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Tag Archives: Brooklawn Circle

Empire Diner – Brooklawn, NJ

Empire Diner – Brooklawn, NJ

The Brooklawn Circle may still flood frequently, but the long standing Brooklawn Diner has been sweep out by the tide into the swamp of Big Timber Creek. Replacing the icon with new management and it has been resurrected as the Empire Diner. Almost everything is the same, except for a tad touch up and enhancements here and there. They now boast the largest menu in South Jersey. I wish them luck and by my visit they were off to a good start. The food was a little bit better than there predecessor with the usual Jersey Diner fare and service was prompt and friendly. I had the Chicken Marsala, green beans, carrots, and fried zucchini.

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Piston Diner (Review) – Westville, NJ

There are two things that Brooklawn, New Jersey had been synonymous for from 1979 until 2011. The Brooklawn Diner and the Brooklawn Circle. The Brooklawn Diner sadly went out of business suddenly in 2011 and had rumors of a re-opening in late 2012 that never materialized. The other, the Brooklawn Circle still stands strong, but sadly it seems if someone just even whispers the word rain, the entire circle becomes a watery swampy mess and backs up traffic horrendously. The only thing these two now have in common is while driving through the flooded Brooklawn Circle you can see the still abandoned shell that once was the Brooklawn Diner.

What was Brooklawn’s loss seems to be Westville, New Jersey’s possible gain. The former owners of the Brooklawn Diner, Gus and Aliki Miliaresis’s son Danny Miliaresis is now the owner of the Piston Diner (PD). PD also made a name for itself five months ago when a front loader construction vehicle drove through PD and forced its previous owner Jason Kramer to close PD for good after only being open just slightly past three months. I had never visited PD before so I do not know what if any changes were made by Danny Miliaresis to the interior of PD during my visit, but I can tell you the roof and ceiling are fixed as I sat in a booth that used to have a sky view. I liked the vibe and feel of the interior. It was bright and cheery with lots of old school nostalgia of legendary Hollywood stars hanging on the walls. The furniture seemed new and modern unlike some diners around whose glory days happened too long ago to even remember what unworn seating looks like.

PD started out with an Italian Minestrone Soup. The soup was a solid interpretation of this classic. From the broth, beans, pasta, and vegetables it was all seamlessly balanced with a decent flavor throughout. If all of their soups are this good, they may be a great place in the winter for a good soup and sandwich to warm up to. They also provided nice fresh rolls and butter to start the meal.


The main course was Chicken Croquettes atop mashed potatoes drizzled with chicken gravy with sautéed string beans and apple sauce as sides. The croquettes were a generous size and better than some I have had in the past. The green beans were a little too al dente as well as being under seasoned and the apple sauce was your standard out of a jar variety. It is not the best meal I have ever had, but it is by far not the worst either.

pison chicken

All in all my assessment of PD is that they are exactly what everyone who loves a Jersey diner loves about them. They provided me a decent meal at a very affordable price and a menu that is six pages in length giving you the ability to order almost anything your heart could desire at anytime of the day. At ten dollars I could not expect gourmet, but what they did give me was a very tasty soup, fresh rolls, a dinner in quality that was better than your standard chain restaurant, and in an atmosphere that was friendly and fresh. If PD continues in this direction and construction vehicles avoid driving through PD, Danny Miliaresis’s legacy in the diner business has the ability to last as long if not longer than his parents.

Build it and WILL they come?

Speranza – Westville, NJ


Westville, New Jersey does not seem like an obvious location to open an semi-upscale Italian themed restaurant, but  the Finney Restaurant Group who run eateries Gia Nina’s and Woodbury Station Café have to believe the saying from the movie Field of Dreams with Kevin Costner, “If you build it they will come”. Speranza in Italian means hope, and I know that not only is the town of Westville hoping for this to be the building block to finally have their much neglected and failed retail stretch of downtown finally thrive, but former Executive Chef of the now shuttered Red Square of Tropicana Casino; David Strano is hoping that the great reviews he received while chef there continue their trend here. During Red Square’s tenure open in Atlantic City as Atlantic City Insiders point out in their article (CLICK HERE TO READ) Executive Chef David Strano opened and closed its doors while being the only restaurant in Atlantic City to receive four stars by The Press of Atlantic City the entire time Red Square was in operation.


Speranza occupies the space formerly held by seafood restaurant Sea Haag. Sea Haag, who had service so slow and bad; I think two people could step inside the restaurant, either person could leave, drive down the shore, catch their own crabs, drive back home, cook and eat all the crabs they caught, head back to Sea Haags, and the other person would still being waiting for anyone there to even acknowledge they wanted to eat there. Well not only has Speranza done a complete 360 in terms of the ambiance and appearance,  the moment you step foot inside (the gelato bar looks amazing and I want to try all the flavors), they also had some the most accommodating and gracious individuals working there.


The food is also something people hailing from the small towns surrounding Westville will be surprised by. No longer will they need to make a plan for a night out in the city of Philadelphia and be bent over backward by the evil parking authority that hands out tickets like lollipops making your night out meal even more expensive than it needed to be, hang with the hipster types that are confused and wondering which social injustice they want to stand for today in Collingswood’s restaurant row, or pretend to fit in with the highfalutin types that make you want to gag in your mouth around Haddonfield. You can just head to Westville, be yourself, and enjoy a night out. Everything was of the utmost quality, with prices that would be double in the towns I just made fun of.


The Bianco wood-fired pizza was perfect in each way. Not too overdone, nice and crisp, with flavors that were appeasing in each bite. The Cioppino was amazing, with fresh shrimp, crab, mussels, clams, herbs, and a broth that was made to have its garlic bread soak in it and then shove it in your mouth with all of its soggy glory. YUMMY! The only blip on my radar was the shrimp and crab risotto. The flavor was slightly too minimal for the profile I was searching for,  especially with gulf shrimp listed in it, I would have liked to seen them cooked whole to enjoy instead of just being mashed inside the risotto drowning out their flavor. (FYI – the dishes were taken out due to unforeseen circumstances so please do not think this is what your plate would look like if you ate there)




Speranza has nothing but great things on its horizon if they continue the trend of quality dishes and friendly service. The only question is can they convince other people to stop in a town almost no one has ever heard of with nothing else surrounding them to make it a true night out expect maybe a hop over the famed roast beef hot spot Schilleens Pub for a night-cap. Only time will tell, but what I can tell you is that providing that the infamous Brooklawn Circle is not flooded, I will be making my way back to Speranza to check them out again.