281 Allwood Road
Clifton, NJ 07012
Cherry Pie: $3.75
There was an element of destiny in it.
We were heading out on Rte 3 for breakfast, not pie, watching the "conventioneers’ hotels and discount stores and fast-food restaurants and office complexes and Home Depot and Best Buy and Ethan Allen" roll by, when - Ding! - it's the Tick Tock, and Evy T. Chevy makes a legal-"ish" right turn (scrreeeee!) into the parking lot around noon... It's packed. We find a space, get out. Smack, smack, the doors pop shut, and seconds later we are in the vestibule checking out the gum ball and novelty machines. Sweet. They have smokin' tattoo transfers (we scored a butterfly and a hawk). Little red-headed girls were groovin' on the necklace machine. Happy diners (surprisingly healthy-looking) filing in and out. Talkin' 'bout diner paradise. Let's do it.
Tick Tock Diner is a gleaming beacon of comfort on Route 3 in Clifton. We'd driven by there many tired nights after long journeys out into the Jersey hinterland and had been brightened by her shining chrome, flawless neon, and retro chic. She always beckoned, but by the time we passed the Tick Tock we were just over the hill from our favorite view of the Manhattan skyline which meant a home-cooked meal was not far away. So, we hadn't stopped in, until today.
Inside, the Tick Tock has gray detailing in its curved ceiling, and classic brown Formica table tops that match the red-toned, large-speckle floors. She has capital "C" clean booths with easy-wipe seats, balanced by comfy fabric backrests. A good diner has got to be a lady, 'cause she serves up what sustains us, and at the Tick Tock that comes on custom made diner-ware tastefully decorated with the Tick Tock logo and their motto: eat heavy. Breakfast was good, and then we asked the question we know you've been waiting for: Do ya have any cherry pie? Yes!
The TickTock passed the white-glove test for cleanliness, but could she pass the cherry pie test for yumminess? Plenty of perfectly good Jersey diners before them have fallen down on a slice of cherry pie. It's not an easy dessert to do right. Turn over has to be high to keep this low-demand item fresh. The clock is always running ...Tick, tock, tick, tock...
Our waitress got extra points for bringing the coffee, cream, and pie out together. Come to think of it, she's the first waitress to pull off this feat since we began our search. Kudos! Mmmmm... let's have a look at that pie. It's a healthy slice, and it's holding its form due to a fair number of cherries in the matrix. There is some flake to the crust, and whoa!, what's this? Before we can fully dissect the slice, forks are sliding in around those fulsome cherries; bites are accelerating.. Yes, this pie...it has that certain je ne sais quois; it is calling to something deeper within us, and that mysterious radar is bang on. That's a good pie. Right to the last bite something joyfully seductive had our forks jousting for the best position on the slice, and we ate every bit of the pie, crust and all. Coffee was just fine.
Let's not quibble about whether the pie was properly classified as a "gourmet dessert" as their menu asserts. This pie had no refrigerator damage and artfully split the difference between a shortbread and pastry crust. It had a thickened matrix, but not that cling, and it tasted tart but sweet, as a cherry pie should. If we could shame Jersey diners into accepting the Tick Tock pie as the acceptable standard in cherry goodness our work would be done. Hats off to you, Tick Tock! We'll be back.