Ahhhh, the Jersey diner. Is there any other institution that brings to mind such nostalgia, such a feeling of democracy, the idea that we’re all in this together? Normally, there isn’t much to say about a diner in South Jersey. You know and I know that we’ll all find pretty much the same thing: comfort food at a reasonable price, served up unlike anywhere else in the country. But last week, we met our blogger friend Wendy of La Phemme Phoodie for fellowship and grub at the Vincentown Diner. It’s an unusual diner with a mission: “We’re bringing local to the everyman.” Gone is the often elitist, sometimes self-righteous attitude; you can have your locally produced, responsible food, and have it take the form of your inexpensive comforts, too.
Located in many people’s idea of the “middle of nowhere” (the intersection of Routes 206 and 38), the “New Vincentown Diner” has been around since the 1960’s. Six years ago, owner Jim Melissaratos and Chef Oleg Zelenko decided to ‘”go local”, and create relationships with area farms and producers.Want an omelet? They use organic eggs from regional, cage-free hens. Blueberry Pancakes? If it’s summer, the fat berries will be in the batter, and they’ll be picked from a farm down the road. A simple cup of Joe? The beans are ground on site and roasted locally. In fact, if it’s in season and available, the produce, fruits, honey, bread and blueberry iced tea will have been sourced nearby. In their view, “Local Tastes Better”.
In fact, they’ve been so dedicated to this locavore mission that they have just received one of Edible Jersey magazine’s 2010 Local Hero Awards. When John and I sat down to open the menu, we were immediately drawn to their “local burgers” section. While all of their burgers are 100% certified Angus Beef ground on the premises, they also offer pasture-fed beef and lamb from local New Jersey farms. Sad to say, neither of us has ever had any locally- raised, pasture-fed meat, so we immediately knew what to order. I had the lamb burger topped with Tzatziki sauce. There’s not much to say: it was done medium-rare, was juicy as hell, and so incredibly flavorful and delicious my mouth almost ached. A few hand-cut, perfectly crispy steak fries on the side rounded everything out to perfection. John had a local beef burger and could say the same. For dessert, a chocolate “Jersey milkshake” made from local dairy cow’s milk left us floating on air. For $12, these simple “burger platters” put those high-falutin’ celebrity chef burger joints to shame (eat your heart out, Flay).
Of course, there are so many other diner “classics” to order: chicken fried steak (Angus beef, only, please), honey-dipped fried chicken (from local hives, of course), pasta with vodka sauce (with whole wheat penne) .They are also that rare diner with a liquor license; to add more fuel to the “locavore” fire that seems to be burning in their souls, the chef and owner feature Valenzano wines, whose vineyards are located just down the road (check out our Valentine’s excursion to Valenzano here).
If you’re serious about walking the walk on the local movement (or even if you give a flying —- and just want something really good and cheap), this diner deserves a try.
Vincentown Diner – Routes 206 and 38, Vincentown. 609.267.3033.