Tick Tock Diner

Visited Friday, June 29, 2018
Location: 281 Allwood Road, Clifton, NJ
Hours: Open 24 hours
Website: ticktockdiner.com

We’ve been tiptoeing around it for a while now, but no more excuses: the time has come for us to get our hands on Tick Tock Diner. Will we crave seconds or wind up disappointed? (Bud promises no more Tick Tock puns but cannot vouch for Dan.)

Tick Tock is one of the most recommended spots by our fans, but will it live up to the hype? Spoiler: maybe.



Main Dish

“The Crown” Pastrami Burger

I’m almost never a burger guy, especially when there’s a perfectly agreeable buffalo chicken sandwich on the next page of the menu. But this grandiose item caught my eye: “The Crown,” a burger with “a crown of pastrami,” Swiss cheese, grilled onions, lettuce, and Russian dressing. Above and below on the menu are the Taylor Burger—a simple burger with Taylor ham and a fried egg—and a plain old turkey burger. For some reason, the author became particularly poetic when he named and described The Crown, and I had to find out why.

It’s a very nice burger. I imagine it would irk a real hamburger purist, because the beef flavor is second fiddle to the veritable crown of pastrami. The Swiss cheese is pretty distinctive too: although it has a mild flavor, it drapes over the entire beef patty and pastrami crown, and the fried onions are embedded within like precious gems studding a chunk of ore. (Look, Tick Tock Diner menu author—I too can write amateurish evocative prose.) The Russian dressing is a perfect complement, adding a slight tang that would be absent with mere ketchup or mayo.

Main Dish

Burger Deluxe

While Buddy deserves a pastrami crown because he’s the Pastrami King, I deserve only a classic Burger Deluxe. It proved to be simple and kinda greasy, a bit like me.

What I got was a half-pound burger on a very lightly toasted bun, which was a nice surprise. There was lettuce and some nice fat tomato slices. The bread was actually very nice. I don’t really care for bread, so it’s a pet peeve of mine when I have to take off chunks of bread that have no burger in it. Like when the bread to burger ratio is 3:1. What I had here were nicely proportioned buns (and I’m not just referring to Buddy’s). The patty itself was a little greasy. It had that slimy aftertaste. Though the less lean meat makes for a juicier burger, it was a little too much.

Odd thing I noticed that’s worth mentioning…this burger was literally a perfect circle. Almost as if it was put in a mold. The edges were smooth and everything. Do with that information what you will.


I know that when Dan (grudgingly) eats at Tick Tock, she always opts for the waffle fries, so it was my solemn duty to keep it simple and sample the classic diner fries. They’re nicely crunchy and not over-browned. A little short on salt, but otherwise good.


I’ll give Tick Tock this much—they make a mean waffle fry. These bad boys were nice and hot, but not greasy like a lot of other waffle fries I’ve had. They were seasoned perfectly and had a nice but not overwhelming crunch to them. My only complaint is that there weren’t many of those potato edge pieces…you know, they’re the flat surface from the outside of the potato? Oh how I live for the few but wondrous pieces of this fried potato-skin ambrosia experience, but fate sees to it that I may eat the food of the gods sparsely and gave me but two pieces.


Strawberry Cheesecake

It’s clear in the picture that this is just a giant wedge of smooth, creamy cheesecake topped with big unsliced strawberries. And they even threw in whipped cream, which should be standard but too often isn’t. That’s really all you can ask for, so it’s hard for me to come up with a good-faith complaint. But, as much as I appreciate a big ol’ strawberry, there’s really no sense in them coming whole. You’re just showing off, Tick Tock. We get it, you have large strawberries. They’re virtually inedible this way and we just end up slicing them ourselves. I don’t eat out so that I can cut my own fruit. What am I even paying for?


Strawberry Cheesecake

Unlike Bud, I love cutting my own strawberries. It makes me feel like I’m working for my food…makes me feel more connected to my forefathers in heaven, the men and women of rural Italy, who spent 20-hour days harvesting their crops and tending to their livestock. They’re looking down on me cutting strawberries in half with a proud smile.

The cheesecake was amazing. After cutting up the strawberries, there was enough to have some berry with every bite. It was one of the creamiest and freshest cheesecakes we’ve had in a while. The whipped cream is always a welcome addition. Our waitress proudly boasted that Tick Tock’s cheesecakes were to die for. And though unfortunately we still live, I do think Bud and I enjoyed the dessert very much.


Our waitress did nothing wrong except maybe leave my drink glass empty for a bit too long. That’s not a mortal sin, but the diner was fairly quiet and I wish she would’ve noticed. Otherwise, though, she was pleasant and—critically—she graciously smiled and nodded while Dan and I bantered. Dan orders a burger then requests ten different adjustments, I make a big show of shaking my head in exasperation, the waitress chuckles politely. Works every time.


My curse that I bring to this review is that I’m tainted with dozens upon dozens of past experiences at this diner that make me a bit jaded. For example, service during this visit I thought was exceptional. But, if I’m being completely honest, it was most likely just average. Tick Tock in my past visits has had abysmally bad service. Like, not just taking too long bad. Mumbly, lazy, inattentive, kinda attitude-y.

