Verona Diner

Visited Saturday, February 2, 2019
Location: 676 Bloomfield Avenue, Verona, NJ
Hours: Mon.–Sat., 6 a.m.–9 p.m.; Sun., 6 a.m.–4 p.m.

Now in our second calendar year of Burger Deluxe, we begin traveling further afield to find new and exciting diners to share with our loyal readers. The charming little town of Verona isn’t nearly as remote as Nevada, but it’s uncharted territory for us. Worth the trip? (You can scroll all the way to the bottom, but I’ll give you a hint: no, probably not.)

BUD

DAN

Main Dish

Buffalo Chicken Wrap

I said I wouldn’t do it again, but by golly I did it again: a Buffalo chicken wrap. About as predictable as a Patriots Super Bowl victory—right, Dan? Dan loves sports.

Wait, let me explain why I chose it. At this point in my diner blogging life, I would’ve thought there’s no variety of Buffalo chicken wrap that can surprise me, but Verona Diner proved me wrong. Their saucy chicken is combined with “mixed field greens, bacon, diced tomatoes, almonds, and cheddar cheese in a buttermilk ranch dressing.” Now, the ranch dressing instead of blue cheese is pretty common (though misguided), and the greens pretty common (though more usually as just warm slimy lettuce), but bacon? Almonds? I don’t necessarily approve of these, but I’m always up to be proven wrong.

The reason I’d call this dish mediocre is not because it was a bad wrap, but because it was a flawed Buffalo chicken wrap. The bacon was far too intrusive. I appreciated the slight crunch of the bacon (and probably the almonds—which, frankly, I didn’t detect), but it’s such a strong flavor that it took over. I like bacon very much, but it didn’t fit here.

Main Dish

Cheesesteak Panini

The only thing I know about the Patriots is that Tom Brady is very cute and I have a small crush on him.

I, myself, decided to continue my trend of trying new things (NeW yEaR nEw ME), and decided to order the classic cheesesteak panini. As expected, it came with thin sliced cheesesteak-chopped steak with sautéed onions and American cheese (which I changed for Swiss). It was good! Very soft and flavorful. The Swiss substitution worked out nicely. It melts so nicely and doesn’t look gross like yellow cheese does because I hate it.

The meat was all chopped up very finely and I’m glad for that because I’ve had one too many steak paninis where the meat is cut into slabs that tend to be a bit tough and chewy.

Fries

I’ve been aching for a good thin fry lately, and it still just wasn’t meant to be, but at least these were crunchy.

Fries

My panini actually CAME with waffle fries! No $12 dollar up-charge for replacing regular fries for seasoned or anything! It was a welcome surprise and I’m glad for it because they ended up being delicious. They were crispier than I usually like but the texture when you bite into them is just delectable. Like, soft but firm. It’s like when you get those cookies that have a crispy outside and the inside is nice and gooey.

The honey mustard got me a little nervous because it was SO yellow that it looked almost unnatural. Well, whether or not it WAS pumped up with who knows what, it ended up being delicious. Wonderful surprise all around.

Dessert

Plain Cheesecake

It was a bad omen when we asked for a dessert menu and the waiter instead just walked over to the dessert case, came back, and listed like four things. We have a stern no-pie policy and we strongly disfavor cake, so it came down to cheesecake. Plain cheesecake. Of course, plain cheesecake can be done beautifully, but…not like this. Not like this. If it was anything but generic store-bought nonsense, I’d be surprised. The slice was tiny and I still had no interest in finishing it. The texture was firm and a little slimy, the crust was graham-cracker-flavored mush.

Look, I know it’s a tall order to ask every diner to do all their baking on premises and offer a dozen varieties of pastries on demand, but they might as well have just said “we don’t serve dessert” and pointed us to a fine diner down the street. Say…Pilgrim Diner? We were thoroughly unsatisfied with dessert and had some time to spare so we revisited Pilgrim, recalling that they did a real fine strawberry cheesecake. We actually opted for a brownie sundae this time around, and it was fine as far as such things go—but in any case, miles better than Verona’s dessert.

