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RED BANK: BELATED GOODBYES TO A DINER

taylor-sisters-072214-500x375-5294779Sisters Sarah and Claire Taylor came to the Broadway Diner from Ocean Township with their mom on Tuesday not knowing it had closed. Below, the diner’s famous buttermilk pancakes are now a memory. (Photos by John T. Ward and Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

072214-diner-pancakes-220x187-9124568The promise of a “Diner Open 24 HRS,” proclaimed in neon, ended in Red Bank Monday morning without an opportunity for fans even to say goodbye.

For 18 years, the Broadway Diner on Monmouth Street was a vital and consistent part of the community, as reflected in the degree to which both staffers and customers felt blindsided by its abrupt closing.

“I am in mourning,” said 18-year-old Colts Neck resident Jess Soden, who came into town with a friend Monday afternoon jonesing for the diner’s waffles, but ended up theatrically curled into a fetal position on its front steps. “They were just so crunchy, yet so fluffy on the inside.”

 072114-rbdiner-mcdonough-and-friend-500x375-6411509Maggie McDonough, left, and Carly Friend showed up at the diner for lunch yesterday. Below, Jess Soden, in mourning despite the giggles. (Click to enlarge)

jess-soden-072214-220x165-6766321Comments from customers met outside the diner on Monday and Tuesday – not to mention the dozens of others who chimed in on redbankgreen and its Facebook page – underscored that the Broadway was more than a place to get a quick, cheap meal. It was a haven and sanctuary to many in our area. It was a place that welcomed children, teenagers and adults, and it was the place you could find construction workers rubbing elbows with office workers.

“This is so sad. I’ve gone here since I was a little kid,” said Carly Friend, looking crushed.

“Now I don’t know what to do on my Sunday mornings,” said her friend, Maggie McDonough. “My family comes here all the time. We would joke around it was our second home.”

Diner owner Amy Russo plans to replace the eatery with a version of her luncheonette Toast, which has restaurants in Asbury Park and Montclair. She has not responded to requests for comment.

That plan, though, was not enough to fill the void in some customers’ stomachs and hearts.

“I for one am going to miss their matzo ball soup and chicken pot pie,” said David Lipton, a therapist with a practice in Red Bank. “I’ve been to Toast in Asbury and was not impressed. I count on [the diner] for their matzo ball soup. They make it like my grandmother, and they had excellent chicken pot pie.”

Nine-year-old Sarah Taylor bounded out of a minivan with her 13-year-old sister, Claire, only to discover the diner locked and darkened Tuesday afternoon. She’d been craving a cheeseburger, cheesefries and a shake.

What made the Broadway’s food better?

“It’s like eating something at the beach,” Sarah said. “It tastes better because it’s at the beach. It was like that here.”

Mary Kouvel, the town’s zoning board secretary, said she ate lunch nearly every day with two co-workers at the diner.

“It’s easy to get there and back in an hour,” she said. “It’s cheap. It’s comfortable. They knew us all by name. They let us split sandwiches.” When her husband died last year, the restaurant staff sent her a gift basket.

“We’ll miss it,” she said.

So will Jess Soden’s friend, Sara Genke, another Colts Neck 18-year-old, who read on Twitter that the diner was closing, but didn’t realize it had already shut down.

“They had the best disco fries,” she said. “And hot chocolate.”

“I’ve been going to the Broadway Diner for years,” said Laura Sigman, who made a trip into town from Ocean Grove. “The big salad and an indie movie were one of our favorite dates. It’s sad to see another part of the local scene disappear. I can’t imagine Monmouth Street without the neon Broadway Diner sign.”

For this Pie Hole writer, the closing of the diner is just one more adjustment to make. It’s goodbye to the place I brought my kids for the last 18 years,  the one spot in town that was affordable, satisfied everyone’s palate, and had cool mid-century style. Mostly, I will miss being able to order pancakes and onion rings at two in the morning.

What are your memories of the diner? Were you a “regular,” and did you know the waitresses? Did you spend time here with your friends from school? Most of all, what did you always order, and what will you miss? This is your opportunity to dish to PieHole.

Remember: Nothing makes a Red Bank friend happier than to hear "I saw you on Red Bank Green!"
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