BIG RIG BREAKFASTS
Long-haul truckers in the know bypass the chain service centers to take on tasty human fuel
at the Truck Stop Diner, long a fixture at Turnpike Exit 15E in Kearny. by Tammy La Gorce
Driving up the Turnpike in his green Kenworth, pulling
a 48-foot trailer—the proverbial 18 wheels—Jeffrey Youngblood feels he’s home when he sees the cranes towering over
the docks at Port Elizabeth. After nearly 11 hours behind the
wheel—the legal maximum—he’s ready to refuel his truck and
New Jersey does not lack truck stops, including huge ones
run by national chains. At those, Youngblood says, “you’re go-
ing to get a barber shop, a laundry, a game room, a TV room,
a convenience store and a restaurant.” But at the only place
Youngblood wants to go, “you’re not getting any of that.”
When he and his calloused brethren hit North Jersey han-
kering for a great breakfast, bottomless coffee and a warm wel-
come, all at a painless price, the where is never in doubt.
“You don’t even have to say the name,” Youngblood says.
“Anybody who drives for a living anywhere on the East Coast
knows this place.”
He’s talking about the venerable Truck Stop Diner, just off
Turnpike Exit 15E in Kearny. Built in the early 1940s in clas-
sic railroad-car style by the Kullman Company of Harrison, its
11 vinyl booths face a counter with 20 stools across a narrow,
tiled aisle. At 9 AM on an autumn Friday, almost every seat and
stool is taken. Youngblood, 45, sits
in his favorite booth, farthest from
the door, with his friend and fellow
driver Arion Fordham.
Behind the counter, two cooks
in grease-spattered whites flip eggs
and griddle hash browns. One is Wilman Coronel, who has
manned the stoves since arriving from Ecuador 29 years ago.
The other, tall, lean and balding, is the owner, Sam Kolokithas.
Youngblood nods toward the cash register by the front
door, where Kolokithas’s wife, Areti, is ringing up takeout
orders for about eight broad-shouldered men in jeans, work
boots and canvas field jackets over flannel shirts.
“Those are guys who don’t have time to sit down and eat
before they reload,” Youngblood observes.
The lone waitress comes over to greet them, pad and pencil
in hand. This is Stella. (Never mind the last name. “It’s long
and Greek,” she says.) Youngblood
left, and boyhood pal
Arion Fordham meet
at Sam’s when their
routes overlap. Stella
(Continued on page 94)
ROAd FOOd: Sam Kolokithas,
chef/owner of the Truck Stop
diner, added fish and grits
to please Southern drivers.
All coffee is bottomless. “We
don’t go through a lot of
decaf,” he says.