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This New Jersey Couple Trying To Visit Every Diner In The State Better Save The Right One For Last

NY Post- With its endless turnpike exits and influx of Greek immigrants during the last century, New Jersey is said to have more diners than any other state in the nation.

And one Garden State couple is on a mission to try them all.

So far, Hillside husband and wife Jon and Karri Ricklin have devoured their way through 199 greasy spoons — one burger deluxe, short stack, souvlaki or scramble at a time.

“We don’t order the same thing every time,” Jon, 65, told The Post. “We like a little variety.”

The couple, who’ve been married for 39 years and cruise around in a Ford Escape, started their project in 2015 back when they dropped into the Livingston Diner while visiting family.

They started canvassing Google Maps, New Jersey restaurant Facebook pages and diner blogs to compile the ultimate list in an Excel spreadsheet. It’s organized by county, town and name — and they estimate they still have 220 to go. (Unfortunately, many from the initial list have since closed, particularly during the pandemic.)

“Jersey is not a big state,” said Jon, “but it’s big enough to justify driving two hours each way for a cheeseburger.”

I like this. Cool thing for an older couple to do to pass their time together, and still go on dates. Diners have a very intimate, and completely random feel all at the same time. . The tight booth can be jammed with the family has been there for years and years, the older couples like these two who come every day for a cup of coffee, or the countertop can be occupied by the bus driver on a break for just 10 minutes, or  the long haul truck driver passing through the state to never return. It's an interesting dynamic. It feel like you can know everyone yet no one in the place. 

I've always loved diners because it did feel like you grew up in them, and more so remember the moments in them. It always felt like a diner was a special place to go, not because of the dated wall paper or the Patty Melt but because of who I went there with. Early morning trips with my grandfather, late night stops after a game with my mom dad and siblings because no one else was open, or really late nights after the bars with lifelong friends laughing about the different antics of the night. There was something magical about those moments of your Dad asking the car "anyone hungry", knowing full well he was already navigating which diner he was stopping at on the way home, and all of our faces lighting up excited to have a Shirley Temple and some pancakes past our bed time. There was something magical about leaving the clubs the summer after HS  and extending the night into the early morning after a night out and talking with the guys you were closest with at the time, and didn't realize how quickly they would be strangers in a few years. I wish there was a way to bottle up those moments, the smells, the look of the waitress's awful hairdo, the sound of "don't tell your mom you the burger had onions" from my Dad when just he would take you out. Everything. It's funny how the little moments stand out so much. It's also such a great feeling to have an answer of "where are we going, or what can we eat ?" and it be "let's hit a Diner." It's reassuring a place like that will always be open. 

I know I'm not alone in having such a soft spot for diners. There's two scenes that I love in pop culture involving diners that always remind me of the little moments growing up, or the laughs with friends. 

A father and son sharing a moment when the son doesn't feel so great, and instead of dwelling on it, teaches him a lesson. Kevin's final line sums it up so well "I don't remember the score, but I remember talking with my dad." 

The morning after the big party, for some people maybe the night was still containing, all time diner vibes. 

Also, the movie Diner is a great watch about buddies in their early 20's. 

So this couple having a tradition built around Diners makes sense, and trying to hit every NJ diner is very admirable. The only thing is they cannot screw up the last one on the list. If you have a brain in your head, they should pay homage to Tony, Carmela, AJ and Meadow's shitty parking by hitting Holsten's. Do whatever else you want on the list, and take as long as you want to do it, but Holsten's has to be the final stop on the list. Have to pay respect to the Soprano family with that. 

PS- Order the onion rings…. just keep an eye on the door.