The Great Jersey City Diner Eat-Off: The Flamingo


Exterior photo: Melanie McLean. Food photos: Michelle Weber

This story, which appeared in the Spring/Summer 2010 issue of NEW magazine, is part of our Great Jersey City Diner Eat-Off competition — for the ground rules and to check out the rest of the contenders, click here.

You’d think the Flamingo would have become my greasy spoon go-to after the demise of the Tunnel (RIP). Sadly it wasn’t, but I can assure you: it is now.

The Flamingo, far larger inside than its exterior would suggest, has all the elements I look for in a diner: good food, plenty of it, fun service, good coffee and countertops that are just the right level of sticky (“we are frequently used, but not entirely unhygienic”).

For one thing — and for some, this may be all you need to know — the coffee is good. Not “good for a diner” good, but actually enjoyable. The fountain soda was just right, and the milkshake was thick and deeply chocolatey.

For a diner, and a cheap one at that, there’s no shaking a stick at it. The turkey (in sandwich form) was one of the things I was most worried about; in a place where everything is just fried in butter on a giant griddle, would it be anywhere near decent?

Yes. There were fights over the gravy from those who wanted to mop it up with french fries, and the turkey itself was moist and plentiful. Best of all, the dish ended with another fight-starter — the gravy-soaked white bread hiding underneath.

The burger was similarly good, overflowing the bun, charred on the outside and dripping its delicious burgery juices down one’s forearm.

The pancakes and omelet were also above average, as one might expect of eggs and batter cooked on a griddle in lots of butter. The pancakes were the right amount of light and fluffy, and if I were a betting woman, I might be persuaded to put some cash on them against the vaunted Brownstone.

Although everything was of quality at the Flamingo, there were two dishes that managed to stand out a hair above the rest.

The first: the tuna melt.

An unorthodox tuna melt to be sure, served in closed sandwich form rather than open-faced, but a contender against Al’s any day of the week. Well-made tuna salad between two pieces of rye bread toasted, yes, in butter, to golden perfection on the giant — and perhaps magical — griddle.

Next: pie. It’s just damn good. The filling had a good consistency and strong lemon flavor, and the meringue was just sweet and sticky enough; not cloying, not too fluffy. So good was this pie, that despite the quantity of food we had just consumed (and believe me, we consumed almost everything), we ordered a second piece of pie.

The last thing to know about the Flamingo: they might be mind readers, and the menus might be just for show. The staff is blazingly fast, so fast that you can’t help but wonder whether they knew what you wanted before you knew it yourself. We got our coffee and placed our order, and food was shoved in front of me before I could so much as get a photo of the coffee cup. They’re that good.

GRAND TOTAL: $48 (with extra pie)

31 Montgomery St. | 201-434-6769

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a lapsed Catholic, lapsed vegetarian and lapsed lawyer, currently working in communications for the nonprofit sector and happily consuming bacon again. A highly experienced eater and Jersey City resident since 2001, she is the founder and editor of Thursday Night Smackdown, a food blog beloved by dozens.