The Club Diner Bellmawr, New Jersey

The Club Diner 20 North Black Horse Pike, Bellmawr, NJ  

If you live in Jersey, you have a diner.  Come on, you know what I’m talking about.  You don’t OWN a diner, but you HAVE a diner.  It’s the place you go to after Mass on Sunday for breakfast and after bowling on Thursday night for a snack.  It’s the place you go grab a bite before a PTA meeting or after a funeral.  If you walk into a room full of your family right now and said, “Let’s go, we’re going to the diner”, there’s no mistaking which diner you are talking about.  It’s YOUR diner.

For us, that diner is the Club Diner, located on the Black Horse Pike in Bellmawr.  Within about 3 miles of our home, I can count 5 diners.  We live closest to the Club diner, so for our first diner meal in New Jersey after our move back from Florida, that’s where we went.  In the 7 years we have lived in this part of New Jersey, the Club diner has become our diner, but in the past year, it seems to have become more our diner than it was before.

Jim works out in the Midwest, and I pick him up at the airport on Thursday nights.  His flights when he worked in Milwaukee were always late – scheduled to come in at 10:25, but often not getting in until 11:30 or later.  He would skip dinner in Milwaukee so that he and I could grab something to eat before we went home.  It was a nice way to reconnect after being apart all week, and because of it’s convenient proximity to our house and the 24 hour schedule, the Club diner was our restaurant of choice.

It only took a couple of weeks before Patty, the overnight waitress, became acquainted with our patterns.  She would walk over to our table with Jim’s large glass of ice water and my unsweetened iced tea.  She would double check that our order was the same – and it always was.  I would order the bowl of Chicken Orzo soup, and Jim ordered the crab cake platter to share with me; mashed potatoes and peas; and a cup of the soup.  We would also order another crab cake platter to go, with the same veggies.  By the time we were nearly through with our crab cake platter, Patty would be there by the table with the second order wrapped up and ready to go, Jim’s rice pudding packed up, the extra rice pudding with the other platter wrapped up, and a box for the leftover crabcake on Jim’s plate.  It’s a nice feeling to be a “regular” – you know, the Norm on Cheers type of guy, walking into the diner, everyone knows you, and they know your order from the time your car pulls up in the parking lot. 

But all that doesn’t give a fair review of the Club Diner.  So here’s the thing.  Diner food is comfort food.  You don’t go there looking for delicate seafood dishes or frou frou souffles.  You want to know the diner can make a good meatloaf, and that there will always be mashed potatoes on the menu.  You want them to produce a good Western Omelet, whether you are there at 8 in the morning, 8 at night, or 3 in the morning.  You want the chef’s salad to be served with a heaping helping of lettuce, a ton of julienned lunch meats and cheeses, hard boiled eggs, and enough dressing that they serve it in a gravy boat. 

The Club Diner gives you all of that, and more.  We don’t get to go late at night on Thursday nights anymore, and we’ve branched out into ordering other foods now that I can eat more.  On a recent visit, at about 9 on a Thursday, I ordered the scallops.  They were perfect!  Nicely seasoned, perfectly cooked, and served on the traditional diner toast, the dish was a real treat at a reasonable price.  Their roast pork loin is so tender, you can eat it with a spoon and not have to worry about cutting it up.  The crab cakes are tasty, although a bit filled with filler, but there is real crab meat in them and they are HUGE.  Another visit had me ordering the special teriyaki salmon.  Thank goodness THAT was before gastric bypass surgery!  Had the dining room been emptier, I would have licked the plate clean and gone into the kitchen looking for more. 

The waitresses at the diner all seem like they’ve been there for most of the 7 years we’ve lived here.  Most of the patrons seem like they’ve been there for the whole 60 years the diner has been there. 

You can’t beat the Club Diner for price or portion anywhere, but the added bonus here is that it really seems like someone cares what comes out of the kitchen.  What I wouldn’t do right now for a big bowl of Chicken orzo soup – better than Grandmom made (of course, my grandmother was Irish, and definitely NOT known for her abilities in the kitchen).  Seriously, the Club Diner has everything and anything you could want, and someone wants you to enjoy what you order and come back for more.  That’s more than can be said for a lot of area diners.  I’m glad we found this diner and made it our own.