The Mastoris Experience: Built upon Diner Traditions

Mastoris Diner/Restaurant is an experience on a monumental scale: a New Jersey diner landmark with a long family history, located at the crossroads of Routes 206 and 130 in Bordentown. How big is it? Mastoris has a diner, banquet hall, lounge, bakery, and two dining halls (the Rockwell and Lexington rooms), all of which adds up to a seating capacity of 600. It is, quite literally, a gold-standard enterprise on the Garden State diner circuit.Mastoris Diner exterior. Jersey Bites, Michael Gabriele

Come on In

Sunday brunch in late January at Mastoris saw an endless stream of people—groups of four, five and six—all heading in all different directions, depending on their choice of room. “I’ve got the party of 14 coming at 12:30,” one hostess said to another. “OK, then we’ll put the party of 12 somewhere else. And I’ve got the party of nine coming in right now.”

Mastoris Diner lounge area. Jersey Bites, Michael Gabriele
Lounge area

Somehow this volume of patrons—lines of hungry people in motion—is well choreographed in a smooth flow. And despite this massive scale of customers, the diner section maintained a cozy, informal, friendly atmosphere, with an attentive, courteous wait staff. The diner’s brick and wood colonial-style interior features a decorative white and black terrazzo floor and ceiling lamps.

This reporter parked himself at the counter. A lively conversation on the dynamics and etiquette of the Philadelphia sports scene ensued between a member of the wait staff and two chums at one end of the counter. “If you go to a Phillies game wearing a Mets shirt, well that’s all right,” one chap said. “But if you go to an Eagles game wearing a Giants shirt, that’s a whole different thing.” (Translation: it appears that Philadelphia’s baseball fans are more forgiving than its football fans when it comes to a visitor’s preference of team spirit wear.)

A Breakfast to Remember

The coffee was smooth, satisfying, and flavorful. I ordered a short stack of golden brioche French toast. It arrived on a nice, hot ceramic dish and was plenty tall enough for me; golden, scrumptious and delightful.

Sunday specials listed on the menu included four soups (cream of chicken, mushroom tomato barley, cold gazpacho, and French onion), a selection of meat and poultry dishes all under $16 (Yankee pot roast, roast loin of pork, roast leg of lamb, and roast Long Island duckling), and a wide assortment of fresh seafood platters all under $23 (rainbow trout, swordfish, scrod, ahi tuna, salmon, and flounder).

Brioche French toast at the Mastoris Diner. Jersey Bites, Michael Gabriele
Brioche French Toast

As you reach the halfway point in your meal, you can’t help but start thinking about dessert. There are reasons for this craving, because the main entrance of this diner/restaurant opens up to the bakery, with five large compartments built into the walls, and a huge, dual glass display case—all loaded up with sinfully good cakes, pies and pastries. So thinking about dessert at Mastoris is no accident; the seed is strategically planted as soon as you walk in the front door; a masterful piece of diner logistics.

Cakes on display at Mastoris Diner. Jersey Bites, Michael Gabriele

Mastoris Diner desserts. Jersey Bites, Michael Gabriele

Early Days

The Mastoris family history in the diner business dates back to the spring of 1927, when a very young Mary Corcodilos accompanied her parents and two brothers on business trip—a train ride to Hightstown from Perth Amboy. The family met with master New Jersey diner builder Jerry O’Mahony. A deal was negotiated that day, which led to the creation of the original Hightstown Diner.

“In no time at all dad became quite successful,” Mary Corcodilos Mastoris wrote about her pioneering father, in an essay that appears in the Our History section of the Mastoris website. “His dishes were better than the average lunch wagon food,”  “He used fresh herbs, which he grew in his garden and dried for the winter. He used real olive oil, made fresh yogurt, baked pies in season, and made his famous rice pudding.”

Mary married Nick Mastoris in 1941 and the couple worked at the Hightstown Diner. The Corcodilos family retired from the diner business in 1959, but Mary and Nick bought property in Bordentown and established their own diner along Route 130, which is the site of today’s Mastoris. A fire in 1967 destroyed the diner, but the family rebuilt and reopened in 1970. The current diner area and part of the kitchen sits on the original Mastoris diner footprint. There have been several expansion projects since then.

Nick Mastoris, Mary’s beloved husband, passed away on January 3, 2004, but the Mastoris legacy continues, inspired by Nick’s vision, with new generations of family members making their mark on the business heritage. Mary’s grandson Nick, who wore a white apron and was working the kitchen food line, met briefly with this reporter. He indicated additional expansion plans are under consideration at Mastoris.

Several staff members also took time out of their busy schedule of duties to chat and make heartfelt references to Mary’s husband and laud the family’s accomplishments. “Mr. Nick was the best. He was a good man, and this is a good family to work for,” said Karen, a hostess who has been employed at Mastoris for over 30 years.

Considering how the Mastoris business has thrived and grown over the years, built upon its Jersey diner traditions for food and service, there’s no doubt that Mr. Nick would indeed be very proud.

Mastoris is open every day from 7 a.m. to midnight.

Mastoris Diner/Restaurant
144 Route 130