What makes a great diner? Is it breakfast? Is it the service or favorite server? Is it the vast menu options? Is it the diner’s history? It could be all of the above.
When I lived on Long Island, I did the 7 to the midnight radio show at WBAB, and a few times a week after I got off the air, my friend Andrea and I would go to the Terrace Diner on Sunrise Highway in West Babylon. We loved that place. It had a great menu, the best French fries, and gravy on the Island, and they employed our favorite waitress whom we dubbed “Marge.” I’d rather not explain why we christened her “Marge” because it was kind of an inside joke. Her real name was Dottie, she was somewhere in her 60s, and she was an old-school broad who was as real as they come. Loud, brash, and unintentionally, side-splittingly funny.
Keep in mind that our visits to the diner were after midnight, a time that usually attracts a cast of late-night characters on parade, especially on Friday nights.
One guy who was a frequent visitor was dubbed, “Buckwheat.” Whenever he walked through the door, Andrea and I would burst into hysterics making complete fools of ourselves. He was a stoner with hair sticking straight up like Buckwheat, or more fittingly, Henry Spencer from “Eraserhead,” dressed in an army green jacket, and parachute pants. He would literally order the whole left or right side of the menu.
Then there was a crew who came in from the local gentlemen’s club. They were loud, foul-mouthed 20-something dudes who smelled like what one would imagine a gentlemen’s club smells like. We also loved Achilles, the owner, who loved us in return.
All the reasons listed above are why we loved that diner. Now that I’m a tad older and wiser, I choose my diners for the quality of the food and the service, not the entertaining clientele. My favorite diner will start the list of 8 Diners loved by Ocean County folks.