Garden State Diner (Newark Liberty Intl Airport, NJ)

One of the unfortunate facts of life is that, in general, air travel isn’t as convenient as it used to be. In these days of higher fuel costs and lower profits, most airlines have trimmed back their food service, mostly replacing it with expensive “buy-on-board” meals. We’ve got the silly TSA liquid ban as well, which also make it harder to bring stuff with you. Which makes it increasingly likely these days that on longer plane trips, you’ll be getting some of your sustenance from various food vendors at the airport.

Unfortunately, in most cases, airport food sucks. While there are a few notable exceptions, the general airport fare is either poorly done versions of your basic fast food fare, ultra-expensive, or both.

However, there are a few places that seem to fill the airport food niche decently. Recently, on a trip to Miami we had a nice long layover at Newark’s Concourse C, and we spied Garden State Diner and decided to give it a try.

Garden State has pretty much your standard diner fare, plus beer on tap (didn’t get beer, but did notice they had Yuengling). I opted for the “Egg McTed”, which was your basic breakfast egg sandwich, although I did opt for the local meat variant: Taylor Ham (which seems to be called Taylor Pork Roll most every place other than NJ). The result was a decent breakfast sandwich with a different flavor than normal. I’m not normally a Taylor Ham fan, but it worked well here.

Carol opted for the waffle, and was definitely please with it, a nice fluffy waffle with good body and a nice crisp. A lot of diners do waffles quite poorly (batter quickly mixed from a powder, iron set too hot or too cold), but this waffle was definitely done well.

However, we also split an order of home fries, and we were both disappointed with these. Homefries should be nice and soft and crispy, with light butter notes. Our homefries were soft, soggy, salty, and very greasy, as if they’d been sitting in a back cooler corner of the grill for entirely too long. These were really disappointing after the rest of the meal.

Also, there’s one thing in addition to the home fries that bothers me about Garden State Diner, and it bothers me a lot. People in airports are almost always on tight schedules, with distinct deadlines after which their planes will leave without them. Garden State is one of those airport restaurants that seems to be completely oblivious to that fact, and service really dragged. It was almost five minute between ordering coffee and getting coffee. It took a fair bit of time to get our menus. It took surprisingly long to get our food. And it took a really long time to get our bill so we could settle it. In any location other than an airport, most of these delays are minor, but in an airport, they are a big deal. While I wasn’t inconvenienced by this (we had almost a four hour layover), several other tables definitely were, and the results were quite a few nervous patrons, and several tables that had to walk out mid-service.

1. Reasonable diner food at reasonable prices, a pleasant notch above most similar airport fare.

2. The Taylor Ham Egg McTed was a nice local NJ touch.

1. Slow service. As discussed above, this can be a real problem for a place in an airport.

2. My homefries were severely disappointing.

Overall, I think Garden State is still a decent airport food option, but really needs to work on addressing some of their issues.

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