This just happens to be my 100th restaurant review.
Reading Hunter’s review of the New Monmouth Diner got me thinking about just how much I love the place. I could say many of the same things as he did, but instead, will begin with a story. It was my first or second visit there a few years ago, and I ordered the Calvert Panini. To this day it is my favorite: fresh-carved turkey, bacon, avocado, cheddar cheese, and chipotle sauce. Everything you need. Anyway, it arrived and after a couple of bites I realized there was no bacon. The server came right over and I told him. I wanted to make it easy: I asked if maybe they could grill a few slices and bring it over, and I would just add it myself. He said they couldn’t do that—they wanted to re-press the panini. Not ten minutes later, they brought the sandwich back but it was an entirely new one. I mentioned how they did not have to do that. It wasn’t a big deal. They could have just opened up the one I started eating. His response was, “No, they needed to make it from scratch again because they want perfection back there.” That is not a paraphrase or exaggeration. Those were his exact words. Well, the sandwich was perfect. I order it almost every time I go, which is often, especially during hockey season.
Maybe I have been there 25 times like Hunter, I do not know. But I will echo a sentiment of his, and that is nearly every visit is similar. You can expect the same quality of food and the same gut-busting portions. It doesn’t matter how busy they are, the food is the same. I could write a love letter to the Calvert, but what really brings it together is that damn chipotle sauce. Is it homemade or bottled? I don’t really care. It’s amazing. Slightly spicy, sweet, creamy. It seals that panini like a tantalizing glue. I usually get a cup on the side in addition to what they spread on the bread. There can never be too much of it. Even when getting something else, like a different panini or wrap, I ask for it. It’s that good. The ketchup can go to hell. I just want my chipotle sauce. There’s never an added charge either.
Not big on breakfast, they do have one item from that section of the menu I’ll order early or late, and that is the All American Wrap. It’s scrambled eggs, cheese, and your choice or bacon, ham, or sausage wrapped up and grilled. They manage to pack the tortilla without it ever falling apart. It goes great with (you guessed it) chipotle sauce and well-done home-fries, which is what I request. I’ve probably tried 10-15 different menu items over the years and the only one I did not care for was the pancakes. They charged an extra $3 for chocolate chips, and there was just a handful sprinkled on top. None in the actual batter. That and a side of bacon ended up running over $10 which is a rip-off compared to everything else on the menu. A small disappointment I was able to look past due to the quality of everything else.
Like Hunter and I have mentioned previously, there are a lot of diners in New Jersey. We are the “Diner Capital” of the world, after all. While variety is the spice of life, you can indeed have too much of a good thing. They become hard to differentiate between themselves. While all diners do have the mega-menu, some are barely competent in cooking simple breakfast dishes, much less more complicated sandwiches and entrees. It’s hard to maintain that level of quality when you have a menu with over 100 items. Some of these places offer up food which is downright terrible. We’ve all had such an experience. That is where the New Monmouth Diner comes into its own. They never falter. Even the pancakes I complained about earlier were far from terrible.
I’ve had their fish tacos. I’ve had their chicken fingers. I’ve had their corned beef hash. Whether it’s something easily deep-fried or carefully constructed, they always go above and beyond. And Hunter is right: desserts are just not happening. If anything, I’ve grabbed a slice of cake to go for later in the night (if I’m there for lunch) or the next day because to eat a giant slab of cake after one of their meals would cause even the largest of stomachs to burst open. They’re perfect for sharing. I’ll also mention the service which has been a constant as well. Always smiling, pleasant, and efficient. I will agree with Hunter on the 4 out of 5 stars. That’s excellence for a diner as far as I am concerned. I wish they were open 24 hours.
The New Monmouth Diner is located at 1887 NJ-35 in Middletown, New Jersey.