Dessert

Plain Cheesecake

This dessert is the equivalent of going out with some friends and then your friends just take turns beating you with planks of wood for about ten minutes.

Service

Verona Diner is a tiny place that was served, as best I could tell, by just two waiters, and even as it got a little busy, they did a fine enough job keeping up. No real complaints, no real compliments. Solid service.

The reason I give a little bump up to four burgers is because of some fine work by the man I presume was the owner, or at least the manager. A family came in with a little toddler who spotted the countertop lollipops and immediately threw a tantrum. The dad was heroically patient as he tried to coax the little boy away, promising a lollipop after dinner, but this little fella in a striped beanie just wasn’t having it. But the owner/manager came up and, in a very gentle grandfatherly way, explained how lollipops weren’t allowed before dinner but he could have two afterwards. That was enough to get the job done. (For what it’s worth, I recall him only getting one lollipop at the end. Little kids are dumb and have short memories.)

Service

The service was fine. I, too, found that moment with the manager and the crying kid to be sweet. I found the time between us finishing our meal and getting the check to be a little unnecessarily long, though. Points off for that, bucko.

Value

My wrap and fries was $10.95, which is a fine price. I got a refill on my drink and wasn’t double-charged, so I dunno if it was actually unlimited free refills but I’ll assume it was. The standout here is that the cheesecake cost just $3.00. Sadly, the product is a ripoff at any price, but it hurts much less that we paid just $3.00 for it.

Value

My classic cheesesteak panini was less than ten dollars! Considering that it came with waffle fries, free of charge, I’d consider it a steal. What made it even more of a steal in my book was the beautiful size of the meal. There was enough panini to fill me up and take home a third of it for lunch this week. That’s the kind of doggie bag I want. Not the doggie doodoo bag the cheesecake belonged in.

Ambience

Off the top of my head, I have to guess that Verona Diner is the physically smallest place we’ve visited yet. (Maybe Orange Top is a contender?) From the outside, it looks like a real neighborhood institution: quaint and kind of antique. The inside, though, is quite modern. I want to describe it as straight out of an Ikea showroom, which is not just some creative imagery because I know for certain that at least the front cash register counter was actually an Ikea piece. (I’d recognize those sawhorse legs anywhere.) My hunch is that the interior was, not too long ago, just as dated as the exterior, but they refurbished it all into this slick Scandinavian vignette. I didn’t find it terribly diner-y—case in point, the menus were some kind of post-modern experiment of loose pages fastened onto a clipboard—but it was certainly clean and comfy.

Ambience

I’m going to rate the diner in two halves: the dining half and the bar/kitchen area half. The dining half looked super outdated almost in a “we’re going retro on purpose” way, but it didn’t look like they did it on purpose. The other half, where the employees stood, where the kitchen was hiding behind, was super hip and Pottery Barn-esque. It was so strange seeing one half of an establishment look hip and chic and the other remind me of what a kitchen would look like in I Love Lucy times.

And the menus?! Like, what do you think you are, some hipster tavern with those loose pages on a clipboard?!

OVERALL

Of all our many diner visits so far, this is the first where one category scored so poorly for me that it just tanked everything else. It’s hard to offer any kind of superior score because the dessert was just so bizarrely, unnecessarily bad. Everything else ranged from adequate to good, but I can’t in good faith give my full endorsement for Verona Diner.

OVERALL

Verona Diner is kinda like a boring day at work. You clock in, you do your job, you come home remembering nothing of the past eight hours, and when your honey asks you how your day was, you’re like, “Fine, I guess. Nothing exciting.” Bud and I just visited this diner a few days ago as of this post, and the only thing I remember clearly is some kid crying over not getting a lollipop before dinner. Get a grip, kid!

 

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One Reply to “Verona Diner”

  1. i love lollipops

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