Some say it's the familiarity. Others say it's the convenience of location. Regardless, it's the small-town, casual atmosphere, friendly service and reasonable prices that bring customers back to The Parkside Coffee and Grill in Hopatcong.
Every morning, Monday through Friday, various locals start their day at Parkside. Around 8 a.m., a group of six gentlemen, sometimes more, sometimes less, sit down at their usual table and talk about politics, local government and their lives over coffee and breakfast.
Bill Ridge said the men have been getting together for coffee for at least 17 years, and most of those years have been at Parkside.
"It's the only place in town where you can actually sit, come in and enjoy it. This is a landmark. It's been here forever," Ridge said.
"And this is our table. We try to make sure we always get it," said Ron Jobeless.
At a two-person table along the window, Paul and Barbara Barnish, eat their breakfast, generally the same meal every visit: eggs, whole wheat toast, home fries and coffee at nearly the same table every visit. They said they like frequenting Parkside because of the good food and nice people. Plus they know a lot of the other customers.
"See those guys over there, (referring to the group mentioned above) they're probably solving the gulf oil crisis, Afghanistan, the war in Iraq and other things all over breakfast and coffee," Paul Barnish said. "They're always in here."
As the men and the couple leave they say bye to the server, Jessica Baron, and she addresses them all by first name.
Around 9 a.m. another group files into Parkside. They refer to themselves as "The Old Gang," or "The Oldies but Goodies." Every Monday thru Friday, six to eight members of the old gang eat breakfast or just sit and talk at Parkside.
"We overstay our welcome," Betty Castoro said.
"But we haven't been thrown out yet," Diana Scotto said.
"Yet," Castoro added with a laugh.
The women agree that the best parts about Parkside are the servers, the atmosphere, the reasonable prices and the food. And that they know everybody else.
"We see everybody here. That's my next door neighbor that just came in," Phyllis Reidy said.
Before Parkside was Parkside, the building was home to a slew of other grocery stores, delis and restaurants.
In 2001, co-owner Frank Ferraro saw that the building was up for sale. Tired of traveling from working in Sales, Ferraro was ready for a new business venture. Despite having no background in the restaurant business, Ferraro was interested in buying Parkside, then known as Alps.
"My wife bought a house here, and I figured I'm sick of traveling, might as well try something else. I traveled all over the United States, the Southwest, and so forth, and the food was bad. That was also an incentive for me to try to open up my own place," Ferraro said.
For a year they closed for renovations. They re-opened with a 42-person dining room, yellow painted walls, drink machines and a few hanging lights. At first they sliced deli meats, but Ferraro said now they're trying to get away from the image as a deli.
"It's a restaurant; it's a breakfast and lunch place. We don't do deli. We don't slice cold cuts. We'll make a cold cut sandwich, but we won't slice a pound of ham," Ferraro said.
The restaurant's open Monday through Friday from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 7 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., with full waitress service on the weekends.
During the week when people are in a hurry, Ferraro said they usually don't have time for a waitress.
"We try to be a little fast casual on the weekdays and try to be a little more expedient, get people in and out," Ferraro said.
But that doesn't mean people can't sit down and stay for however long they want.
"During the weekdays people come in, sit down, have a cup of coffee, sit for hours, relax. They kind of have free range. They do whatever they want and can stay for however long," server Erin Butt said.
Just ask a handful of locals, they're sure to stay for hours.
Here's a Q&A with co-owner Frank Ferraro:
What are some of Parkside's goals?
Our goals are to attract new customers, younger customers and people who would be inclined to go to Ihop or Perkins or a place like that. We plan on expanding our website, going on Facebook and doing promotions through Facebook.
Why has being located in the heart of town been a plus?
We're next to the park, that's definitely a plus. It's also a plus because it's been here forever and it's been part of the community for a hundred years.
What's the best part of the community?
Everyone's friendly. It has a small-town feel to it.
What makes Parkside stand out?
Parkside's the only place in town that's a large dine-in place with friendly staff. We have an extensive breakfast menu. We also have over 10 different kinds of hamburgers, cheesesteaks and so forth. It's a traditional meeting place for the locals here in Hopatcong. We have good food and reasonable prices. We're about to re-do the menu. We'll have three or four different kinds of stuffed crepes, banana, chocolate chip pancakes, new omelets, breakfast wraps and eggs benedict on weekend.
Funniest Parkside Story?
Everyday is a funny story, I can't just pick one.
Favorite Parkside Dish?
Monte Cristo: Three slices of French toast, grilled turkey, grilled ham and melted Swiss cheese. Comes with French fries for $6.95. It's tasty and satisfying.
Most popular dish?
Parkside Combo: Eggs, Pancakes or French toast, home fries, sausage and bacon ($5.85). Taylor ham, egg and cheese (sandwich) is also popular.