Some of my earliest and fondest memories are of going to the Millburn Delicatessen in Millburn, NJ with my father when I was a young girl. They have been written up in newspaper articles, magazines and now in a blog as the BEST DELI IN NJ.
Growing up, my father had a men’s clothing store, Martin Eastman Ltd. that was on the corner of Millburn Avenue and Main Street in Downtown Millburn, NJ at #340 (Coco Ice Cream is there today) and the Millburn Deli was 3 doors down at #328. We almost always held hands as we walked across the bridge (now completely closed off and ripped apart) and got one of their Sloppy Joe sandwiches with their famous iced tea.
Here you can see some of the photos of the construction going on just a few feet away as the Bridge is completely torn apart on Millburn Avenue.
In October, the deli celebrates a birthday and at the same time the bridge next door is under construction. Downtown Millburn, looks like it is in a war zone. Lanes are cut off, it is loud, the parking is limited and the road is ripped apart. Still ‘our Millburn deli’ is like The Little Engine That Could. It just keeps on chugging.
I accepted a challenge (call it a dare) to eat at the deli for 30 straight days.
I wanted to lend support to all the stores in my home town so we can get people to visit downtown Millburn, NJ and keep these businesses thriving during this tough time.I did not think it would be difficult considering I just love the place, as do most of my family and friends. Several hundred of them on facebook to exact. Check out my Millburn Deli photo album on facebook so you can keep track of my visits in October 2010! http://www.facebook.com/home.php?#!/album.php?aid=2086894&id=1520495000
Long ago, this was an old fashioned deli owned by Mr. and Mrs. Jacobs and the moment you walked in, there was (and still is) a familiar smell that made your mouth water. I knew all the counter help by name, and they knew me, including the owners’ son Terry Jacobs.
As a child, I could barely see over the glass that separated the wooden prep areas from the the throngs of hungry people, sometimes 10 feet deep, so my dad often picked me up to put me on eye level with the men (only men back then) who made the sandwiches. Pencils behind their ears, writing the prices on the paper bad to add up your total and then the old fashioned cash register to ring up the sale. I can see it if I close my eyes. There was a sign on the counter that said DON’T BLOCK THE AISLE, the once famous aisle which is long gone, but I could not read, so it did not prevent me from being trampled a few times.
As I got older and was allowed to venture over by myself, I often had a few quarters in my pocket and that was enough for a roll with butter or a roll with russian dressing. When I was in Junior High School in the early 1970’s (now Millburn Middle School) all of my friends and I would walk down Old Short Hills Road after school and head for the deli for our 3:30 pm snack. We walked thru the parking lot, settled on a spot in Taylor Park and ate the empty calories as if we had died and gone to heaven. It was a ritual for many of us. More than thirty years after graduating from Millburn High School in the class of 1978, many converstations about our childhoods in Millburn or Short Hills, NJ, revert back to stories of the Millburn Del. Considering they first opened in 1946, it is not unusual to meet folks who graduated from Millburn High in the 1950’s who feel the same way.
Apart from the quality and diversity of every morsel of food they prepare and serve, which is much more varied now than it was when I was younger, the Millburn Deli just gets under your skin. For Millburn kids, its in our blood and wonderful memories of going there and eating there, created the fabric of our youth for many special occasions. It was our meeting place; convenient, affordable (much friendlier now than it was then) and most of all delicious. Just last month I met my childhood neighbor Harriette Birnholtz, who flew in from CA. I have not seen her since 1969, and we met with other local Millburn friends to stuff ourselves full of various sandwiches. None of us can explain why it was so satisfying, but sitting out at the sidewalk cafe tables, even with LOUD BANGING NOISES all around us, was perfect for us. Not a seat was empty and no one minded the construction around us.
Platters of sloppy joes (that it itself is another entire blog), Friday Specials, with a container of pickels, some potato salad, macaroni salad and extra sweet iced tea, became the food of choice for birthday parties, football games, funerals, wakes, showers and probably even weddings.
As a real estate agent at Towne Realty Group, we regularly order
sandwiches from the deli for our office meetings or to entice other Realtors to attend our open houses. (remember the movie ‘Field of Dreams’? – our motto is, ‘if you feed them they will come’).
When I was pregnant with my daughter, this was the food I craved for nine months. The only food I dreamed of at the hospital after my child was born. From the time her first four teeth had grown in, my daughter asked for a ‘sloppy joe’. I guess it runs in the family since that is still her favorite sandwich. These days, if you look at the clock behind the counter, you’ll see a picture of her that hangs on the wall when she was a toddler, holding a sandwich that was almost bigger than she was.
Only 3 more weeks to go and look forward to seeing you at the Millburn Deli soon! Call me if you are coming to town for Joe and say hello!