A roadside banquet took place earlier this year at the glistening The Park West Diner, located on westbound Route 46 in Little Falls. This was not a black-tie affair. It was an open invitation—no reservations required. Actually, similar gatherings take place almost every week at beaneries throughout the Garden State. On this particular evening, a bunch of New Jersey folk got together on Tuesday night to have fun, engage in friendly conversation, laugh, smile and enjoy delicious diner food.
Everyone is invited. What’s the catch? No catch. No worries. This was the convivial gathering of a series known as Bill & Guy’s Diner Tuesdays in New Jersey, a growing Facebook group that welcomes people to drop in at diners throughout the Garden State.
Bill (William) Muzychko and Gaetano (Guy) De Sapio are the movers and shakers behind these informal meetups. Previously, the two chums organized similar outings for two years, which were known as the Great New Jersey Hot Dog Tour. Just like Diner Tuesdays, the hot dog gatherings were driven by interactive social media communications. “True value developed from enjoying each Tuesday with those of you who joined us,” they wrote on their Facebook page. “We visited with old friends and made many new ones.” As a result, they redeployed the concept to weekly get togethers at Jersey diners. “Bring your family and friends and enjoy the meal and conversation with friends.”
“True value” and goodwill permeates the Tuesday night meals. The fun really happens when visitors join the scene for the first time, which kindles a new round of conversations; you know—Jersey chitchat. “What’s your name?”
“Where did you go to school?”
“What’s your favorite diner?”
“Where do you work?”
“What’s your favorite beach down the shore?”
“How did you hear about us?”
No commitments, no forms to fill out, no clubs or contests to join, no hidden agendas and no real estate investment portfolios to consider. Come as you are, whenever the spirit moves you, to mingle and partake. (Separate checks, please!)
Is this a great state with wonderful people and fantastic diners, or what? This reporter dropped in at the Park West and enjoyed the company of the scholarly diner aficionado and author Ken Ronkowitz, Lindsay Muzychko, Christine and Hunter Puglisi, Rick Epstein, Michael A. Ward and Madi Ward, and Bill and Guy. It was an honor and a pleasure. A splendid time was had by all. Our table was filled with a delicious assortment of tasty dishes from the Park West kitchen: steak, bacon and onion rings; cheese steak with fries and onion rings; chicken tacos with sweet potato fries; and a well-stocked chef salad with pita on the side. By all accounts, everything looked, smelled and tasted yummy, and the waitstaff service was flawless and courteous.
Way back when, this highway spot was known as the Golden Star Diner. Twenty years ago it was rebuilt by the Kullman Diner Car Company, with a bold exterior that features an illuminated glass-brick tower accented by stainless steel and neon lights. The Park West held its grand opening on August 12, 1996, complete with a proclamation by then-Paterson mayor William Pascrell Jr. The inviting retro establishment is open 24/7.
In addition to the Park West, recent outings organized by the Tuesday night faithful have included the Versailles Restaurant Diner (Fairfield), the Golden Star Diner (Ringoes), the Sunset Diner (Green Brook), the Park Wayne Diner (Wayne), the Clinton Station Diner (Clinton), the Hillsborough Diner (Hillsborough), and the Oakland Diner (Oakland). Considering there are about 600 diners throughout the 21 counties of the Garden State, these intrepid, warm-hearted foodies have just scratched the surface. And once they visit every diner in the state (according to my math, it should take about 12 years), they can start all over.
Best of all, this Tuesday night series has tapped into the essence of New Jersey’s diner culture and mythology. More than just a place to eat, the Jersey diner is an egalitarian roadside institution that welcomes travelers and local residents. Pennsylvania diner historian, blogger and author Randy Garbin said it best: “Diners are a haven for humanity. There’s always an open invitation to join the theater. At the best diners, there’s never a dull moment. The interaction of people is appealing, and on top of everything, you’re enjoying good food. A meal at a diner can be 45 minutes of your life that you’ll never forget.”
Thanks to Bill and Guy and their diner-going associates, this year’s unforgettable minutes have been adding up for people throughout the Garden State. So the next time you’re at loose ends and yearn for a hearty meal on a Tuesday night, check the Facebook page. This friendly entourage might be dining in your neck of the woods. Stop in, say hello and grab some grub.
The Park West Diner
1400 Route 46 (westbound)