Saddle Brook Diner


Visited Friday, June 22, 2018
Location: 30 Market Street, Saddle Brook, NJ
Hours: Mon.–Wed., midnight–2 a.m. and 6 a.m.–midnight; Thu.–Sun., open 24 hours
Website: saddlebrookdiner.com

The sign says “Diner Café,” the menu throws in “cocktails” too, but the atmosphere is all diner. If you were the location manager on a film crew and the director told you to track down a diner for an upcoming scene, and you offered the Saddle Brook Diner, he’d tell you to tone it down a bit. There’s a red Cadillac on the menu, ‘50s and ‘60s music from the speakers, and a Betty Boop statue next to the front door (we don’t have a picture but Google probably does).

BUD

DAN

Main Dish

Buffalo Chicken Wrap

I briefly entertained the idea of straying out of my comfort zone and taking a chance—pasta? pork chops? hamburger?—but here I am with a buffalo chicken wrap again. I did it for a reason: Saddle Brook throws in celery, which is a classic pair with buffalo wings though unusual in a wrap, and also carrots. Bold and courageous, but perhaps foolhardy?

I actually liked it a lot. The carrots were cut pretty thick, big enough that they’re not lost among the other flavors and textures, and you get the nice crunch and the slight sweetness without interfering with the character of the other ingredients. In fact, the celery was by far the stronger flavor, and normally I despise celery in any context but it didn’t bother me here. My main objection is the buffalo sauce itself. State Line still sets the high mark for a buffalo sauce done right: thick, hot but not too hot, sweet but not too sweet. (Really descriptive, huh?) The sauce here is thin and vinegary, which is a common sin even at diners I otherwise like.

In sum, the wrap is distinguished by unusual ingredients that work well, but ultimately sabotaged by a subpar buffalo sauce.

Main Dish

Tuna Melt

Guys, you don’t know this about me but I LOVE tuna melts. “Why don’t you get them more often, Dan?” you ask? Well, darling, it’s because it’s a really huge meal and I can’t stop myself until I’ve eaten everything and made myself sick. Thank goodness that didn’t happen this time. I’M KIDDING IT TOTALLY DID. So worth it though. Honestly one of the best tuna melts I’ve ever had. Yellow cheeses gross me out (I don’t know why, it’s a mystery to me), so I asked them to use Swiss cheese. Buddy said that’s not the right cheese for a tuna melt but I cut back with a “oh I didn’t know you minored in cheese studies in law school.” And that shut him right up, ladies!

I don’t know what kind of bread they used. Usually it’s rye, but it didn’t taste like it. Doesn’t matter, it was perfectly toasted and delicious. The tuna was substantial and excellent quality. I’ve had some nasty tuna melts in my day where the tuna is like all watery and too loose (looking at you, Maplewood Diner [review coming never]). On top was a lightly grilled tomato and a big ol’ helping of Swiss cheese. It was so good, you guys. I started getting stuffed after the first half, but had to push through. I started feeling a little pukey by the time I was finishing up, but I couldn’t stop.

To sum up my entrée—I loved it so much I almost threw up.

Fries

Saddle Brook’s fries are crunchy in an odd way: they’re not just normal diner fries cooked a bit longer and browned a bit darker, but they’re unusually coarse and crumby, as if they’re fried in a different kind of oil or cut from a different kind of potato. I found that they had a very “rich” savory flavor. While I do like a crunchy fry, this richness was a bit much over the course of an entire dish (plus the additional three-quarters of Dan’s fries she shoveled onto my plate).

Fries

I can’t say too much of the fries because I was too full after my melt so I only ate about 3. Bud hit the nail on the head with his description, though—super crispy, but in like a weird way. Like as if they were coated with crumbs of fallen comrade fries that didn’t make it to the dish. I didn’t want to waste all the fries I couldn’t eat so I shoved all the rest onto Bud’s plate. He loves that.

Also, side note—the honey mustard was gross. Looked like regular mustard. Tasted like regular mustard mixed with sugar.

Dessert

Triple Chocolate Cheesecake
Strawberry Cheesecake

We typically order only one dessert to share, but both last week and tonight we opted for two. While I’d gladly let you believe that we’re just a pair of insatiable gluttons, I need to reveal a behind-the-scenes secret: more often than not, we meet friends or family to share these diner trips with us, and sometimes we get to hit off their food. I know, I know, you thought Burger Deluxe was a tightly regulated, strictly controlled environment with no third-party influences allowed.

I think Dan and I would rank the two cheesecakes differently, but we agree that they’re both equals in one respect: the cake itself was delightfully creamy. Dan had some choice words about our last cheesecake experience, but her complaints definitely do not apply here. I liked the spongy chocolate cake, skin of ganache, and drizzle of chocolate sauce on the triple chocolate cheesecake—though with a name like that, we expected something more thoroughly chocolatey. Delicious either way.

Dessert

Triple Chocolate Cheesecake
Strawberry Cheesecake

[Eatitors note, do not publish: Bud, please stop the behind-the-scenes peeks. I don’t want our readers to discover our secrets. What if next they find out we’re not nearly as attractive as we tell them we are?]

