The Maple Valley Diner has opened its doors in Clifton, ready to take its place in the chronicles of diners for this Passaic County city. Early indications are that the new eatery is more than up for the challenge.
Ted Sakellaris decided to do a soft opening for his diner during the early days of July, with an official grand opening slated for September. This reporter, along with his wife, recently enjoyed lunch at the diner, which garnered high marks for food, service, and ambience.
In the Family
Sakellaris came up through the business and learned his trade via his family’s ownership of the nearby Lyndhurst Diner and Clifton’s legendary, nationally renowned Rutt’s Hut (recently rated as serving America’s best hot dog, according to the Daily Meal website). Today he’s demonstrating his management skills and serves as the friendly face who greets customers.
First Visit, but not the Last
It was a gray, rainy Wednesday afternoon, but lunch inside the Maple Valley Diner was a bright cheerful affair, thanks to the courteous waitstaff and good food. A delicious cup of lentil soup kicked off the meal. This reporter enjoyed the diner’s Cobb salad—fresh, tasty, colorful, with a generous helping of bacon and slices of avocado. My wife ordered the Roma sandwich, a special that day, with slices of grilled chicken and roasted red peppers, covered in mozzarella cheese. Dessert was a cup of regal rice pudding—dense, creamy, and satisfying, just the way it should be (and topped with whipped cream, of course). And two thumbs up on the coffee.
The breakfast menu includes classic egg platters, specialty omelets and burritos, along with an assortment of pancakes, French toast, and waffles. For lunch and supper, there is an assortment of burgers, wraps, sandwiches, salads, steaks and chops, chicken and seafood dishes, Italian and Greek specialties. French fry aficionados, please take note: there are a plethora of variations from which to choose, such as waffle fries, sweet potato fries, disco fries, Buffalo bleu cheese fries, chili cheese fries, Texas cheese fries, and pizza fries. Desserts round out the menu, including at least 12 different “homemade, hand-spun” milkshakes. (The Nutella shake sounded especially tempting—maybe next time.)
Location, Location, Location
The diner’s location on westbound Route 46, formerly the Hearth Charcoal Grill, provides logistical advantages for Maple Valley. Located beside a steady traffic flow, the diner has an expansive parking lot. Sakellaris plans to put all this to good use by encouraging classic car club rallies throughout the year, which is something that always attracts a festive crowd. In the coming weeks the diner will do catering, deliveries, as well as host private parties.
The diner’s name reflects the city’s history and the part of Clifton where it’s located. The neighborhood, a cluster of side streets adjacent to the eatery traditionally has been known as the Maple Valley section of Clifton. It’s an enclave a single-family, Cape Cod-style homes, built during the post-World War II boom years of suburban growth. The neighborhood’s name pays tribute to the many beautiful maple trees that line the streets.
In Good Company
New Jersey is the diner capital of the world and the business continues to evolve. New diners open and, sadly, vintage diners close, like the Crossroads Diner in Belvidere, the Egg Platter in Paterson (on the Clifton border), and the Peterpank Diner in South Amboy.
The Maple Valley Diner takes its place among acclaimed down-home Clifton eateries, including the aforementioned Rutt’s Hut, the iconic Tick Tock Diner, the popular Hot Grill, and The Allwood, Lexington Avenue, and Midtown diners. A diverse, sprawling suburb of 80,000 people and distinct neighborhoods (where 70 languages are proudly spoken, according to Mayor James Anzaldi), Clifton is and has been fertile ground for numerous diners for over 80 years. During the 1950s and 1960s, in addition to the Tick Tock, Clifton was home to the Perryman Grill, the Aztec Diner, the Queen’s Diner, Scottie’s Diner, the Clifton Plaza Diner, the Melody Hill Diner, and the “old” Allwood Diner.
Over the years, the honest, hardworking residents of Clifton have shown they appreciate a good meal at a reasonable price. They are loyal patrons. A network of well traveled roadways (the Garden State Parkway, Routes 3, 19, 21, and 46) make the city an accessible crossroads for hungry truck drivers, wayfarers, business travelers, and foodie tourists. Diner history runs deep in Clifton and the Maple Valley Diner now stakes a claim in that grand tradition.
The diner is open seven days a week, 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Maple Valley Diner
116 US-46 (westbound)
Other restaurants mentioned:
913 Allwood Road
The Hot Grill
669 Lexington Avenue
540 Riverside Avenue
417 River Road
Tick Tock Diner
281 Allwood Road