The fact that this waitress was smiling and brought us the correct food and spoke clearly makes this a unique Tick Tock experience. For this experience, I’d give our lovely waitress 4.5 burgers, but I know you better than that, Tick Tock, and don’t feel comfortable giving you anything more than a 3.


Whenever people mention Tick Tock, Dan violently lectures them on how the place has gone to hell, the food has gotten worse, the prices have gotten higher. Well, I’m not a native Cliftonian (Cliftonite? Cliftoner?) so I don’t know how it was back in Tick Tock’s golden days. But I can observe now that the prices are, indeed, a bit steep. My burger was $14.95, which is clearly excessive for a diner burger—even one crowned with pastrami and accompanied by fries, a pickle, and cole slaw. Compare someplace like Red Robin, another favorite of mine and Dan’s (nobody ever accused us of having highbrow taste). Their priciest burger, topped with “a Cheddar and Parmesan crisp” (fancy), provolone and Swiss cheeses, jalapeño relish (double fancy), candied bacon (this is just getting silly), avocado, and citrus-marinated tomatoes and red onions, is $14.49. And the fries are bottomless.

Don’t even get me started on the Tick Tock cheesecake, which, while both tasty and generously sized, comes in at $7.45. Lest you forget, two of our favorite desserts to date totaled $4 and $5.75.


*Cracks knuckles* Ok, here it comes.

This is the biggest problem I have with this place. This is by FAR the most expensive diner I know of in NJ. If you want to pay an arm and a leg for a burger and a shake, then this is your place. I moved to this town over 20 years ago and have been frequenting this diner since then. As far back as I can remember, this place was always packed. Like, waiting-in-the-vestibule-for-a-seat-on-a-weekday kinda packed.

One day, out of nowhere it would seem, SOMETHING happened, and it’s been all downhill since then. I guess because of new management, this place overnight went from a ridiculously crowded, very popular diner to a ghost town. Prices increased by about 30 percent without any change at all in food quality or quantity. The service of this diner was always quite bad, but when you’re paying $6 for a burger, that’s a part of its charm. When you’re paying $15 for a burger, you feel like you’re being taken advantage of.

Matter of fact, when Bud and I went on a Friday night at peak dinner hours, there were only about ten tables taken, including ours. I guess as time went on, people didn’t feel like getting a mediocre dining experience for disproportionately expensive prices.


Dan has declared Allwood Diner (review coming soon, maybe!) to be our local Clifton spot, so I haven’t been to Tick Tock in some time—and I’d forgotten how cozy it is. The dining room is brightly lit, and there are mirrors on two walls that make the space seem much larger. The exterior architecture and big neon sign are, dare I say, iconic.


Tick Tock is perhaps my earliest diner experience, and I think therefore I hold all other diners to their standards, look-wise. Tick Tock has the ultimate diner look. The perfect ratio of chrome to red to neon. It’s large and comfortable, even when it’s packed. There’s that sweet little bar area where the old men sit and watch the news when they come in for breakfast. It’s great. Plus, there’s an autographed picture of Guy Fieri from when he came by for his show (much less popular than our blog) “Diners, Drive-ins and Dives.”


Look, Dan has never kept her frustration with Tick Tock a secret. I went into this expecting to immediately see what all the fuss was about and then hurl 1-burger ratings like thunderbolts from an angry god. But it was good. I liked the food, the setting, and the service. The prices are the real killer here, and they’re hard to justify when there are so many great dining alternatives.


Overall, I’d say this was an excellent Tick Tock experience and an average diner experience. As Bud may have mentioned, I’m not the biggest fan of this place. A friend of mine once described it best when she said she thought they were “getting too big for their britches.” This has been the local diner for me and my friends since middle school, and seemingly out of nowhere, they boosted their prices with no correlating boost in the food quality or (heaven knows) service. I think their dessert is better than their entrees, but you know what I always say: “a good dessert cannoli take you so far.” I may talk about this diner with such disdain you’d think it killed my father, but in reality it’s a fine diner, if a bit expensive.


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6 Replies to “Tick Tock Diner”

  1. Diner is awful. They charged me $8 for broccoli.

    1. That’s UNAMERICAN.

  2. Excellent post, my friends. I laughed out loud multiple times and enjoyed the excessive clock and dessert puns very much. Well done.

    I have to agree with your review, Tick Tock has gone way down hill since our days as ugly teens. I don’t often frequent this diner, but when I do… it’s just meh.

    1. Please don’t group me amongst you and your ugly friends.

  3. I agree with your very intelligent friend that Tick Tock has gotten too big for its britches. However, this place hold a special place in Chocolate history. This is actually where I was dubbed the Chocolate Lady by a very clever waitress. That being said, be careful what you order. The wrong menu choice may result in a very unfortunate nickname. Buddy will probably be known as the Pastrami King from now until eternity (a win in my book).

    1. rumor has is that the infamous “chocolate lady” ordered chocolate chip pancakes AND chocolate milk. Did she expect the waitress to NOT make a remark?

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