It has been a long time--years, really--since a traditional diner exceeded our expectations. Oh, there have been some keepers, to be sure, but the duds exist too, and they tend to linger in the memory. Really, is there much in the food world that is worse than a so-so or horrid diner meal?
So when we tried the cream of turkey soup at Paul's Diner, we were ready to be underwhelmed. We were anything but. The very first taste won us over thanks to its deeply flavorful cream broth, plump and tender grains of rice and tasty bits of turkey. It was home and comfort and mother love in a bowl.
"This didn't come in a can, did it?" I asked the server.
"Nope it's homemade, like pretty much everything here," she said.
Every bite we enjoyed reinforced the server's claim. Every dish sampled inspired the same sense of being at home, and this apparently is typical for this Mountain Lakes eatery, which sits just outside Parsippany on Route 46.
Each week, Patch picks a great restaurant either in town or nearby that is worth checking out. Here's this week's choice:
Paul's Diner , alternately known as Paul's Family Diner, has offered homestyle cooking since its founding in 1947. The family now in charge has owned the place since 1997. The restaurant is open each and every day of the year, even Christmas, so people looking for breakfast, lunch or dinner and a taste of home always have a place to go.
We learned about Paul's via word of mouth. Parsippany residents tell us the diner is a Par-Troy favorite because it is so close to the township and because the food is simply delicious.
Two recent visits bear this out.
The first time we went to Paul's, it was for an early dinner. We ordered the grilled pork chops with mashed potatoes and a vegetable medley. The meal was a real blue-plate special: the chops golden and tender, the potatoes homemade and fluffy, the veggies fresh and perfectly cooked. It was worthy of our mother, and that's saying a lot. And the prices, though not dirt-cheap, are reasonable.
We returned to try breakfast at Paul's. Again, we were far from disappointed. Our scrambled egg and sausage platter was expertly prepared and delicious, down to the toast, which was brought while still hot, crisp and soaked in warm, melted butter. We had to scan the shop to be sure Mom wasn't hiding in the kitchen.
Paul's extensive menu runs the gamut from so-called Snack-a-tizers; to sandwiches and wraps; to lunch- and dinner-sized poultry, steak, chop and seafood entrees.
The desserts are heavenly too. On separate occasions, we allowed the server to tempt us into trying the rice pudding and the chocolate cake. The guilt that followed was profound, but it didn't match our delight over the creamy, dreamy pudding -- clearly made on the premises and thankfully not cloyingly sweet--and the rich chocolatey cake.
It's clear why Parsippanians travel just past the town limits to bask in the homey setting they find at Paul's. It provides a nearby bite that will do more than satisfy--it will soothe your soul.
Paul's Diner, 320 Route 46, Mountain Lakes. Open 24 hours a day with free wi-fi. For info, call 973-627-4893.