WEST ORANGE, NJ — The Chit Chat Diner finally opened its doors on Eagle Rock Avenue on July 31, after months of preparation and anticipation. The diner’s second location comes to West Orange after expanding from its original location in Hackensack. The property is the former site of the Eagle Rock Diner, which closed its kitchen in 2015.
“It was a soft opening, we’re not open 24 hours yet,” Lola Katsanos, owner of the Chit Chat Diner, said in a phone interview with the West Orange Chronicle on Aug. 2. “Eventually we will be, but we’re not ready to do that yet.”
Katsanos said that while the diner is not operating at the level it eventually will be, it is open to the public. She wants to make sure the West Orange location is as successful as the Hackensack location.
“We want to live up to those expectations,” Katsanos said.
Since opening, the diner has received some mixed reviews, though the majority seem positive. West Orange resident Stacey Reese ate at the Chit Chat Diner with her family, and said the service was slow on opening day.
“The service was slow, though our waitress was cool, calm and collected even as other patrons started to complain about long wait times for food and drink,” Reese said in an email to the Chronicle on Aug. 6. “We got our drinks after our appetizer, which was a good 20-minute wait. The whole meal took about two hours. Most of that time was just waiting for the waitress to come back with food or back around to ask for a drink refill or for the check.”
Still, Reese said she would be returning to the diner.
“We expected Chit Chat to have a few kinks, especially on opening night,” she said. “We love going to new places the day they open and going back often to watch the business evolve.”
According to Reese, prices at the diner are a little higher than a typical diner, though it has a typical diner menu. “They are more compared to a themed restaurant when it comes to their prices,” she said.
“I think it stands out, but in a good way,” Reese continued. “West Orange needs more eateries and I’m happy to see this in town, especially as it took the place of Eagle Rock Diner that was formerly on that plot of land.”
Letty Zalme-Case is another resident who ate at the Chit Chat Diner on the day it opened, and also had a good experience.
“The wait staff is very nice,” Zalme-Case said in an email to the Chronicle on Aug. 6. “They brought a few experienced people over from the other diner. They were polite and some very delightful young people. I give a little leeway because a lot of them are new and it was their first day.”
Like Reese, she also said that the prices at the diner are slightly higher than one would expect.
“The prices are a tad higher than your run-of-the-mill diner, but it is also a more interesting menu with a great view and atmosphere,” Zalme-Case said. “But I thought it was actually badly needed. I was tired of having to drive to other towns for a diner. I’m retired and eat out often, but I don’t always want Italian or expensive. This is a nice alternative. I actually think they should do well there, as it is somewhat unique. Not as expensive as some of our high-end places and not your normal diner food either.”
Photos by Yael Katzwer