Ponzio’s abides, through good times and bad

Beyond the chain restaurants and fancy lights of the consumer mecca that is Cherry Hill sits a diner on Route 70 that has managed to stay relevant and delicious even in complicated times.

Packed for every meal, during every day, Ponzio’s is one of the few eateries where families, seniors and power brokers feel comfortable booth to booth for a meal.

This family-owned diner started in the 1960s, and has been a community icon ever since. Recently, it upgraded its look and menu, so I had some qualms that something would be lost. But its classic character remained omnipresent when I returned this week. And the sweets display is still candy for the eyes.

A colleague and I sat down at the height of lunch, 12:30 p.m., to find great service from a fiery waiter with a sense of humor. Drinks were served within a few minutes, followed by bread and salad. Everything was clean and comfortable, even during the lunch rush.

We ordered one splurge item because it looked too good on the menu — crabcake sliders. At $8.99 we were pleased. Three crispy cakes with chunks of crab sat before us on toasted buns with a tasty sauce and a roasted red pepper on each mini-sandwich concoction. The presentation was a fusion of new world and old, and unexpected for a 40-year-old dining institution.

I ordered a classic hot open-faced turkey sandwich with fries and broccoli, while my colleague had the buffalo chicken salad. Both portions, as typical for American diners, were huge.

My only minimal complaint is that my fries and broccoli were slightly overdone, but still within the tasty boundaries. My turkey was satisfying, too. Not priced out of this world, at $11.99, on a cold and rainy day, it put me in the right spirits. Considering the proportions are enough for most people to take leftovers, it’s worth the money.

My colleague’s salad, at $9.99, was also good, and the buffalo chicken had just enough kick to be spicy, but not overwhelm the mouth.

Here’s to hoping Ponzio’s has 40 more years to come.

Reach Joseph Gidjunis at (856) 486-2604 or jgidjunis@gannett.com.

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