I grew up in South Jersey, so my friends and I spent a fair amount of time hanging out in diners, and the Whitman Diner in Washington Township was one of them. So when I heard about a major renovation — namely, hiring DAS Architects (as in the firm that designed the spectacularly outfitted Union Trust steakhouse) to build a martini lounge addition — I had to cross the bridge and see what was up.
Well, the transformation is remarkable. The futuristic red-and-white room, complete with portholes on one side, floor-to-(high)-ceiling windows on the other, dangling red light fixtures, lots of plasmas, and VIP booths, brings a Stephen Starr kind of cool to an otherwise très uncool South Jersey. The $1 million spent on the addition shows in every physical detail.
Unfortunately, the Whitman did not put as much thought into their food and drink menu as they did into the ambiance. The specialty cocktail list veers too far in the sweet and silly direction, with drinks named Sexploitation, Pearmiscuous, and Aphrodisiac. As for the food, the calamari salad (sound familiar?) was the highlight, but the crab quesadillas were greasy and the chicken wings – “fire roasted” and served, strangely, with a mound of caramelized onion – were a huge disappointment.
Still, a fun room for Jerseyites. God knows they need it.