Hunter’s Casual Crusades: New Monmouth Diner (Middletown, NJ)

Carolina Hot Wings

Each diner is pretty much the same as you go down the list of clichés. Endless bulky booths? Check. Crowded plates with huge portions of food? Check. Retro style decor? Check. It’s hard for a diner in New Jersey to stand out if you think about it. There are so many of them, and even if they all had the same name could you really tell them apart? As discussed in the Red Oak review, it’s the environment that can put a place over the top. The New Monmouth Diner will try to pull you in from a mile away. It’s like a vacuum effect as you make your approach on Highway 35. A few words of advice if you feel this: let it happen!

It’s hard to ignore the immensely bright neon lights surrounding the top of the building, but it looks rather pleasant compared to others. A relaxing cool neon blue color gently beams down as opposed to an obnoxious eyesore right in your face. Around the building, you will see a lot of things: maybe a car show competition they are known to hold during the summer, the classic chrome around the entrance and foyer, posters and memorabilia from the 1950’s on the walls, and views of smiling, pleased customers in the windows. But I can almost guarantee something you will not see: a parking spot.

The place is always jam-packed and rocking, but do not let that deter you from a visit. Every seat and booth could be occupied and I’ve never had to wait more than 20 minutes for food. Servers and cooks pay attention to every detail, as they are sure to bring you exactly anything and everything you need. Most joints now worry about portion control. No matter how much food everyone orders, restaurants give you sauce and condiments like it’s from their personal stash. New Monmouth is quick to give you as much as you want of whatever you want.

Yes, they treat you like a friend or family, and you’re sure to see someone you know in the eatery too. I’ve probably eaten at New Monmouth at least 25 times or so and the experience is usually the same every time. A mouth-dropping display case of heavenly cakes, gorgeous sparkling decor apart from all the rest, miniature retro cars on shelves behind the counter, a majestic water fountain to make a wish on, the list could go on forever. At the end of the day, you could have all the bells and whistles and pay top dollar for the best looking restaurant, but it’s the food that obviously matters. I’d rather eat a delicious meal inside my car than a regretful dish in the finest looking facility. That said, remove all doubts from your mind because New Monmouth has the perfect combination of both.

Jumbo Shrimp Basket

My father’s jumbo shrimp basket hit the table first on this most recent visit. A wonderful crispy basket of favorite golden brown shrimp served on top of thick-cut homemade onions rings and French Fries. Don’t be counting calories with this one! Unfortunately, the picture does not do it justice because I was even surprised at how good it looked in person.

I ordered my usual Carolina Hot Wings with a side of fries and chipotle dipping sauce (one of Greg’s favorite sauces—he always gets a side with whatever he is eating at this diner). The quantity and quality of the wings is perfectly balanced. Nothing cheap about these. A crusted skin over a generously meaty wing. My only complaint really is the amount of sauce. At times I find it either perfect or almost near dry. Wings are meant to be sloppy and eaten with your hands due to the fact that it’s a casual appetizer. Saucy fingers are expected and 100% welcomed. Although it seems with this and past dishes in particular, after I pick up a wing it hardly leaves a residue on the plate. Good news for the dish washer but not exactly exceptional in my book. However it was enough sauce to make the blue cheese necessary, and that’s all I ask. Fries were just what you could ask for in any fry; not under seasoned, not over seasoned, just crispy and perfect for dipping. As simple as a freakin’ French Fry is, trust me, it’s easy to mess up.

Cake in the display case and dessert on the menu taunts you, being irresistible yet nearly impossible to order because the food load one sits down to is enough for you to be content for a whole day. Rarely does anyone order a dessert. The upbeat atmosphere and long hours of operation are enough to turn you into a regular, and the good grub is the perfect cherry on top. Whether it be coming back from a late night investigation at the Strauss Mansion, post-hockey runs, or just causal sit downs, the New Monmouth Diner has kept myself and many friends and family well-fed for years. They get 4 out of 5 stars from me.

Hunter Dillon is a guest blogger on Eating New Jersey. As a hockey player, he is always on the go, which has served as the inspiration for his “Casual Crusades” column. He has more than four years of restaurant kitchen experience and can cook up the best cheesesteaks outside of Philadelphia. 


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