There ain’t no party like the one that takes place in a diner at 2:00 am. In the mid-1990s, almost every table at a Garden State diner would be taken by partygoers who were fresh out of the club — and ready for some drunk munchies. Their menu item of choice? Why, it was Disco Fries, of course. If you want to talk Disco Fries, talk to the folks at the Summit Diner. The Summit is New Jersey’s oldest diner and dates back to 1929.
Disco Fries– Noun. French fries covered in cheese and smothered in brown gravy.
Example: “I need some Disco Fries if I’m going to make it to work in the morning.”
Jim Greberis has been at the Summit Diner for 34 years, and has been serving Disco Fries for just as long. “They were more popular many years ago, but people still order them,” he said. See, the thing is, people have gotten healthy — and Disco Fries are what Jim calls “muchie food.”
Classically, Disco Fries are crisp cheese fries smothered in gravy. “It only works if you use good gravy,” he said. As for queso, mozzarella is the go-to cheese. “Customers like to change things up and get American cheese from time to time, though,” explained Jim. “I actually like the American cheese with our gravy. It’s a good combo.”
The Story Behind the “Disco”
Old-school staple the Tick Tock Diner in Clifton been serving tipsy club goers 24/7 since the 1940s. “Cheese always makes it better. The fact that the gravy melts the cheese makes for a drunk person’s heaven,” said Niko Hatzigianakis of the late-night treat. Niko, who has been with the Tick Tock family for more than 16 years, says the dish has taken on a life of its own. “It used to be something you only saw in the middle of the night. But we see it more and more during the day. Especially during breakfast.” The way Niko sees it, club kids from the ’80s and ’90s aren’t staying out late anymore. Now, they’re taking the family out for breakfast, so Disco Fries are that little nostalgic treat … or an overtired parent’s heaven if it’s 9 am on a Sunday.
So, Who Really Invented Disco Fries?
Niko would disagree with anyone who says that New Jersey invented Disco Fries. “If you’ve ever been to Canada, they have a dish there called poutine,” he said of the dish, made with cheese curds. “That is really where it started.”
But New Jersey’s where it ended — and residents are very particular about how they take their Disco Fries. About 10 years ago, Niko led the charge to create a whole menu revamp dedicated to Disco Fries. “We had a whole section with all the different things you could put on your fries that was a take on poutine. But no one really went for it,” he said. “That’s the thing about New Jersey. They like what they like and that’s it. Fries, gravy, cheese. Nothing else.”
Hey, when you’ve achieved perfection, why mess with it?
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Hero (Top) Feature Image: © Ezume Images / Adobe Stock
Additional Images (in Order) Courtesy:
David “Rev” Diancio
Tick Tock Diner
Niko Hatzigianakis / Tick Tock Diner