Update (03/05/2008): t:e reader JohnS reports that the Tom Sawyer is now open. So get over there and get that happy waitress special, 2 eggs over easy, turkey club, or whatever the hell it is that you eat at a diner.
I drove past the Tom Sawyer Diner, in Paramus, NJ, the other morning (by "other morning", I mean the week of 2/11/08) and noticed that the lights are on. Not quite open for business at that point or today (2/20/2008), but they've got power, which is a good start. It seems like just yesterday it was a hole in the ground in the middle of a small, cramped parking lot.
The Tom Sawyer is my "favorite diner". "Favorite" in the sense that, well, I suppose it seems just a little bit better than the other local options. Heck if I had enough free time and cared enough to vote in NJ Monthly's or any of the other local publications' "Best Diner" category, I'd vote for the Tom Sawyer. Since Matthew's Diner in Waldwick wins the "Best Diner" category every year, I suspect it has 10 or so regulars who have enough free time to vote for it. 10 votes, I would think, is about what any given diner in the "Best Diner" category gets in a good year, which really makes it pointless to begin with. Maybe I could just vote for the Tom Sawyer 11 times and they can take the crown next year. But it doesn't matter really, does it.
What makes the Tom Sawyer my favorite diner you don't ask? Aren't diners pretty much all the same? Of course they are. They're all essentially the same. From the layout and decor to the food to the strange spinning dessert display case. What makes them different is how close they are to your home, and how often you go there. Which ever diner you go to, by default, you think is "best". Even if it doesn't start out as your favorite, it will become your favorite once you keep returning. Maybe because the waitresses will start recognizing you and making you feel "at home". <aside>What your home must be like to have a diner make you feel like you're in it I don't want to know. Lots of chrome and Formica, I would think<aside>. The servers will get to know you and your order. You'll be called "hon". They're big on "hon" at diners. Which I must admit I think is nice. "Sweety" is not so bad, either.
When you move to another town, you find another favorite diner, magically, it seems, with the same waitresses. Sure maybe you get all nostalgic about your previous favorite diner (Oh, Spa Diner in Hoboken, you are my first and most favorite diner and will never be topped), but there's a pretty good chance that the cheeseburger deluxe you're eating at your new favorite is identical to the cheeseburger deluxe at your old favorite. Eggs and bacon? Same. Turkey club? Yup.
So don't get all bent out of shape if your favorite diner didn't take the "Best Diner" category. Yours is the best, and that's all that matters.
Somewhat related, I present my list of favorite-at-some-point diners:
Spa Diner : Hoboken, NJ
Tick Tock : Clifton, NJ
Tom Sawyer : Paramus, NJ
The OB : Point Pleasant, NJ
That diner where the Laurelton Circle used to be: Brick, NJ
Nautilus : Madison, NJ
Bendix : Hasbrouck Heights, NJ
And there ya go.