Here is a story about drinking at the bar back in the day…
I could probably write a story on this.
My dad used to take me to this dive in Keansburg when I was probably ten or so. He was friends with the owner, let’s call him Carl. It was a total shit hole! When you can recognize this as a kid, you know it was a dumpster fire.
To this day I still vividly remember the burgers…best ever! I don’t think they even served food. The owner lived above the place and I think the kitchen was there just so he could cook. I don’t recall ever seeing anyone eat there but me. The owner would cook me up the greatest burgers I’ve had!
The burgers were probably like McDonald’s before my time. They were cooked medium rare on a griddle with onions and American cheese. I’m not sure what it was that made these magical as it surely wasn’t the ambiance or clientele. Everything came together and keep I mind I was young fella. The onion, juicy beef with charred outside, melted cheese, soft bun sopping up the juices…it was pure heaven! I still think about these today. My dad would order me burgers until I could not eat anymore.
Carl was a unique fellow. He lived above the bar and owned over 100 properties in nj. He made millions upon millions a year, and this was back in the day. He chose to live in a single bed apartment above his bar. He drove a 70s diesel benz with 300k miles. He liked to gamble and would go to Monmouth park and ac with my dad. He would literally bring a bag full of cash. I’m talking 10 minimum and often much larger bags. Here is the kicker…he would actually drive off the parkway to avoid a toll! Yes, he would avoid a 25 cent toll, or whatever it was then, and take a detour to not pay a toll lol. Meanwhile he has 20 large sitting in his center console. I can’t make this stuff up! My dad was like “Carl here is some change, let’s just get there”
I guess you get rich being frugal. Anyway, does anyone have any cool bar stories?
Sounds like Carl was a member of the Keelan family, they own 3/4 of the town and used to own a lot of the bars too.
Anyway here is my own Keansburg bar story…I remember as a little kid like 5-7 years old my grandparents used to take me to Keansburg weekly. We lived in Edison at the time and maybe it was a 30 minute trip that they would bring me on once a week when they watched me. They used to have one of those potato sack slides there and it just happened to be across the street from one of Keansburgs many “local” bars.
My grandparents obviously “older” would set up shop at the bar and give me money to go on the slide. All day I would go on the slide, cross the street to the bar, get more money, go back on the slide etc. etc. etc. I thought my grandparents were the greatest because they took me to the shore and let me go on endless slides…little did I realize that when I became and adult I would see that my grandparents just went there because it was the only bar with an amusement park to keep me occupied while they got stewed.
I also remember my grandfather would take me to the super market weekly, we lived within walking distance, and he would let me pick any candy out of the candy isle I wanted. He would let me pick out whatever I wanted, then we would walk the isles till I was done and leave. As a teenager I realized not once did we pay for any of those candy bars. hahahahhahahhahaha Love you Grandpa Sammy!!!
I remember when I was sitting in a dimly lit bar, they had a basket of snacks on the bar that I was dipping my fingers into as I was waiting for my drink. It was mixed snacks the one with chetto’s, pretzels, rye toast and a variety of other mixed snacks all together. As I’m chewing away I can’t quite identify the flavor of this particularly chewy snack, (( munch, munch, munch, munch )) finally I give up and pull out the chewy snack only to find someone put a cigarette butt in the snack basket.
Needless to say this was the last time I ever ate the “free snacks” on a bar.
This reminds me of the scene in Caddyshack where Spaulding, you’ll get nothing and like it, Smails is scarfing down drinks that weren’t finished and ends up with a butt in one and disgustingly spits it out.
He stumbles outside and hurls through the sunroof of a luxury vehicle. A soon to be not happy couple sits in said hurl.
I saw something on Food Network I believe that said those bar snacks were some of the most contaminated foods around. It looks like you hit the lottery on this one.
Another beloved institution to its locale has bitten the dust. Demolition began a few days ago and continues today on the Claddagh, an Irish pub in Highlands, NJ. I only visited there once, probably four or five years ago, but it was a cool place and I enjoyed driving past it seeing a little piece of Ireland sticking up in the middle of this beach town dotted with so many seafood restaurants.
My friend who is as Irish as a shamrock invited me there for drinks one afternoon before having dinner back at his house. The Claddagh was within walking distance, which was perfect. We sampled a few beers from their extensive list. I tried two new ones that day: Smithwicks and Allagash White. The former remains the only dark beer I enjoy, while the latter I felt was one of the more delicious beers I ever had. The kitchen was closed at the time we went, but our bartender was very kind, including offering us a makeshift flight to sample smaller servings of additional beers when we could not make up our mind on what we wanted next.
I remember my friend and I were the only people in the place, save for a trio of people in another room where, if memory serves me, there was a pool table. It was quiet and relaxed. Reviews I have read reveal that they actually served decent food and had a pretty good music scene at one point. Recent reviews note a drop in clientele and business, which ultimately led to its closing.
Supposedly, the “scene” at the Claddagh could get pretty rough back in the day. A friend of mine who is now a retired police officer worked one of his first murder cases there. I told him one day that I had just been there, adding, “Your territory”. He looked at me and fondly said, “Ah, yes, the Claddagh. That was my first murder. There was a body in the bathroom and had to step over two more just to get in there.” This was decades ago, though, and by all accounts the pub was a little less raucous in recent years.
I was hoping that a new business would enter the building because of its unique exterior, but alas, it is being torn down with people speculating condos will be built in its spot. That sounds par for the course in New Jersey.
Wow…that’s a shame. A very good friend of mine lived local to there as well and I had a fair share of cocktails there. After Sandy the entire town was closed to the public, they literally had the National Guard posted on all main roads into town checking residents ID’s, if you weren’t from town you weren’t entering town to try and prevent looting. The road block / check point we entered from was right outside of the Claddagh…I"m pretty sure they had a few tables set up and were giving the soldiers and first responders or anyone who walked up free coffee and water.
Straight ahead was the vacant lot adjacent to the Scuba and Beat (at the time Rice? Cuba? I forget) and the pile of debris that had been piled there was as apocalyptic a scene as I had ever experienced in my life.
Oh I remember that. I was long-term subbing and coaching at a school in Atlantic Highlands and we sent a team of volunteers into Highlands. It took at least a week for them to even allow us and we were teamed with a church group. I did several runs of food and supplies into the “restricted zone” (we called it) before a lady confronted me outside of her house which was turned into rubble thanking us but saying they needed pet food. So the next run we made, we brought a van of pet food, litter, etc, to a block right near the Claddagh.
This was before smartphones so I have no pictures, but it was a war zone. National Guardsman carrying machine guns. Police and FEMA everywhere (oh the stories about them I could tell…). If you took black and white photos of the destruction, you could pass them off as shots from World War II. I broke down and cried on the way back up. Some guy was begging us for gloves so he could start ripping apart what was left of his house, so I gave him my pair out of my back pocket and he was so incredibly grateful and almost cried himself.
The friend who I mentioned lives nearby had his house wrecked. But on a lighter note, he said after the storm, he went outside to discover a cooler packed with beer and ice had floated into his backyard. As he told me, “We had no power and my house was gone, but we had cold beer!”