Growing up with the Daily Treat

FAMILY, FOOD & DRINK, LIFE

I don’t remember the first time I stepped foot in the Daily Treat.

I was young enough, actually, that my parents probably carried me into the restaurant, young enough that I didn’t eat but slept quietly at their side. I’m guessing I was about two weeks old.

My parents have loved the Daily Treat since before I was born.

Back in 1987, over sandwiches and salads with the real estate broker, they discussed their future in this quaint commuter town right outside of Manhattan. I think the charm of the restaurant drew my mom to Ridgewood, a place where she knew no one and would be alone most nights while my dad worked long hours at a nearby hospital. She was 24.

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Photo: dailytreatrestaurant.com

Looking through the Daily Treat’s large windows facing Ridgewood Avenue, my mom watched young mothers with strollers walking by. Even though the rest of her family lived on Long Island, where she grew up, she began to picture a new life in New Jersey. In a way, my history with the restaurant began right then.

The Daily Treat has been around for more than 50 years and is a constant in a village that’s constantly changing. As newer, hipper restaurants and shops have moved to town, the Daily Treat has stayed put. For me, it’s a place of comfort. I always order the same thing: eggs and toast or chicken fingers with thick-cut fries. I know when I walk in I’ll see one of the Greek owners, Gus or John, standing behind the checkout desk, greeting customers at the door.

It’s funny how places, just like people, can be there for every milestone of your life.

The Daily Treat was where we’d go with both sets of grandparents after concerts, dance recitals and graduations. It’s where my brother and I complained about ordering off the kids menu and then insisted on ordering off the kids menu, as soon as we were too old.

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Photo: Foursquare

In the sixth grade, the Daily Treat was the first place my friend Jolene and I went “alone”. We dressed up in our best Abercrombie & Fitch outfits, packed our faux leather purses and smeared on lip gloss before walking the half mile to town. I remember the sense of independence we felt going to a restaurant without parents. To us, this was the first step to being grown up.

In high school, the Daily Treat was a respite from the stress of exams and too many extracurriculars. I’d go with large groups, either during an extended lunch or straight after school. I remember seeing groups of middle schoolers and thinking about how young they looked. Do these kids even know how to split a bill? How are they here alone? At some point it occurred to me that we used to be just like them, a giggling gang of sixth grade girls sharing a couple orders of fries. Looking back, I’m surprised the owners tolerated us.

I spent my college years in Indiana and a summer out in Toledo, Ohio, where I was a reporter for a local paper. My job took me across cornfields and through downtrodden Midwest towns where the sense of decay was palpable. I was lonely – most of my friends were interning in New York City that summer – but while on assignment I found comfort at diners that reminded me of Daily Treat, diners that reminded me of home.

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Photo: Dave D., Yelp.com

I still go back to the restaurant a few times a year – it’s where my childhood friend Laura and I catch up when we’re both in town. The place hasn’t changed much, though they now have al fresco dining and fancier-sounding menu items like Grilled Portobello Salad and Prosciutto Caprese Wrap. Over refill after refill of coffee we talk about our jobs, relationships and families. Sometimes we stay for three hours but no one ever rushes us, interrupting only to pour more coffee into the small white mugs.

It’s strange to think I’m already a year older than my mom was when she and Dad settled down in Ridgewood, yet I’m nowhere near as settled. Sometimes, when I’m at the Daily Treat I can almost see my parents sitting at the booth by the window, leaning into their drinks and one another other, exhilarated by the thought of starting their life together in this pretty village outside of New York City. Wondering how long it takes to thread yourself into the fabric of a community, how long it takes to call a place home.


Read more about the Daily Treat and its history here. 

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Why Jersey’s Fabulous

OPINION

Because this is my blog, and because I’m from Jersey, and because the debate never ends, here’s further proof as to why my state’s fabulous.

If you need more convincing than this video (seriously, watch it!) I’ve come up with ten common misconceptions about New Jersey. Read on, skeptics.

1. Jersey is one big slab of turnpike.

NOT TRUE! Jersey is actually 15% farmland, and its nickname, the ‘Garden State,’ isn’t just a joke. The Pine Barrens, a densely forested area in southern Jersey, makes up 22% of the state. The turnpike is one of the most heavily traveled highways in the U.S., and the sites alongside it aren’t NJ’s best. But most people who have this conception of NJ have never driven OFF the highway. I could say the same thing about any other state, if all I did was pass through.

2. What exit are you from?

Yeah, I’ve maybe heard that one twice in my life, and it was because someone was asking me for directions.

3. The Jersey Shore is actually like the “Jersey Shore”

Wrong, again. The Jersey shore encompasses 127 miles of beautiful coastal land along the Atlantic. Most of it is filled with summer homes, restaurants, and hotels– it’s a huge family vacation destination. Seaside Heights, where “Jersey Shore” is filmed, is a 0.8 square mile borough, hardly representative of the shore as a whole. And maybe you’ve heard that only two of them are actually from Jersey.

The "real" Jersey Shore.

4. No one of cultural relevance comes from New Jersey.

Frank Sinatra, Thomas Edison, Yogi Berra, Bruce Springsteen, Brian Williams, Meryl Streep, Jon Bon Jovi—you guessed correctly. They are all Jersey born and raised.

5. “Joisey.”

No. Just, no.

6.  Jersey’s main industry is oil refineries. 

If you’re an avid Sopranos watcher, I can understand why you’d think this. But New Jersey is actually an economic powerhouse– the second richest state in the nation and a leader in telecom, pharmaceuticals and agriculture. The economy also heavily depends on, gasp, tourism!

Look at all that farmland! Washington Township, Morris County

7. New Jersey drivers are the worst.

Substitute “New York” in the above statement and it becomes true.

8. The only people who like living in NJ grew up there.  

False. New Jersey has the highest population density of any state in the nation, and for a reason. The state is also one of the most diverse. People come here from all over the world for our schools and vibrant metropolitan area. If you live in New Jersey, at least four major cities are easily accessible: New York, Philadelphia, Boston and Washington, D.C.

9. You don’t have to pump your own gas. 

100% true! Love it.

10. Other things you might find interesting…

The first baseball game ever was played in Hoboken, New Jersey, and the first college football game was played in New Brunswick between Rutgers and Princeton. Over 100 Revolutionary War battles took place in the state. New Jersey has more shopping malls and diners than any other place in the world. It is also the birthplace of the drive-in movie, the boardwalk, the postcard, the zipper, the light bulb, and FM radio.

Jersey may not be perfect, but it’s got a lot to offer. So before you judge, actually go there.

I’ll meet you at exit 163.