Morris Museum gives patrons real taste of Jersey diners

Blast from the past classic booth setup with cook and waitress at Morris Museum. Photo by Brian LaMuraglia
Blast from the past classic booth setup with cook and waitress at Morris Museum. Photo by Brian LaMuraglia
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Blast from the past classic booth setup with cook and waitress at Morris Museum. Photo by Brian LaMuraglia
BLAST FROM THE PAST: Classic booth setup with cook and waitress at the Morris Museum. Photo by Brian LaMuraglia

By Brian LaMuraglia

There is one constant in every New Jerseyan’s life. It’s in our DNA, it’s just around the corner.

Of course, it’s the diner.

At the Morris Museum in Morris Township on Saturday, visitors got a real taste of old-timey diners —  and not just from the shiny artifacts in the museum’s exhibit Icons of American Culture: History of New Jersey Diners.

They also got to chow down on some classic diner delicacies.

Michael Gabriele, author of 'The History of Diners in New Jersey' explains the history of diners to museum customers. Photo by Brian LaMuraglia
Michael Gabriele, author of ‘The History of Diners in New Jersey’ explains the history of diners to museum customers. Photo by Brian LaMuraglia

“Diner food is sensational. It kind of brings you back to when you were a kid, going to a diner and grabbing a hamburger and fries,” said Domenick Tibaldo, 59, of Nutley.

For the price of museum admission, visitors also got breakfast, from the kitchens of the Florham Park Diner, the Nautilus Diner of Madison, and the Prestige Diner of New Providence.

It underscored the cultural experience celebrated by the exhibition, which runs through December.

“Diners in New Jersey are more than just places to eat. It’s part of our culture, its part of our heritage, part of our mythology. This is where we came when we wanted to meet girlfriends and old acquaintances, where you went after high school dances and things like that,” said Michael Gabriele, author of The History of Diners in New Jersey.

“I love the camaraderie of just everyone getting together, and the old-fashioned food and the old-fashioned style of the diner. It brings people together,” said Whippany resident Patty Scharon, whose favorite diner food is French toast with bacon.

For generations, diners have been like the water cooler at work — except this water cooler often boasts a jukebox, and maybe, dancing.

Others are attracted by the convenience of getting the meal they want virtually around the clock.

“If you want eggs at 6 o’clock at night, you can have eggs for dinner as opposed to breakfast,” said Joanne Tibaldo, 58, of Nutley.

Museum customers take a look at a milkshake mixer and some backed goods. Photo by Brian LaMuraglia
Museum customers take a look at a milkshake mixer and some baked goods. Photo by Brian LaMuraglia

She and her husband believe there is no better bacon than diner bacon. A northeast phenomenon, diners also pack pretty good bang for your buck.

“It’s value for your dollar. You know you’re getting the maximum on your plate,” said Michael Alfonso, 50, of Westfield.

“I love the warmth of diners, the feeling of comfort from the comfort food. It’s a relaxing environment where you can just go and talk and converse…It’s 24-hour service and its somewhere you can go for a decent meal, something for us that’s natural. Whatever you want, it’s always on the menu,” Alfonso said.

The Whitehaven Diner replica at the Icons of American Culture: History if New Jersey Dinners exhibit. Photo by Brian LaMuraglia
The Whitehaven Diner replica at the ‘Icons of American Culture: History if New Jersey Diners’ exhibit. Photo by Brian LaMuraglia
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