Diesel & Duke - Montclair
Diesel & Duke - Montclair
NJ Town: Montclair
Cuisine: Burger Joint
[CLOSED at this location]

I truly hate Duke. The university, not the burger joint. But I won’t hold it against Diesel & Duke, even if their alliterative nonsense leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Again, not the food. Just the name. Because in general their burgers and fries leave a very pleasing taste in my mouth. Which sounds absolutely not appetizing. But it is. Trust me.

Like a lot of mini-chains in NJ, Diesel & Duke started in New Brunswick. Presumably serving greasy, late-night meat to drunken Rutgers students. I imagine that location, along with the four others, are like the Montclair space and are essentially just take-out joints. I mean, there’s an l-shaped ledge with about seven or so stools at which you can chow down, but it’s basically a small box with a service counter and an open kitchen. And, frankly, I’ve never seen anyone dine in when I’ve gone to pick up my sack of grub. I feel like I once saw a dude sitting at one of the two outdoor picnic tables, but I’m pretty sure he was just changing from his work shoes to sneakers to walk home from the Bay Street train station across the street.

I’m kind of a purist when it comes to burgers. I don’t like a lot of stuff on them. Honestly, I could just do some aged cheddar and be good. Maybe some lettuce, tomato and caramelized or even raw red onion if I’m feeling crazy. But if I’m going to be honest with myself, I just like a plain cheeseburger best of all. I want to taste the meat and get the little bit of creaminess and tang from the cheese. And stick it on a soft or lightly toasted bun. And that’s heaven, man. Normally I’d be a medium-rare guy as well, but since the rise of the smashburger, I’ve come to accept that I also enjoy the crunchy char that brings with it. And that’s the flat-top style D&D employs. Sure it’s not a gnarly brisket burger, or like a Black Label burger from Minetta Tavern, but it’s also not supposed to be. Especially at about one-fifth the price.

I think you all know what an old-school, flat-top grilled burger tastes like. And decent hand-cut fries. It’s all about the texture and flavor. Which also includes the bun. I do feel like this place kind of expects you to get your burger with all the trimmings and maybe an extra or two (like an onion ring topper, or perhaps some bacon or a fried egg), because a single plain cheeseburger looks kind of sad when you open that little cardboard box. The nice potato bun just hiding that single patty in its warm embrace. Not at all exposing the loveliness it brings to the table. Just from a visual standpoint, I’ve found myself ordering a double. Just so I feel like I’m getting an adult portion. And at $8.50 for two patties, I’m paying over a dollar less than the equivalent at Smashburger, and over five dollars less than the Bareburger just up the road. Such a deal, I tell you. And I feel like I’m supporting a local business, as the owner is from Montclair.

This is all to say that this is the go-to weeknight take-out burger joint in the area. They also have milkshakes, which I understand from Hipster Jr. (a true shake connoisseur) are pretty decent. They also have things like fried Oreos that they’re constantly posting to their very appetizing-looking Instagram account, but I’m not much of a state-fair-food kind of dude. They also make poutine for some reason, which Hipster Jr. Jr. was forced to try on a camp trip to Montreal and said has to be the “most disgusting food ever concocted by dumb French white people ever.” She’s very astute. But, look, stick to the burgers and fries and you should be both safe and satisfied every time.

39 Glenridge Ave. – Montclair