Sunday, June 21, 2009

MinuteMan Family Restaurant, Morristown

990 Mount Kemble Ave.
Morristown, NJ 07960
Small Cherry Pie (for 2): $4.95
Coffee: $1.25

It's funny when you really notice how things happen, how one thing leads to another. Last week's blog entry ended with a vintage New York Times article about a New Jersey Pie Shop robbery. The phrase "jersey pie shop" seemed like a "well, duh" key word search for a blog called Jersey Pie. The "jersey pie shop" key word search did turn up this interesting item: Minuteman Restaurant and Pie Shop.

Add to that, Jersey Pie received its first hate mail this week. An advocate for the Jubilee Park Diner wants to know whether we don't have anything better to do, and why are we so damn cheap (in so many words). So, maybe we were feeling doubly disinclined to return to the Jersey diner-scape. First because the cherry pie sucks, and doubly because now they hate us. Anyhoo, we headed out to the Minuteman where we could pick up a whole, fresh-baked cherry pie if we wanted to, and bring it home to eat with a cup of our own fresh ground coffee.

The Minuteman menu describes the origins of their Country Pie Shop. In a nutshell: they decided to sell pie. They give the sequence in which the different pies became available, first apple, then blueberry, cherry, and pecan. 1979 is when they started selling cherry pie, and that's all we need to know here at Jersey Pie. That's 30 years of baking experience. It's just got to be delicious, doesn't it? We had called ahead to make sure they had a cherry pie. By the time we got there they had sold it (sound of needle scratching across the vinyl). Cancel that vision of us sitting at home eating pie with a steaming mug of homemade brew. They did have a small cherry pie for us though, so we sat under the outsider art in the red-barn motif restaurant, sipped their pretty good cup of decaf, and ate the best cherry pie we have found on our quest. Don't un-follow Jersey Pie yet, though...

When the waitress asked us whether we wanted our pie heated with ice-cream, we consulted on the ice-cream then said "no." She took our meaning so far as the ice-cream goes, but, when, not long after that, we heard a "ding," we knew she had nuked our pie, the last cherry pie in the joint. Our hearts sank. Make no mistake, we ARE recommending the Minuteman cherry pie; it IS the BEST pie we have tasted so far. However, that had to be gleaned through the unfortunate effects of the nuking. The very, very flaky pastry was made soggy and a tad rubbery. The filling was scalding hot. But we ate every bite. Yum. It was delicious. And here's a heads up to all you Jersey diners out there: cherry pie does not have to be full of goo! This cherry pie was juicy, tart, and lightly sweet. Its juices had soaked into the pastry and burbled over the lip of the crust and burned a bit, just a bit, in a good way. As far as the whole mini-pie, small pie concept is concerned, however, Jersey Pie is voting "no." It's just too much crust.

While we were not totally disappointed, we agreed (with the help of some word deconstruction) that perhaps we could not honestly say that we were really "appointed." As we rolled back toward Jersey City over NJ-24 E we reflected on all the pies-sibilities represented by the road signs, the white on green beacons guiding drivers back home, to work, or maybe to cherry pie: Caldwell, Livingston, Chatham, Summit. But those slices will have to wait, for these pie hounds are howling farewell to slices and coffee, at least for the summer. No, we aren't so thin-skinned that we can't take a little hate mail. Jersey Pie will be busy this summer tracking down home-baked, farm-fresh cherry pies from farm stands and blogging about them. Mmmmmmm. Jealous much? And in case you are reading along and haven't recommended your favorite Jersey pie place yet, please chime in! We want to hear from our readers in other states about their cherry pies, too. Send us a comment! We love you all, and we'll be blogging to you soon, direct from a Jersey farm stand.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Legends Diner, Secaucus

130 County Avenue
Secaucus, NJ 07094
Cherry Pie: $2.75
Coffee: $1.15 Fuhgeddaboudit. Best diner coffee in da state. It's not getting any better. Go ahead and drink it black.

Ran out to Home Depot in Secaucus on Wednesday for a new set of house keys. Jersey Pie was literally at a loss on Tuesday due to a traffic court date. But we were victorious. The judge accepted our argument that the Parking Authority should not have been enforcing alternate side parking and handing out parking tickets like tickets to the prom after posting Emergency: No Parking signs all over town. We won the court case but lost the house keys, so it was off to H.D. for new ones. While in Secaucus we reconnoitered Legends Diner.

