Sunday, March 1, 2009

Tom Sawyer Diner, Paramus

98 East Ridgewood Ave.
Paramus, NJ 07652
Cherry Pie, $3.29
Legendary Coffee, $1.49

Lunch was six dollars and thirty one cents at the Lamplighter Inn. That's on Highway 2 near Lewis Fork. That was a tuna fish sandwich on whole wheat, a slice of cherry pie, and a cup of coffee. Damn good food. Diane, if you ever get up this way that cherry pie is worth a stop.
-- FBI Special Agent Dale B. Cooper
Twin Peaks Pilot Episode

It was good. It was Special-Agent-Dale-Bartholomew-Cooper good.

We nearly duplicated that meal. A shrimp salad sandwich on whole wheat, a slice of cherry pie, and a cup of coffee. Add to that one Swiss, lettuce and tomato with a side of fries, and imagine it all on classy, modern, white china against a rich, cherry-wood table. Yum, yum, yum. But don't stop there. The whole scene is brilliantly lit with indirect lighting, and the wait staff is as peppy and pleasing as the cast of a high school musical. They are all costumed in powder-blue, three-button polo tops with an embroidered homage to their "legendary" cup of coffee right over each and every one of their hearts. Jersey Pie has no argument with the descriptor "legendary," as it reads on their menu. It was damn good coffee.

It's always darkest before the dawn. About an hour before we had our first Agent-Cooper-worthy slice of cherry pie we were stuck in a clover-leaf maze composed of on-ramps and u-turns connecting Interstate 80, Highway 46, and Route 23 in a clusterfuck of ins and outs circling Totowa. There was yelling. Google maps, schmoogle maps. While not really pie related, there is a Jersey tie-in here, as the sign that once pointed to Totowa (an important point along our indirect route to Paramus) was lying in the middle of a grassy field on its side just looking pathetic. New Jersey is famous for its illegible traffic signs that come along just past the turn-off they were supposed to indicate. But that was the darkness.

The Tom Sawyer Diner's cherry pie was the dawn. Our waiter presented our one slice to share with an apology for the broken crust, but we were already exclaiming over the explosion of cherries bursting their bounds and tumbling joyously over themselves. Just the right sweetness--not, too. Just the right tartness--bringing the palate to attention. Fruit to matrix ratio--best yet. Crust--if not properly flaky, at least light. Okay, we're holding out for better here. We think there might be a fresher, fruitier, flakier cherry pie out there, but that's only because the Tom Sawyer Diner has given us hope again. And we are sure that the next time the Tom Sawyer serves a slice of pie they will bring a fresh fork to enjoy it with. Cherry pie should never be eaten with a shrimp salad fork.

We asked our waiter if the placemat's claim of baking on the premises were true for this cherry pie. He proudly informed us that they have a small selection of desserts precisely because they do prepare them all, and turn them over every 24 to 48 hours. The Tom Sawyer is committed to customer satisfaction. However, when we expressed our satisfaction to the owner and manager, importantly stating the fact that we are "pie reviewers," he seemed puzzled. What, after all, is it in the cherry pie that merits such careful attention? Like Agent Cooper, Jersey Pie finds itself turning to the Buddhists for clarification.

If you ask the cloud, “How old are you? Can you give me your date of birth?” you can listen deeply and you may hear a reply. You can imagine the cloud being born. Before being born it was the water on the ocean’s surface. Or it was in the river and then it became vapor. It was also the sun because the sun makes the vapor. The wind is there too, helping the water to become a cloud. The cloud does not come from nothing; there has been only a change in form. It is not a birth of something out of nothing.

Sooner or later the cloud will change into rain or snow or ice. If you look deeply into the rain, you can see the cloud. The cloud is not lost; it is transformed into rain, and the rain is transformed into healthy soil and the soil into cherry trees and the cherry trees into blossoms, the blossoms into cherries and then into the cherry pie you eat. Today if you eat a piece of cherry pie, give yourself time to look at the pie and say:

“Hello, cloud! I recognize you.”

--Thich Nhat Hanh

Hope that helps. Reader, if you ever get up to Paramus, that cherry pie is worth a stop.


Mia said...


Kendal and Jennifer said...

Ah, our fan. Thank you. Thank you.

Kate Forster said...

Oh, wow! Like the questing heroes, at the end of a journey fraught with twists, turns and dark dangers, you found the cherry pie by which to judge subsequent contenders. And now you know where to find it again.

Becki said...

Almost booked my flight back out until I heard about the fork.... Keep me posted!

Mia said...

I hope you're not resting on your pie-laurels! (Of course, you could tell me to shut my pie-hole).

Mia said...

Can this really be the final pie post? Do you have such little faith in other Jersey Pie? Your public is waiting...

Unknown said...

You people have duplicated the meals i couldn't get this one ham!!!
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Jill said...

OK, I have now tried the cherry pie at the Tom Sawyer Diner, and lo it was indeed a fitting New Year's Eve dessert. Chock full of berries, a crust halfway between crust and shortbread, not too sweet, not too much goo, and the goo there was was translucent, as you would get with fruit, water, sugar and cornstarch.

The Mediterranean chopped steak was pretty damn fine too, for all that it's essentially a burger with a mushroom and wine sauce.

Kendal and Jennifer said...

Hey Jill,
So great to hear from you! We really appreciate your confirmation on the Tom Sawyer pie. We figure one good slice could be a fluke. We need consistently good cherry pie in the Garden State!