wanted something more savory than the classic Burger Deluxe. I ended up doing a bit of a build-your-own burger, and got my burger with fried onions and melted mozzarella. It was delicious. It was cooked perfectly and didn’t have a HINT of that greasy aftertaste. My only problem was that there was nothing on the menu that had something similar to this…I had to custom make it, which always makes me feel annoying.

*I’m just kidding, my love, you’re the handsomest sandwich.


It seems like Park West offers a standard option of classic, waffle, or sweet potato fries with all their dishes. I always choose classic but appreciate the variety. More importantly, they seem to always toss in a half-handful of onion rings (which is, what, 2.5 rings?) I think that is an excellent practice and it should become an industry standard. The onion rings were good, largely because they were so limited: as with garlic bread (see above), onions are easily overpowering, and making an entire side dish out of onion rings instead of French fries is just madness. Speaking of the fries—they were perfectly ordinary, not too soggy, a little short on salt. No extra points for the fries, but a slight bump for the onion rings.


These waffle fries weren’t as tasty as I remember them being. I like my waffle fries being kinda dense and thick. These guys were more like the ones from Chit Chat Diner, with a sort of “airy-crispiness” (Danielle, 2018). When the waffle fries are crispy like this, makes me feel like they’ve been deep fried eight or nine times and, and it kinda tastes like that too. I had a few of Bud’s traditional fries, and I actually regret not getting those instead, they were quite nice.

The honey mustard here was NASTY. It actually looked like yellow mayonnaise. It TASTED like yellow mayonnaise. I ended up just using ketchup cuz I felt like the honey mustard was starting to make me gag.


Brownie a la Mode

Once I munched through that entire hunk of garlic bread and my breath was thoroughly funky, I was in no place for something as rich and sweet as our usual cheesecake. We thought of our second favorite dessert—a brownie sundae—which prompted this confrontation with our waiter:

Bud: Do you have, like, a brownie sundae?

Waiter: Yes, we can do that.

Bud: And you can make the brownie warm?

Waiter: Yes, of course.

Bud: Ok, great. So, vanilla ice cream, warm brownie.

Dan: And just f us up with whipped cream.

Bud: And hot fudge on top. You have hot fudge, right?

Waiter: What? No. What do you think this is, a Friendly’s? We have chocolate syrup though.

Although I take exception to the ludicrous and, frankly, offensive notion that a diner would not have access to hot fudge, I respected and admired this man’s bold stance. He was in no mood for silly dessert-based inquiries.

What I respected and admired less was the dessert itself. The “brownie” was straight-up chocolate cake with some walnuts inside. A brownie must be fudgy, virtually by definition. It was warm and there was whipped cream and vanilla ice cream, so they got that right, but the dish was otherwise unappealing.


Brownie a la Mode

I feel the same way about our dessert as I feel about Bud’s sandwich—everything you could want was technically on the plate, but there’s nothing really tying it together. Like on paper you’re like, sure, it SOUNDS like a brownie sundae, but you weren’t there, ok? It lacked soul.

Instead of a brownie sundae, what we got was a brownie with ice cream leaning against one side, whipped cream, and either chocolate syrup or melted brownie frosting. Also, the brownie itself was rightfully described by Bud as being more cake-like than brownie. It seemed to me like less than a diner dessert and more of something you’d jumble together when you’re home alone and feeling sad because you remember that your dad is dead. Unsurprisingly, after the diner, I went home and felt sad.


The receipt said our waiter’s name was Larry K. I liked Larry K. a lot. In spite of the hot fudge confrontation described above (or actually, because of it), he was one of my favorite waiters. He filled up my drink before I asked, which is such a small thing but it says so much about the waiter’s attentiveness to first notice it and then steal a moment to bring over a refill.

Dan and I did notice the bizarre practice that there were several (I mean, maybe eight or ten) members of the staff taking their lunch breaks right in the middle of the dining room. I had no problem with it—you gotta eat—but it was almost brazen. Yeah, I’m on the clock and I’m gonna eat—what are you gonna do about it? At one point, when we’d finished dessert and were ready for the check, I peeked around for Larry K. and saw him casually noshing in the corner. It honestly didn’t even bother me. Good for you, Larry K. You eat a sandwich on the clock and you do not offer hot fudge. A man of principles.


I liked this guy just because of how much Buddy kept pointing out how much he respected his grittiness. He was no-nonsense. Efficient, and very forthcoming about what fools we are to think this place would have hot fudge. Also, I loved that he just sat down and ate his lunch in the time between us finishing our lunch and starting dessert.

He was a great guy, actually. There was little banter between us and him, but he stood out in his own gritty way.


I chanced a $16.50 sandwich, which is far pricier than I will normally accept, because it was “famous.” For a steak sandwich that doesn’t skimp on the steak, that’s a perfectly fair price. The $5.20 brownie was acceptable (though, again, not very tasty at all). My main problem is that this is one of those diners that doesn’t do unlimited refills on soft drinks, which is just ludicrous. The menu says the first refill only is free. The glasses are large enough that two servings should get you through the meal, but I still object in principle. (I, like Larry K., am a man of principle.) For the record, at the end of the meal, Larry K. did see that my glass was empty and asked if I would like a refill. It would’ve been my second refill, and I don’t know whether he would’ve charged for it, but I like to think not.


My burger had some premium ingredients but maintained a “classic burger deluxe” price of $9.40. I find that more than fair for an absolutely delicious burger. Also, the price of the brownie would be very impressive to me, had it not been such an empty dessert experience.

The price of Bud’s entree did surprise me though, and I don’t think what he got was worth almost $17.


Park West shares much in common visually with the Saddle Brook Diner. They take the diner aesthetic seriously, nearly to the point of parody. If Epcot had France and Mexico and Germany and then Dinerland, where everything is pumped up to 11, Park West would be the centerpiece. I felt like I’d died and gone to Happy Days. And there was even a gaggle of old-timers chatting at the bar, which is always a good sign.

Also, it wasn’t obvious from outside that this is a large place. The dining room is quite expansive, and it feels spacious and comfortable. (Nevermind that they seated parties in every single booth and table adjacent to us, enclosing us entirely, despite that there were many other tables available.)


Park West’s appearance really packs in the true diner spirit on the outside and inside. First of all, I feel like the most authentic diners are the ones directly on the highway. Park West is directly off Route 46 and worked hard to compensate for the busy shopping centers and gas stations nearby by being made up almost entirely of chrome and neon lights to stand out. Ya’ll park in their lot, walk on inside—MORE CHROME AND NEON LIGHTS. I loved it.

The inside decor that complemented the chrome and neon was a heavy Elvis-style rock n’ roll theme mixed up with pictures of Marilyn Monroe all over the place. I’m not sure what overall look they were going for but I gotta say, it worked. Bud nailed it when he said it looked like it was just taken out of Happy Days.

Overall, it was cozy, it was unique, there was lots of seating, and mounted TVs so that boyfriends everywhere that visit this establishment can ignore their girlfriends to watch sports.


Dan has long been an advocate for Park West Diner, but this was my first visit. I felt very satisfied by my steak sandwich, very disappointed by dessert, and very delighted by the ambience and service. I would visit again.


This is crazy…Park West Diner is one of the first diners I’ve been to, and one of my most frequently visited. It’s been a few months since I’ve been here, though, and I’m shocked at what a mediocre experience it is.

Despite my almost constant underwhelming experiences here, I love this place. The service is prompt, the food is good (mostly), and the diner is always clean.


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