Pine Hill Diner
Pine Hill, NJ
Meal: Dinner / Weekend / 8pm
Price: $35 (For Two w/o Tip)
The first time we went to Pine Hill Diner, we gave it a subpar 2.35 score despite an exceptionally clean establishment that was above and beyond most other restaurants of any type. We certainly don’t want to cheat a restaurant deserving of praise, so we’ve listened to the many positive comments here (it is currently tied for the most comments of any review) and decided to give it another go. With a fresh slate, would Pine Hill Diner redeem itself to a more positive rating? Note: The original review is quoted at the conclusion of the updated review.
Equal to our first visit, we were again impressed by how clean this restaurant was; even during a very heavy rainstorm there wasn’t any mud or wet spots anywhere inside. It wasn’t very busy and we were ushered to our seats with no wait. We thought the AC was a little much, and it was fairly cold just sitting there waiting for our service. Because of that, and some of the comments about the coffee here, we tried some selections from their ‘coffee bar’. Unfortunately, I learned that the cappuccino wasn’t hand-prepared, but rather from those ubiquitous convenient-store push-button powder mixers you can find just about anywhere. Instead of a sharp coffee base with some whipped milk on top, it was sugary and syrupy as you’d expect from those machines. Autumn’s cafe’ latte was significantly better and you could taste the real brewed coffee. We’d recommend asking what is ‘homemade’ and ordering any of those selections. From memory it appeared the coffee machine had 3 buttons, so there are at least 3 selections we’d definitely avoid. At $2.99 each, the ‘homemade’ creations are a value, and the machine-made ones can be purchased at half the price at any WaWa.
We wanted to really give this place a better chance, so we ordered a little different mix of items this time around. I started with the calamari. I liked the portion size and they were fried extremely well (not greasy or burned.. just right!), but they only featured the round ‘rings’ and not the tentacle portion. Although that was kind of a bummer, they were still delicious and I’d order them again. For our dinners, Autumn reordered the french dip because she liked it the first time around, and I tried an interesting menu item of a Mahi-Mahi fishburger (which I haven’t’ seen elsewhere). As our waitress delivered the french dip, Autumn asked if she was going to bring the au jus. The waitress was clearly puzzled, and didn’t know what au jus even was. After telling her it’s ‘the gravy’, it was brought promptly. We noticed that the french dip was served without cheese of any kind, which is not consistent with other restaurants and even not consistent with our first visit (see below). That’s a big problem; if you’re going to have a menu item, at least keep the basic ‘structure’ of the food consistent every time. We understand that some chefs like adding more of this or that, or making something spicier, but to forget the cheese (and possibly the au jus) on an item that only has 4 components (the french bread, the beef, the cheese, and the au jus on the side) is very surprising. Without the cheese, it was really just a supersized Arby’s roast beef sandwich that she needed to really saturate in au jus to stay moist. The french fries were only slightly better than the first time around, when we agreed they were borderline awful. She noted that she enjoyed the sandwich much more the first time around.
My mahi-mahi fishburger was served with sweet potato fries, coleslaw, and an odd sauce (on the side) that tasted like a combination of mayo, wasabi, and horseradish. I would have much rather preferred plain-old tartar sauce, though. The ‘burger’ itself was very good, but a pretty thin portion. It had the size of a regular burger, but wasn’t very thick and for the $9 price tag I’d probably need twice as much fish to order it another time around. The sweet potato fries were thin and lukewarm; I’m convinced that the Diner simply doesn’t make good fries. I do like their finely-chopped coleslaw, and ate both mine and Autumn’s portions. I found a long black hair between the lettuce and tomatoes which probably was courtesy of our waitress. We later saw her smoking outside of the front door of the restaurant. We don’t have any issues with staff taking a smoke break, but you usually see them doing it at the back of the restaurant, not the front door.
So we’ve been here twice, with two different waitresses, and find the service lacking across the board. They’ve mixed up our orders, seem unfamiliar with the menu, and otherwise look like they need a lot more ‘practice’ to compete with some of our higher-ranked diners. We think they’ve got an extensive menu, love the cleanliness of the tables and bathrooms, and think that the quality of their food is fairly good. For the price, though, we’d expect some consistency from visit to visit and hope they figure out what they’re doing wrong with the french fries and fix it. There are simply just too many better diners to continue returning to Pine Hill and trying for a better experience.
