By Sally Deering –
Maybe it’s the shiny chrome and vinyl-covered stools at the counters that lure us in? It might be the stacks of luscious layer cakes slathered in icing in the pastry cases? Or maybe it’s the bountiful menus that offer flavor-fests of choices that you can mix and match – like chocolate chip pancakes with a side of spaghetti – and the waiter doesn’t question your sanity. I’m talking about the All American Diner. And each one has its own mystique, a noir-esque appeal that draws us in like an Edward Hopper painting.
Diners and Jerseyians go together like a burger with fries and here in Hudson, we have some of the best diners in the state including The Coach House on Kennedy Boulevard in North Bergen which opened in 1939 and stays open 24/7. Coach House Owner Nicholas Pappas and General Manager Constantine “Gus” Tountas don’t even have a key to the front door.
When Clem Pappas opened his diner back then it was a train car-sized eatery where the grill was behind the counter and a cube steak sandwich cost 5 cents. More than 70 years and several renovations and expansions later, the Coach House is a sprawling diner/restaurant and popular go-to destination that features a bar and lounge area that’s a “Happy Hour” hotspot with HD TVs and cozy nooks.
“It’s a neat place to have a drink,” Pappas says.
The diner area features a counter with stools, rows of roomy booths, two pastry cases and a terrific salad bar that’s a customer favorite and an expanded dining room for those who like that restaurant feel. The menu offers old diner standbys like burgers, sandwiches; eggs, omelets. pancakes; steaks, chops, pastas; and for a change of pace, all sorts of daily specials where old recipes sometimes become new again.
Recently Pappas had the idea to go back in time and view older Coach House menus to see what dishes were popular. He remembered a German chef at Coach House who, Pappas says, made “the best sauerbraten” and other traditional German dishes like loin of pork. Customers seem to have nostalgia for these dishes, Pappas says. photo by Sally Deering
“I figured let’s be different from the chains, let’s push the envelope,” Pappas says. “We started coming up with all the old recipes. We put loin of pork and sauerbraten on the menu and they both became popular. I’m looking now for a recipe for red cabbage.”
The menu is so vast, here’s just a sampling from the Snacks & Starters section: Chicken croquetas with Chipotle Sauce; Nachos Supreme; Asian-style Dumplings; Jalapeno-tossed Fried Calamari; Crispy Potato Skins; Buffalo Wings; Buffalo Shrimp; BBQ Spareribs; Fried Ravioli; and Fried Lasagna Squares ($4.95-$10.95).
The vast Dinner section of the menu features Prime Rib; New York Sirloin Strip; Pork Chops; Roast Chicken; Roast Pork Cuban Style; Pan Seared Salmon; Stuffed Shrimp; Paella; Chicken Pot Pie: and Crusty Parmesan Chicken ($13.95-$24.50). That’s really just a small portion of what Coach House serves on its menu.
The bar at the Coach House is a great place to meet people or just sit and relax after a day’s work. Pappas says: “We have a lot of people meeting at the bar I can tell you that. We have ‘Happy Hour’ from 4-to-8 and a ‘Happy Hour’ menu. A lot of people eat dinner at the bar. We have nice bartenders.”
And the staff has grown a lot since the 30s and 40s, too.
“In the beginning my father was behind the grill and on any given night, you’d have three waitresses, my father and another cook,” Pappas says.
The Coach House hosts group parties in its Red Room for up to 50 people and up to 60 can be accommodated in the Garden Room. Those who can’t get away for breakfast, lunch or dinner can order their food online for pick up or delivery by visiting the Coach House website: www.coachhousenorthbergencom. The site also features pictures of what the Coach House looked like back in the day, its history and the Pappas’ business philosophy set forth by Clem Pappas.
“When I would see him work never ever was the customer leaving dissatisfied,” Pappas says about his dad. “You want to keep the place interesting so that your customer comes back two or three times a week. You know them by name they know you by name and it becomes an extension of your home.”
If you go: Tell them you read this in the River View Observer
Coach House Diner/Restaurant
921 John F. Kennedy Blvd
North Bergen, NJ
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