Pilgrim Diner

Pilgrim Diner
NJ Town: Cedar Grove
Cuisine: Diner

Maybe we should call this the Pilgrim Diner II (Electric Boogaloo). Revamped and refreshed after a pretty long closure, it has come back with a fury. Okay, not at all. But it has returned with some really weird Pilgrim murals. Which, you’d have to think, were painted by the new owner’s niece who maybe failed the turtle/pirate art test and begged to decorate the new diner with her interpretation of agrarian society in 1630s America. It’s just a little on the nose — especially for a joint in the middle of Jersey and not in like Plymouth, MA. Hardly why someone goes to a restaurant, but it’s certainly a fun talking point.

What they do come for the is the food, of course. That hasn’t changed a whole lot with the change in ownership. Rather, it hasn’t changed much since the good times of the old ownership. The place was really going to pot before the closure. Ripped banquets, food quality… The whole shebang. This new version is like the old, decent version. It’s not mind-blowing, of course, because it’s a Jersey diner, but my usual order of a cheddar omelet comes out hot and the eggs are generally well-cooked. I could use a little more height on the eggs, but otherwise all the accoutrement (the rye bread and home fries) are pretty typical and totally fine. Things are certainly more expensive than they used to be, but I suppose that’s just the way business is these days.

I used to get the chicken gyro or souvlaki here, because why wouldn’t I get Greek food at a Greek diner? But at their current prices of $15.50 and $19.50, I just can’t bring myself to do it. I mean it comes with a cup of soup for some reason, but even that can’t entice me to spend that much on a few chunks of poultry, pita and tzatziki. That’s why I stick to the eggs, morning, day and night. Because I’m cheap, I guess. But also I say let the diner be a diner and stick to the classics that also don’t break the proverbial bank.

I do think the new owner is doing the right thing. They fixed the joint up, including the absolutely gnarly old bathrooms, and have hired some very enthusiastic servers. The food mostly comes out quickly and the quality has been totally up to snuff. I do worry a little bit about their bottom line, however. We used to come in and sometimes have to wait in the lobby (that used to have a cigarette machine and some other fun stuff), but lately we’re seated right away and they’ve even closed off the back section to shrink the dining room. And, yes, we may not be coming at prime time (which I assume is like post-church Sunday mornings), but it certainly doesn’t seem as bustling as it used to be. Maybe the higher prices will offset the loss in volume, but my understanding is the restaurant business is pretty low margin. Anyway, I should just shut up and enjoy my toast and leave the restaurant stuff to people who know way more than me about running this kind of business than I do. I just hope that I can come in to check out those wonderfully odd paintings for years to come.

82 Pompton Ave. – Cedar Grove