- Cost: $$
- Alcohol: BYO
- Parking: Private Lot
- Take Out: Yes
June 4, 2012
The Tropicana in Elizabeth adds some South American twists to everything you look for in a good Jersey diner. Instead of shiny chrome, the diner is decked out in bright tropical colors with a brick and Spanish tile exterior. A palm tree beach mural covers one wall of the large dining room where families gather for weekend breakfasts. The waitresses are fast with the coffee, and their friendly chatter is as often in Spanish as English. Not only is Tropicana open 24 hours, seven days a week, the diner offers curb side pick-up. Call ahead and they’ll bring your order outside to your car.
The extensive menu has what you’d expect at any decent Garden State diner – eggs, pancakes, burgers, hot open sandwiches, chicken, steak and seafood entrees. You can get a Greek salad and eggplant parmigiana. Look carefully, though, and you will find some Latin American items not typically associated with diner fare: empanadas, churasco and Colombianisimo (steak, chorizo, chicharron, rice, beans and avocado, with a fried egg on top!) On a recent Saturday morning, I had the Colombian breakfast special – scrambled eggs with peppers and onions (huevos pericos), served with rice and beans, avocado, salsa and arepas with grilled white cheese. It was a very hearty breakfast even after I asked our accommodating waitress to hold the steak that is supposed to come with it. My wife could only finish half of the “Elizabeth-style” eggs benedict with avocado.
I grew up with Jersey diners serving Greek and Italian dishes. As New Jersey communities become even more diverse, diners like the Tropicana are adapting to reflect their customers’ tastes, adding the comfort food that makes everyone feel at home. That’s the essence of a Jersey diner.