Edie’s Luncheonette, Little Silver, NJ

His burger obsessions have frequently been played for comic relief and his baseball love has been well-documented here on GFS, but today my partner in crime, my husband Dan Cichalski, gets to tell his side of the story for a change.

When something works, why change it? That may not be the official business model of one of my favorite hometown eateries, but it applies nonetheless.

edie's, little silver njThere are a dozen or so restaurants I can recall frequenting while growing up, among them Perkins (if not before it was a chain, then before all the franchises changed to the uniform green-and-yellow color scheme), Friendly’s, The Ground Round, Brothers’ Pizza in Red Bank (I called it the “Monster Restaurant” because it was so dark inside and had little lamp-like votives on the tables), Briody’s in Rumson. Yet they’re all either gone from the locations we visited or significantly changed from what I remember. All except for Edie’s Luncheonette in Little Silver, NJ.

According to the restaurant’s own history, the 160-year-old building in my small hometown has been serving breakfast and lunch for about 43 years, first as Dennis’ Luncheonette in 1967, then the Sundown Sub and Coffee Shop in 1970 and, since 1973, as Edie’s, as it is generally known.

What’s more remarkable, however, is that since Edith and John Bacigalupi opened the diner as Edie’s in 1973, it is now on its third set of owners, yet any noticeable changes have been minimal and mainly related to upkeep (perhaps some new tables and chairs) or progress (a new soda machine behind the counter). You can still walk in and get a hot breakfast, a toasted sandwich or a grilled burger. And no matter when you go, one item on the menu is always a must for me: Edie’s seasoned fries. Sure, they may simply be waffle-cut seasoned french fries, much like those offered by other places, but I’ve yet to try any that taste better.

I couldn’t count how many times I’ve had breakfast or lunch there—it’s a short walk down the street from my parents’ house—because each visit is similar to the last. I’ve gone with my parents and sister, with my friends and with family in town on the day after Thanksgiving. Though I may have grown up, in my memories of Edie’s, I’m usually somewhere between 6 and 16, eagerly anticipating that plate of fries.

Casey and I drove down to Little Silver recently to have lunch at Edie’s and see if it remained as I remembered. As best I can recall, I hadn’t been there since before the current ownership took over in 2006. As far as I’m concerned, it could’ve been five, 10, 15 years ago, so little has changed.

edies-little-silver-nj
At lunch on a Friday, we didn’t have anything close to the crowds I was used to seeing at breakfast the day after Thanksgiving or just about any weekend, so we picked two seats at the counter where we could look up at the extensive menu board on the wall above us. Neither of us really needed the reference, however: Casey went with a tuna melt and I got a cheeseburger—and Edie’s seasoned fries for both of us.

It’s not an indictment of the place to say that the food isn’t why you go. Though the grub is better than your standard New Jersey diner fare, Edie’s to me is more a place to catch up with friends, to get a plate of your chosen comfort food on a cold winter morning as you chase away the cobwebs from the night before. As we sat eating our lunches, I recounted my memories of unexpectedly running into friends while waiting for a table, of hearing how Bruce Springsteen allegedly once stopped in, and of ordering cold cereal because I loved the tiny boxes—miniature versions of what you see in the supermarket.


I also looked at the black-and-white photos of old Little Silver on the walls and gazed over my shoulder at the Coca-Cola machine and cabinets behind the counter in the back. It’s the same spot as the 30-year-old photo of my sister, Jessica, and me, taken in the winter of 1980-81. That picture was probably snapped on one particular morning when a blizzard had closed the schools and our parents, both teachers, bundled us up and pulled us up the block on one of our two Radio Flyer sleds to get breakfast.

As with just about everything else at Edie’s, little has changed from what is shown in the photo. The tiles on the wall below the countertop look the same, the cabinet—though now empty—remains. The Coke machine may be a newer model, but if Jess and I wanted to, we could meet at Edie’s sometime this winter and stand for a modern version of that same photo. While she and I may have grown up and moved to different parts of the Garden State, at least we know that when we go home again, some things have stayed the same.

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Comments

  1. wino says

    We all have an Edie’s in our hometown, but most of them are now gone. You are lucky. It’s great to go back an enjoy.

  2. Joan says

    Great reminiscence of a fun spot and one of my favorite photos of you two! Sometimes we didn’t use the sled and we all walked over after shoveling out. And of course, we still have that Flexible Flyer– which was Dad’s when he was a kid!

  3. says

    nice story, Dan. I’m thinking you and your sister should plan for that meet up and photo…and another round of seasoned fries.

  4. says

    What an adorable photo. Not to take away from the fact that your description of this place proves that it is special, indeed. They must be doing something right to be in business all those years.

  5. Casey BarberCasey says

    Yep, that’s my ginger husband on the left! Any time any of you are in the Jersey vicinity, I’ll take you on a date to Edie’s. I’ll even buy you a tuna melt.

  6. Allison Bacigalupi says

    Dan and Casey,

    Thank you for posting this article about my family’s (once) restaurant. I grew up behind that counter, serving famous guests such as the Boss (I can attest he *definitely* went more than once!), Bon Jovi, and players of the NY Giants, not to mention the tons of customers who came in everyday of the week (except Sunday, when we were closed) who became like family for us. My dad used to make Bruce Springsteen pancakes in the shape of guitars…wouldn’t that make you a regular too?? I have so many fond memories of this portion of my life, which would have never been possible without my wonderful grandmother, Edie. During this Thanksgiving weekend, and with my 27th birthday being tomorrow, I am thankful for you posting this article and pictures, and bringing back so many wonderful memories of having this milestone of a restaurant in my life for 23 years. I learned how to tie my shoes sitting on the fourth stool at the counter, once flipped a mini-cheese omelet with my hand as the spatula (ouch!), had countless family birthday parties at night, and learned how to count and make change by helping my dad zero-out the register at the end of a long day. Regular customers would probably remember the 8×10 pictures that my dad would put up of me by the register…everyone saw me grow up, school picture after school picture! Nothing could ever replace those memories, which now seem like a past lifetime. Our family may no longer be in the restaurant business, or even on Rumson Road anymore, but we will always be thankful for the thousands and thousands of customers who graced 164 Rumson Road time and time again during the 33 years we were blessed with this business.

    Thank you again, and much love and blessings from the Bacigalupi family!

    -Allison Bacigalupi-

  7. says

    Dan & Casey-
    Allison, my niece, passed your article around to our family. I know all of us felt the great warmth from your words. Our mother, Edie, was so proud of her restaurant and so passionate about all of her customers- She would be thrilled to hear that the memories live on in people like you. You mention the snow storms-where everything was closed down-my mom would always say- “we have to open- people need to eat- they need a place to go” and sure enough all day long people would trudge through the snow or ski up to the door for a little warmth and a lot of good food. I even remember one day having to light candles all around the place so people could see because the electricity was out in the town. Just an incredible time.

    Many of us kids grew up in Edie’s and met so many incredible people. If you were there in the 80’s- I was probably your waitress! Thank you for reviving this wonderful memory. we hope you enjoy those Edie’s fries for many years to come.
    Happy Holidays~ Lauren

  8. Joan says

    Yes, still the same except for you two getting bigger and older!! And we still have the sled… it will be on our front porch sporting a red bow for Christmas! And Dad and I still walk over on a snowy day for breakfast, although as RETIRED teachers, “snow days” are a little different! Edie was special and the restaurant remains so today.
    Great story, great memories!
    Mom