We’re going to stick with our original score:
Autumn’s Score: 2.4
Guru’s Score: 2.3
Combined Score: 2.35 Chews
Subjective rating: Maybe if you live in Pine Hill and you’re hungry at 3am?
Have you been to Pine Hill Diner? If so, please add your rating! (Limited to 1 Vote per IP Address.)
Lots of mistakes dirty an otherwise clean restaurant.
Like Las Vegas rising out the desert, the Pine Hill Diner shines oddly bright in the back woods of Pine Hill. You can’t miss it – it’s neon/chrome/mirror combination might be viewable from space. Still, the marketing logic is solid; we gave into curiosity and checked in for a very late (or early?) dinner. With plenty of parking and what appears to be a new building, we ripped open our pedestrian clothes and quick-changed into our Chewperman outfits for another daring review.
I do want to mention that I was on crutches this visit (note to self: s-t-r-e-t-c-h before embarking on a 11 mile bike ride!) and enjoyed the well-designed handicap ramp. Immediately upon entering, you’re greeted with a large corridor with chandelier hanging overhead. “Very fancy”, Autumn commented. Like many diners, you enter adjacent to the register with a very yummy-looking pastry rack staring you right in the face. Unfortunately, we didnt get a chance to try any of the good stuff. After a few seconds we got seated in a booth that was significantly cleaner (and newer) than most of the other diners we’ve reviewed. The interior, however, was insanely busy. Directly above us was a blue neon tube.. there are mirrors everywhere.. and lots of crazy colors. In my opinion, they went a little overboard with that stuff and it probably raises your blood pressure a notch just to be sitting there quietly. As I had already eaten, I ordered a simple black and white milkshake, and Autumn was in the mood for french dip roast beef with au jus.
where the mistakes start. Our waitress, who was pleasant but not overly enthusiastic, incorrectly delivered our order to the couple in front of us. After a few seconds, they must informed her of the error and she moved it over to us. I’m pretty certain the food wasn’t touched and we didn’t object, but it’s not something you want to see. Making the experience a little more shaky was that the waitress actually botched my milkshake order – making me a peanut butter and chocolate milkshake instead of the vanilla and chocolate ‘black and white’ I ordered. When we told her about it she said the peanut butter ripple is right next to the vanilla and she probably just mistook the two. I actually liked the choco-butter blend and didn’t return it, but needless to say if I had a peanut allergy or something I wouldn’t be too thrilled. The back-to-back errors seemed odd, but perhaps the waitress just needed some coffee. We hoped Autumn’s sandwich would raise our hopes for a positive score.
The roast beef came as-advertised on a split-club roll with melted cheese and french fries. According to Autumn, it was delicious. She did comment about the quantity of meat she got on one of the halves, but it didn’t deter her from finishing the sandwich in prompt fashion. The fries were a different story. We both agreed they were woefully undercooked; splitting them with a fork showed a bright white center and they tasted like ore-idas from a toaster oven. As an avid lover of fries and someone who almost compulsively eats them from others plates, I even lost interest. That sucked, and then came the bill. The oops-shake I ordered was a whopping $3.99 and Autumn’s roast-beef was $8.99. The roast beef we could probably understand .. given the skyrocketing prices of the rolls (see our previous post) and a premium for the meat. The milkshake, though, was clearly overpriced for a standard portion with no additional mixing cup that some diners will give you to self-refill whatever wouldn’t fit into the glass. For that price, you could get a large multi-scoop shake from any number of local ice cream parlors.
After paying, the (presumed) manager/owner wasn’t especially gracious to have our business and gave us an incredibly-obligatory ‘thank you’. The highlight of the night came upon exiting, when we spotted a neighboring pizza-joint’s SMART CAR parked at the Diner. Although its EPA-Rated 41mpg still doesn’t trump my less-smart Honda Civic Hybrid (44mpg), it was still cool to check out. Fuel efficient vehicles make a lot of sense for pizza places, but we’ll leave that for another story.
– Very clean
– Open 24 hours
– The lone sandwich we tried was good
– There was a SMART Car parked outside (!!)
– Waitress messed up both the deliver and content of our order
– Fries were lousy
– Prices generally mid-to-high comparable to others
– Management was hum-bug-ish
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