No one knows me better than you, Bud! I did in fact prefer the strawberry cheesecake to the triple chocolate one. First of all, the triple chocolate cheesecake was very deceiving. I’m expecting the cheesecake itself to be chocolate. I’m expecting mousse popping out of every cheese hole. I want the whole thing to be slathered in ganache so much that I choke on it. What we got instead was a little mousse, regular cheesecake with some chocolate in the middle, and some thin chocolate coating on top. It was nice but I was looking to be in a chocolate coma, while instead I was left in a chocolate bedrest.

The strawberry cheesecake was ridiculously creamy and had some kinda nice…I want to say graham, or nut coating on the outside? The compote on the top wasn’t too sweet, and the strawberries were very fresh. My only complaint for both desserts was that there was no whipped cream on the side. What gives?

Service

Our waiter, Jose, was a super polite and soft-spoken guy. The food came out very fast. The staff at the counter and near the entrance were all very nice. There was a slight lag between finishing our meals and ordering dessert, and Jose disappeared for a few minutes, but by that time it have become very crowded and I don’t blame him. This is really the only angle I can use to knock it down from the coveted five-burger rating.

Service

This was one of the best service experiences I think we’ve had since we’ve started the blog. Our waiter was very attentive and polite. He came by very frequently to see if we needed anything. The service was fast and efficient, which was made even more impressive because the place was getting crazy crowded by the time we were being served.

I will say this as a side note, though. I won’t knock down any burgers for this, but I like a waiter that you can banter with. I wanna feel like I’ve made a friend after I’ve left the restaurant. And, like all of my friends, they’d be short-term and paid-for. Our waiter was excellent but there was nothing that made him stand out and make me ask for him were we to visit again. Like I said, he still got a great tip, and did his job excellently, but it’s nice when Bud and I can deal with waitstaff on a friendlier, less transactional-only way. You know what I mean? I guess I just really want someone to share my jokes with that isn’t my poor coworkers and Buddy.

Value

My wrap and fries were $10.25 and the cheesecakes were $4.25 each. This certainly doesn’t feel like a bad value, but I feel I need to rate it in the context of other diners we’ve visited, and I think Saddle Brook is maybe a touch pricier. Still a good value.

Value

Alright, so this is where Saddle Brook Diner gets my wrath. Cheesecake was $4.25, which is honestly one of the least expensive desserts I’ve seen, especially considering it was a nice size of cake. My tuna melt was $10.60, which isn’t bad, maybe just a tad more expensive than the average tuna melt.

“So, pretty good prices, Dan. What has you so upset?” -you readers

Sharing charge. In principal, I find sharing charges to be a real tacky way of squeezing out as much money from your customers as you can. This menu noted that there was a $2.50 sharing charge. I didn’t share, and I very rarely if ever do share when I go out to eat. But, if I DO decide I want half of Bud’s buffalo wrap, what extra work am I making the cooks, the servers, do? What is the opportunity cost between me sharing and me not getting any food at all, as far as the diner is concerned, that justifies charging me $2.50 for literally not doing anything?

Ambience

I can’t justify anything less than five burgers. Saddle Brook Diner is a warm and cozy place, and it’s decorated aggressively to make sure you never forget you’re sitting in a diner. The red Cadillac with whitewall tires on the oddly shaped menu could easily be cheesy (and maybe it is), but also it’s fun and classic. There was a strong Friday-night turnout, and somehow the commotion and the crowd only added to the experience.

Ambience

The designer of this establishment was given only one set of instructions: “Make it look as if Guy Fieri was a diner.” And that guy did just that. This diner was so charming and obnoxiously over-the-top that it deserves no less than five burgers. As Bud mentioned, there was a (what I’m assuming is) life-size Betty Boop by the entrance, a trapezoid-shaped menu, a mural of a ‘55 Cadillac bursting through some brick wall, amongst other fun quirks. It was super cute and I loved it.

Also—this was the first diner I’ve ever been to that has ads IN the menu. Like the Cheesecake Factory! It was super jarring to be looking at a lengthy panini selection on one page, and an ad for a Stair Lift on the other.

OVERALL

Though I wasn’t crazy about the entrée and fries I ordered, I really enjoyed the dessert and found the Saddle Brook Diner to be a well-designed, well-run place with friendly staff and a fun décor.

OVERALL

This diner was a last-minute choice based solely on where Bud and I’d be traveling from, logistically, and what a wonderful surprise it ended up being. For no reason at all, I was expecting an average experience, but it was just lovely. Saddle Brook diner is in the vicinity of several other diners within less than two miles. Unfortunately, we haven’t hit all those yet, but If you’re in the Garden State Plaza area and not in the mood for any mall food, get your hungry butt over to Saddle Brook diner and enjoy the ride.

 

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2 Replies to “Saddle Brook Diner”

  1. Obviously, I did not look at the bill. $2.50 to give you an extra spoon? Glad I did not tell them I was sharing my cheesecake with 2 other people – that might result in another $5 charge. (We could always go elsewhere and get a many free knives as we wanted, and then some…..). Overall though, a very nice experience.

    1. Dan has the advantage of getting the last word in these back-and-forth reviews, so I wasn’t able to point out that as far as I know, it’s common or even universal for diners to have a sharing charge. It’s usually in small print at the bottom of the menu. Not that it’s right or wrong, but I think it’s hardly unique to this diner.

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