Saturday, January 10, 2009

Miss America Diner, Jersey City

322 West Side Ave
Jersey City, NJ 07305
Pie, $2.60
Coffee, $.90

We admit to a fondness for diners and a presumption that they're the natural starting point for the pie and coffee experience. But we don't admit to being experts on either. We're learning as we go here. We chose the Miss America Diner for her name. The Miss America is a delightful, historical, streamline diner with dining room extensions, and rather than describe it, we refer you to the website of Alan Wolfson, a local sculptor who has immortalized the Miss America in his finely detailed replica.

We took the light rail from Hoboken to the end of the West Side Avenue line and walked 2 blocks south to the Miss America, accompanied by friends from the city. The Miss America was built in the 1950s by the Jerry O'Mahony Company of Elizabeth, New Jersey. It is a proper diner in the sense that it is a mobile, prefab jobbie. And, in fact, Jerry O'Mahony, originally of Bayonne, New Jersey, is credited with inventing the diner, bringing together inspirations from the "lunch wagon" and railroad diner cars. Visit Diner News and History for more on... diner news and history.

The atmosphere was warm and we were satisfied with our respectable soups, sandwiches and fries. The requisite pickle and slaw was acceptable, the slaw in humorously tiny paper condiment cups. At pie time our waitress was receptive, allowing us to ask the question that had begun to lurk back in the recesses of our pie mind. You see, it had dawned on us that in this corporate, industrial time we might always be eating the same pie. Maybe New Jersey had one pie distributer doling out widget pies to all the Jersey City diners? If this were the case would Jersey Pie die an early death? How many blog entries can be written about one pie? She answered that most Jersey diners are getting their pies from local bakeries. Hm. Something to look into.

And then ... They didn't have cherry pie. None. They "occasionally get it." We had wondered about the general interest in cherry pies and asked our waitress about it. She laughed a little and confirmed that cherry pie is not popular, not much interest in it at the Miss America. (If you are among those who are scratching their heads at the proposition of a blog devoted to cherry pie, you might enjoy the rant against cherry pie linked here.)

After considerable deliberation, we decided to try a slice of the apple pie and order a piece of chocolate layer cake in addition. We are glad that we tried the apple, partly because the apple pie was relatively tasty, but also because it occasioned some general pie crust conversation with our gourmand guest, the author of Urban Gastronomy. A person of very generous spirit, she drew on her experience in Illinois to offer a positive possibility for this crusty part of our pie puzzle. She reminded us that pizza lovers are sometimes put off by the crusts of Chicago pies due to regional peculiarities, and suggested that this crust could be consistent with New Jersey expectations while evading the expectations of our motley crew, with origins in the South, Pacific Northwest, and Midwest. At any rate, the "local bakeries" may be made to answer for their crust.

While we can't claim that the pie tasters were really happy with the pie, the fourth of our party did seem quite happy with her cake. The coffee was good enough for diner brew, and we noted that it was offered at the most reasonable price. Where will all this lead us? Heaven knows.


Mia said...

Well, I was going to say that the search should lead to:

Frozen Monkey Cafe
526 Washington St
Hoboken, NJ 07030
(201) 222-1311

but then I checked out the menu and discovered that their pies come from the Little Pie Company, which is in...Manhattan.

Mia said...

Check this out, though -- it looks good. Sigh.

Mia said...


Kate Forster said...

I googled Little Pie Company and their pies are outrageously expensive (aren't they? Maybe not by local standards.) I hope you'll go try a slice there, to see if that's the gold standard. ~ Mom