Friday, August 19, 2011

Don’t Waste Your Time at the Tick Tock Diner

Tick Tock Diner
281 Allwood Rd.
Clifton, NJ

A good old fashioned New Jersey diner is one of the few redeeming qualities of this state that essentially serves as nothing more than a smog-belching highway between New York and Philadelphia.

If you are looking for something with a bit more local flavor than the Roy Rogers at the New Jersey Turnpike rest stop, you usually don’t have to search too long to find a Garden State roadside diner.

Some say the whole diner thing was invented right here in the swamps of Jersey.

The Tick Tock Diner in Clifton is a historic and quintessential version. Opened in 1948, Tick Tock was dishing out American comfort food long before Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives were cool (let alone had their own TV show).

But the Tick Tock has left its humble roots far behind. This sprawling joint is not sprouting wheels and going mobile any time soon.

Expanded, scrubbed and polished many times over, the Tick Tock Diner has gone Hollywood. Granite lunch counter, polished chrome everywhere and gourmet seafood dishes have pushed aside any sense of 1940s roadside nostalgia.

That’s okay. I kind of like the whole gourmet comfort food craze. I mean, what’s not to like about lobster and Gouda mac & cheese?

In my many years of perusing menus, I’ve learned that any unusual, quirky item with a funny name is good bet.

That’s why the Tick Tock Diner’s “Happy Waitress” caught my eye.

Unfortunately, it turns out, the “Happy Waitress” isn’t the least bit unusual or quirky.

And forget gourmet.

Try two slices of toasted Wonder Bread, each topped with a single slice of boring American Kraft cheese singles, thin tomato slices and some strips of very ordinary bacon.

I have no idea why they call it the “Happy Waitress”. “Happy Cook” is more like it, since they charge ten bucks for the simplest to assemble item on the menu.

I paid a buck or two more for onion rings instead of fries. Thick and crunchy, they were by far the highlight of the dish.

The beer selection consisted of five varieties of uninteresting mass produced bottles.

But, then again, most diners – even the “gourmet” variety – aren’t known for their wide assortment of microbrews.

The Tick Tock Diner is very proud of its desserts, prominently displaying the massive homemade specimens in a glass case next to the front door and behind the lunch counter.

Peanut butter pie being one of Tick Tock’s specialties, I couldn’t resist capping off my meal with a slice.

With a high peanut butter to chocolate ratio, this version of one of my favorite pies was good – but not great.

I mean, there’s no such thing as bad peanut butter pie, but I’ve had much better at diners and cafes down South.

And that pretty much summarizes my evaluation of the Tick Tock Diner.

The place is a notch above the Turnpike rest stop but with all its six decades of history and nostalgia carefully scrubbed and polished away, the food alone isn’t enough to recommend the Tick Tock Diner.

Keep on driving.

Rating: Wouldn’t Wear Shirt If You Paid Me.

Tick-Tock Diner on Urbanspoon

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