They say you can never go back to your youth. I grew up in Ocean County, along the Central New Jersey shoreline. Now I know New Jersey has its stereotypes (thanks, Joe Piscopo!), and it’s a very crowded place to live, but there are three dining experiences that haunt me and call me (with a Joisey accent) to this day.
- Pizza. Chicago has thick pizza – California has fancy-schmancy pizza – and the rest of America has Dominos & Pizza Hut. “Dat ain’t pizza”. New Jersey & New York City are the only places on earth that make the real deal. (I’ve had pizza on the banks of Venice’s Grand Canal – good, but Dominic’s of Lakewood, N.J. tops it – really!)
- Frozen Custard. You may call it soft-serve ice cream, but along the Jersey Shore, it’s different – richer, denser (made with egg, I think), and better! Kohr’s makes this amazing swirl of orange sherbet & vanilla custard – “to die for, dahling”.
- Diners. New Jersey & Long Island, NY are lined with diners – shiny, roadside palaces with display cases filled with cheesecakes and eclairs. The menus have everything from meatloaf to lobster. The number one club is always a triple-decker sandwich of turkey, cheese, lettuce, tomato, and served with fries – not 16 fries, 3,000. The milk shakes come to the table in the Hamilton Beach mixer’s steel blending vessel. Diner coffee is also the best cup of plain-old American-style coffee available – nothing fancy, but darn good.
Hmmm – it’s 11:15 pm – if I race out the door, I can be at the Regent Diner by 3:15 am. Hope they have cheesecake tonight! Oh – don’t get me started on bagels!