New Jersey plays a key role in the history of the American diner, and in many ways the diner is quintessentially Bayonne—friendly and unpretentious—offering high-quality fare at a reasonable price.
Rocky and Janet Coviello provide all this and more at their uptown diner at 1075 Broadway and at their Broadway Diner and 8th Street Bistro. We visited the Bistro on a warmish Monday evening in mid-December.
There were plenty of spaces in the rear parking lot. The place wasn’t crowded, but it gradually filled with what looked like Bayonne locals. From the booth where we sat, two evergreens with festive Christmas lights were visible through the window.
Whatever time of year you visit, you’ll find holiday specials for the season, such as pumpkin pancakes or Christmas chocolate drinks.
Terri started with one of these, a signature blend called a Frozen Hot Chocolate, featuring homemade fudge, whipped cream, and chocolate shavings, which appeared in a Mason jar. Terri said it definitely could have been a dessert and had a kind of milkshake taste, but it was gone before I could test her theory. She could have ordered it with brandy or vodka but, alas, did not.
By the way, the diner has a full liquor bar as well as a juice bar, offering fresh fruit and vegetable juices blended to order and a bunch of creative smoothies made with Greek-style yogurt.
Though the diner has everything you’d expect—a huge menu with all kinds of breakfast food, burgers, salads, and spaghetti, times have changed, and diner cuisine with it.
Example? The grilled salmon with black beans, avocado, onion, and tomato salsa. Chef Scot Smith prides himself on using the freshest ingredients, which is why customers may not always see the same entrée over and over. This dish was so fresh and subtly seasoned that it could have come from an upscale restaurant in the city.
Next up was a hearty chicken cutlet sandwich with broccoli rabe and mozzarella; the mozz is made fresh on the premises. On one hand, chicken cutlet is a classic diner item, but the broccoli rabe and fresh mozz, along with the absence of goopy sauces, make it a unique Bistro special.
Janet, whose ancestry is Cuban, couldn’t wait for us to try the incredibly colorful and luscious pitaya bowl. Pitaya is Spanish for dragon fruit, a wicked healthy offering from parts of Asia and Latin America. The bowl comes with a kind of dragon fruit coulis, topped with sliced kiwi, fresh pineapple, mango, coconut flakes, granola, and honey. It makes a terrific breakfast entrée, or you might even want to have it for dessert.
Speaking of breakfast, huevos rancheros is an extremely popular Bistro breakfast choice. It consists of corn tortillas, eggs, cheese, refried beans, avocado, tomato, and onion. And if that weren’t enough, you can add meat. But it’s good anytime. As proof, we managed to fit some in for dinner. Again, considering the ingredients, it’s prepared with a light touch: robust but not overpowering.
If you eat a normal amount of food, you just might have room for the signature dessert: New York-style cheesecake, homemade onsite. Ours came with whipped cream and strawberries. It looks like it might overwhelm you with sweetness, but it’s weirdly light and rich at the same time. Chef Smith also makes cupcakes, cookies, and other baked goods.
Janet was our host in the true sense of the word. When she wasn’t jumping up to bring us a wonderful Bistro specialty, she’d sit down with us and talk about this family diner, which she clearly loves.
She’s proud of the multicultural offerings, everything from grits and matzo ball soup to traditional Italian and Polish fare.
Regulars know that on Friday seafood is featured, a good time to order lobster, steamers, New England clam chowder, prawns, crab cakes, and other surf offerings. And on Sundays it’s the much-anticipated Italian buffet.
Janet is excited about expanding her catering business. She wants to augment the tailgate parties with weddings and corporate events. Check out the catering menu and make a call.
She says that all kinds of people come into the diner: “love birds, loners with a book, kids with friends ordering disco fries and milkshakes.” And that’s just how she likes it.
I noticed on the way out that folks had ordered espressos, lattes, and cappuccinos. Next time!
And there definitely will be a next time for this classic diner with first-rate food and a friendly Bayonne vibe.—Kate Rounds
Broadway Diner 8th Street Bistro