Legends Diner couldn't possibly be more adorable. It's a classic, gleaming chrome diner with a working clock crowning its glory, and eight blooming rose bushes add their charm to the entry. When we returned for pie on Friday, birds were peeping their sunset song, and we fell right into a diner swoon. Sheer perfection, interrupted only momentarily by an icy blast of AC in the vestibule. Was this a foreshadowing of doom?

It didn't seem so when we ogled the dessert case and were bowled over by their genius solution to the refrigerator burn problem you have heard about so many times here on Jersey Pie. It is so simple, so easy. We looked at it and suddenly all of life's problems seemed solvable. Legends has innovated a system of 4 X 4 inch squares of rigid, clear plastic abutting the exposed edges of all their displayed desserts. Wow! Simply elegant!

Unfortunately, we can't recommend actually eating at Legends Diner. The food was beyond crappy. We think they gave the (chef?) the evening off and let the dishwasher do the cooking. And, they failed to employ their own dessert-butting method to the cherry pie! There was 3/4 C of hardened, tasteless matrix on one edge of our slice, and the rest of it was also nearly inedible in all the old familiar ways. The crust looked like a Cub Scout badge project! They call it Legends because 8 X 10 b&w glossies of celebrities adorn just about every inch of available space in the place. Our booth was surrounded by The Munsters, Gary Cooper, Lynda Carter, Stan Musial, Shirley Temple, Lucille Ball, and Sinatra and Kelly. When we sat down we were cheered by their legendary faces. But as we took one last glance back at them we felt a bit sad, their eyes seeming to say, "Don't leave us like this, don't go...." (Fred Gwynne and Yvonne DeCarlo notwithstanding). They're hanging there right now, looking down, perplexed. We may go back to see them again and have some of that coffee. Could Legends possibly screw up breakfast?

As possible evidence that New Jersey has a long history of disregard for good pie, we submit verbatim the following item, an article we came across while perusing the archives of the New York Times:

Jersey Pie Shop Robbed
Special to The New York Times
Copyright c. The New York Times

Elizabeth, N.J., Oct. 30, 1958--
Intruders, who apparently worked with a
truck or a car, broke into the Jones Pie Shop
on Route 1 here early today. They carted off
a 200-pound safe, containing $500 in cash,
the police reported. They ignored hundreds
of freshly baked pies.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Versailles Diner, Fairfield

398 US 46
Fairfield, NJ 07004
Cherry Pie, $3.50
Coffee, $1.25

Ode to Fair Plainness

Passion for pie and sensing fruitlessness,
Our New York friend M. crosses the Hudson;
Conspiring with her now to locate bliss
From fruit-filled pies that would win a ribbon,
To Fairfield, New Jersey on 280's
Mass of concrete, through the Caldwells, past Or-
anges, we drive together in Chevy's
Practical, 2001 Prizm for
Thirty minutes, no more, hoping to ease,
At the Versailles Diner (not Versai-eeze!),
A self-inflicted mania for "best."

Who would behold our waitress and ask more
Cleavage, flattery, or wit, must be blind
To simple service, an everyday reward;
Wallflower at the whirling dance of mind,
Rhythm of menu, order, serve us - sleep
Drowsed with the fume of hope pies. A good look
Reveals the virtues of glasses, focal powers,
And time not spent making-up for a beep
From some guy who for all we know's a crook;
Rather: iceberg, chicken, burgers, and coke;
Clockwork, plain, goodness, twenty-four hours.

And the cherry pie, we saw it rotate
(Think not of pie, your dinner is good too,
While French fries, and coleslaw yet grace your plate,
And touch your stubborn chins with greasy hue;
Perhaps it's not for cherry pie you're born
Though dreaming after pie keeps souls aloft
And flaky pastry calls to spirits, "rise!"
Though mouths brim full of cherries cannot mourn,
And songs of sweetness' praises are heard oft,)
And maybe it is "best" that should be scoffed;
That Versailles waitress serves good cherry pies.