It used to be Bergen County for New Jersey excursions, but lately the communities along the Middlesex and Union county borders have won me over. Edison is as suburban as anything but there’s a substantial Indian and Chinese community that makes food shopping and dining more interesting while hitting the biggies like Costco, Target and Trader Joe’s.
We were looking for a Sally Beauty Supply so I could pick up some bottles of professional hair color (it’s cheaper than buying consumer boxed dyes and I was specifically looking for the Miss Clairol Gray Busters line, which you can’t get at your corner Duane Reade) and a few blocks before our intended address we impulsively pulled into a mini mall, lured by the A&W/Long John Silver’s combo store advertised on the sign. I then remembered that we’d eaten Indian food in this strip before, ages ago before I even knew what Edison was. There was still an Indian place, but the name has since changed from Delhi Gardens to Hyderabadi something-or-another.
Still hungry, we noticed a gleaming, tricked out modern diner across the street. Skylark. I’d actually heard about this relatively new eatery, but didn’t realize this was where it was located. It was worth a try. I might’ve called it an upscale diner but that was before I saw the last episode of Top Chef. There were no tempura vegetables & mozzarella with cornichon aioli, but they did have crispy shrimp tempura with spicy citrus aioli.
They also ask if you want bottled or tap water, which is a bit too much. However, the emphasis on wine and cocktails didn’t put me off. It was too early for a martini, but all of the many color coded iterations using scary things like Midori and chocolate sauce were only $7. Maybe I’m just Manhattan-ized but that seemed like a good deal (minus the Razzmatazz liqueur).
I was a little freaked out when they brought complimentary bruschetta to the table. It just seemed like an odd thing, and initially I was concerned that we’d gotten someone else’s starter. To be honest I’ve never understood the appeal of chopped tomatoes on bread. Let me clarify, pa amb tomaquet is surprisingly good in its simplicity and I’m sure “real” bruschetta with garden grown produce is similarly bewitching. But supermarket tomatoes in the middle of winter not so much. But I like free, so no complaints.
I really loosened up with the appetizer. Melon is my enemy but I was willing to try the chicken and tasso ham egg rolls with a jicama watermelon slaw and bourbon bbq sauce. The crunchy pink cubes didn’t really bother me as much as I’d feared and it was a tasty, albeit slightly overwrought dish.
Even though it was 4pm, we hadn’t eaten anything yet so it was a toss-up between breakfast and lunch food. I chose the best of both worlds, my old Portland fixation, the monte cristo. As I’ve recently pointed out, it’s treated more like a breakfast food in NYC. I was pleased to see that this specimen was listed with other sandwiches and came with fries. But it did come with a little metal pitcher of warmed maple syrup. In the NW you’d just get jelly. This version came on cinnamon-swirled french toast. Classy. The sliced turkey was on the dry side but as a whole the sandwich was satisfying. I ate it with a knife and fork because it seemed wrong to drizzle or dip into syrup when eating with your hands. The fries were also better than decent and came covered in a spice blend that’s more typical of curly fries (why are curly fries frequently spiced, anyway?).
The one thing I’ll say for New Jersey is that they keep it nice and Jersey for you. Yes, they were pumping in the dreaded ‘80s music but it was all rock: Bon Jovi, Journey and more. At one point it struck me how jarring a random dirty guitar solo stood out amidst the retro-contemporary décor. Around 5pm, it started getting dark and smooth jazz came on. I got scared for a second like it was now officially moody dinner time, but then the power chords came back on after the brief interlude. Phew.
Skylark Diner * Rt. 1 N. & Wooding Ave., Edison, NJ
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