Americana Diner – Shrewsbury, NJ

Hey all! Joe here, taking over writing duties from Robyn this time around.

This past weekend, the missus and I made our way up to Shrewsbury, Monmouth County, NJ – population roughly 3,900. Why this little hamlet? Some of my Quaker ancestors are buried there at the Friends Meeting House, which my 9x-great grandfather, Jedidiah Allen, helped form in 1695. Though his grave is unfortunately unmarked, the Allen House does still stand across the street from the cemetery, and we were able to find the graves of another set of 9x-great-grandparents, John and Mercy Woolley.

After the 90-minute voyage there – and two hours traipsing about both the Friends Meeting House Burial Ground and the equally ancient Christ Church Cemetery across the street – we were understandably hungry, so we made our way a mile down the road to the Americana Diner.

We walked in and instantly had a good feeling about the place. All too often, restaurants call themselves diners for no discernible reason other than they have a counter. Maybe they used to be a diner, but they’ve far outgrown the description and the atmosphere necessary to retain that moniker. Not the Americana. From its chrome walls to its neon lights, this joint is, indeed, a diner.

We were seated almost immediately, and our server Yami took our drink order – two coffees, natch. She returned with it rather quickly, and it was some of the better coffee that we’ve had at diners in recent weeks. We sipped it as we pored over the menus, and finally made our selections. Robyn decided to get the Chicken Santa Fe sandwich, and I settled on the Black Forest Burger.

A few scant minutes after taking our order, Yami came back with two monkey dishes of cole slaw – not too dry and not too creamy, but just right – each topped with half of a kosher pickle. Avid readers may remember that we encountered this at the Blue Swan Diner, also in Monmouth County. We assume that this must be a Central Jersey thing. (Unlike the Blue Swan, however, the Americana Diner is squarely in the “pork roll” camp as opposed to the “Taylor ham” camp; the dividing line must be somewhere between the two.) Whatever the origin, however, it is sheer brilliance bringing these as appetizers, and we both wish that diners in our part of the state would adopt the practice.

Within short order our food arrived. Robyn’s Chicken Santa Fe sandwich featured not one but two chicken breasts – each one seasoned perfectly from stem to stern – and an ample amount of bacon, lettuce and tomato. She found herself pleasantly surprised with the cheese choice, too; often, she’ll choose provolone over virtually any other type of cheese when it comes to sandwiches, but the Santa Fe came with cheddar so she decided to roll with it. She was happy she did, remarking through mouthfuls that is was one of the best chicken sandwiches she’d ever had.

My Black Forest burger came with slices of ham, melted Swiss cheese, and fried onions. All of it was perfect. I always order my burgers medium but usually end up getting somewhere between medium-well and boot-heel. This burger, though, was just the right amount of pink inside, and may have been the best-cooked burger I’ve ever ordered. Additionally, the ham slices were grilled – a nice, unannounced touch – the Swiss was melted just right, and the onions were fried right in that sweet spot just before caramelization.

Both of our orders came with fries, too, and the Americana uses the good steak fries. They were cooked just to Robyn’s liking. Though I prefer mine a tad darker, it didn’t diminish from the experience, and they were quite tasty.

By meal’s end, we were completely satiated. The food was absolutely delicious (and I have it on good authority from a local that they have the world’s best pancakes, so we’ll have to try them next time we’re there) and the waitstaff was friendly.

All in all, we had a great time at the Americana Diner!

Until next time, happy eating!

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