In a year of food insecurity for many due to the turmoil caused by the pandemic, two diners in Central New Jersey—the family-owned All Seasons diners in Eatontown and Freehold—have decided to add joy to their menus: free meals on Thanksgiving Day.
Mike Zavolas, his son Nick, and cousin Nick Halkias own the All Seasons Diner in Eatontown and have a partial ownership stake in the Freehold All Seasons. They know that so many regular customers and others in Monmouth County are struggling due during this challenging and unprecedented time.
Both Monmouth County diners will offer free breakfast and dinner all day on Thanksgiving. Zavolas said he and his relatives decided to give something back to the community. Family members at the Freehold diner include cousins Manny Vergis and Louis Hatziminas.
“We’ve been very fortunate,” Zavolas said in a phone interview, noting that his family has successfully operated and owned the Eatontown diner for nearly 33 years. “This has been a tough year for everyone. We wanted to do something positive that would make people happy on Thanksgiving, especially people in need. Whoever walks into the diners that day will get a free meal.”
Inspiration and goodwill are contagious, especially in the diner business. Zavolas said that, when told of these plans, many of the servers at the two diners offered to volunteer their time on Thanksgiving as a friendly gesture to customers.
How will it work?
All Seasons in Eatontown (www.allseasonsrestaurant.net/Eatontown) is located at 176 Wyckoff Road, adjacent to the intersection of Routes 35 and 36. All Seasons in Freehold Township, (www.allseasonsrestaurant.net/Freehold) is located at 4135 U.S. Route 9, Freehold Township, just north of the exit for Freehold-Englishtown Road.
Zavolas said that on Thanksgiving, Eatontown will open at 7 a.m. and Freehold will open at 8 a.m. Both eateries will serve food until 5 p.m. and will follow state-mandated Covid-19 protocols with seating at 25% capacity and plenty of air space between tables. (Both diners have spacious interiors.) There will be dine-in service only that day; no takeout orders. Seatings for families and individuals will be first come/first serve. There will be a text-message waiting list.
It’s been a difficult year for business in the Diner Capital of the World. Diners and restaurants in the Garden State have been hard hit in 2020 due to Covid-19 business restrictions and health concerns. Beloved diners throughout the state’s 21 counties have improvised (takeout orders, “bistro-style” service on sidewalks and under tents) in an attempt to retain staff and maintain some level of business.
More recently, a number of diners and restaurants have reopened with limited in-house dining, following Trenton’s guidelines. Unfortunately, many New Jersey restaurants have permanently closed their operations this year due to the pandemic.
As the staffs of the two All Season diners gear up for what they expect to be a big response to their goodwill effort on Thanksgiving, Zavolas have one heartfelt request: “Please tip your servers. They are donating their time on a family holiday.”