“Diners make good disco fries,” says Tops Diner co-owner Dimitrios “Jimmy” Golemis. “If [a diner] can’t make a good disco fry, they should shut down immediately.”
Disco fries are a classic diner dish, made up of a mountain of crispy fries topped with melted mozzarella cheese and smothered in a creamy gravy sauce. It’s a dish that Golemis is passionate about serving at the East Newark, New Jersey diner, which has been one of the state’s most popular diners since opening in 1942.
Tops Diner is not your average greasy spoon, however. A complete rebuild of the diner took place in 2020, shortly after Golemis’s father who owned the diner since 1972 passed away. “He was adamant that we needed to build this new place, and give the people more,” Golemis says of his father. Now, in the new 16,000 square foot space, Golemis and his team pride themselves on serving classic diner fare made with high quality ingredients as well as upscale dishes like surf and turf —made with Brazilian lobster tail and USDA choice filet mignon — to over 15,000 customers per week.
And even though disco fries are named after those who desire them most — “people who are drunk at like two in the morning,” according to Golemis — they’re made with the same attention to detail as any other dish in the restaurant.
Tops Diner’s chefs make the dish’s overnight homemade gravy with stock made from veal marrow bones and fresh vegetables and herbs, among other savory ingredients. It simmers for 18 hours in a giant vat until a chef strains the unctuous liquid and then adds a homemade roux of butter and flour to thicken it up.
“This gravy is laborious, it’s a sign of love and tradition,” says Golemis.
Next, the fries enter the frier before being topped with shredded mozzarella. The whole plate goes under the broiler so that the cheese can melt, and then a chef arranges the dish into a high pile before dousing the entire mountain with a generous portion of gravy.
“When you’re making disco fries, and you’re making that [high pile of fries], the cooks kind of look at it like a masterpiece,” says Golemis.
Check out the full video to learn more about Tops Diner’s history, and to see how Golemis and his team operate the kitchen and make more of the diner’s famous dishes.