There’s just something special about walking into a restaurant where your server greets you by name. Maybe the waiter has your order memorized or perhaps the waitress starts getting your drinks ready the second you sit down. The staff asks about your day, knows about your life and it always feels like home. When you find a place where employees go the extra mile, you keep coming back for more. Here are 12 restaurants in New Jersey that do just that.
1. Salem Oak Diner, 113 W Broadway, Salem
This old school eatery serves breakfast all day and the staff is fast and friendly. Locals flock here but anyone can enjoy the mouthwatering burgers and not-so-mini meals, priced under $10. Get an entree, side (veggies, pasta, garlic bread...), soup or salad and a sweet treat. You can't beat the value.
2. Original Pancake House, 817 Bloomfield Avenue, West Caldwell
This chain restaurant has two other locations in New Jersey, Edgewater and Whippany, and each is wonderful in its own way - the West Caldwell eatery is well known for its friendly service. Try the Dutch Baby - a pancake popover filled with powdered sugar and other goodies or the German Apple Pancake, pictured.
3. Shady Rest, 769 Atlantic City Boulevard, Bayville
This cozy restaurant offers an amazing outdoor dining area complete with a rose garden. Expect friendly service and a relaxing atmosphere. You'll find a mix of Italian and American cuisine - try the veal marsala, antipasta or garlic bread with cheese.
4. Hillbilly Hall, 203 Hopewell-Wertsville Road, Hopewell
The food isn't fancy and some have called this tavern/restaurant a dive bar, but everyone knows everyone and the outdoor dining is superb. In business for over three decades, they're a great place to kick back and relax. The atmosphere is casual and friendly, with bikers and babies side by side.
5. Carpe Diem, 1405 Grand Street, Hoboken
Set back from the hustle and bustle of Washington Street, the motto of this neighborhood pub is, "welcome stranger, farewell friend." Conversation with friends and strangers alike is encouraged - have a chat while dining on some of the best wings around. If wings aren't your thing, try the spicy steak bites.
6. Allenwood General Store, 3208 Allenwood Lakewood Road, Allenwood
I'm not sure what you'll love more, the quirky decor or perfect pork roll sandwich. Explore a variety of antiques while enjoying friendly service and budget-friendly breakfast and lunch menus. This local favorite even has an ice cream parlor inside.
7. Pic-A-Lilli Inn, 866 Route 206, Shamong
This Pine Barrens pub always draws crowds, and with good reason. The wings are world famous, the patio is perfection in warmer months and the staff greets you with a smile. A community staple, they host events like an annual fall car show (10/23) and Halloween party (10/21). Check out the regular BOGO and game night specials for a good deal.
8. The Chatterbox Drive-In, 1 State Highway 15, Augusta
What's not to love about this classic car-themed drive-in? It's a blast from the past with a modern menu of creative comfort foods and scrumptious staples. Saturdays are cruise nights, come for the cars but stay for the mouthwatering burgers. Bring the kids, who are sure to delight in the funky retro decor. Try the Big Bad John, pictured, with pulled pork and mac n' cheese.
9. Allie's Cupcakery & Cafe, 7 Broad Street, Washington
More than just desserts, Allie's serves up sweets, treats and eats - along with friendly service and loads of charm. Enjoy a light lunch and definitely grab a cupcake to go. Head here frequently and you'll start to feel like family.
10. Tops Diner, 500 Passaic Avenue, East Newark
One of the most popular diners in the diner capital of the world, Tops is definitely doing something right. That something is the massive menu, delicious food and friendly service. Dishes range from diner classics to creative options like the Brick City Burger with Taylor Ham. Portion sizes are insane, in the best way possible.
11. Benny's Luncheonette, 11-04 Saddle River Road,
Words don't do this place justice, so you'll have to check it out for yourself. The luncheonette and neighboring bakery & ice cream shop are absolutely amazing. As far as food goes, try the overstuffed pastrami sandwich. For dessert, try a crazy shake - filled to the brim with sweets. Come once and you'll be a regular in no time.
12. Steak Out, 4005 Landia Avenue, Sea Isle City
One of the best breakfasts on the shore, head here if you're feeling hungry - the MOFO (MOre FOod) platters have got you covered. Open since the summer of '66, enjoy this spot seasonally from May to October. Your home away from home, try the breakfast burritos, Philly steaks or fajitas.
If you’re looking for friendly service and great food with small town charm, regardless of location, these are all wonderful places to go. Locals know local food best, do you have a favorite hometown eatery? For more Garden State goodness, check out these family-owned
mom and pop restaurants in New Jersey.