The Colonial Diner on Route 18 has been a staple in East Brunswick for decades–many a high-school lunch has been eaten there, many a late-night afterparty snack chowed down, and many a family Sunday breakfast devoured. We have eaten so many meals there it is impossible to count. The restaurant offers classic diner fare, some with a gourmet tweak, as well as a salad/soup/baked potato bar and a variety of oversized cakes and pastries. It used to be part of the Americana group (see other posts…) but we recently learned it has gone solo (oddly not reflected on the website). That doesn’t stop it from offering tasty pancakes, great feta crepes, burgers (veggie and non), salads and more. We visited recently and finally ordered something we’ve been eyeing on the menu for years–the Girl Scout Cookie milkshake, a concoction of chocolate chip mint ice cream, oreos, milk and whipped cream–a decadent indulgence. Next time perhaps the Granny Smith apple pancakes… Open 6 am to 11 pm weekdays, til midnight Friday and Saturday.
Reports have arisen that there is a beaver or beaver family living in a pond off Hart’s Lane in East Brunswick, and as rodent lovers we had to investigate. How beavers could get to this locale is beyond our comprehension, but the notion of them living in this community elated us. We drove to the little water feature and saw some very, very suspicious activity–chomped-down trees and piled up sticks. No visual confirmation of the buck-toothed cuties, but we are rooting for them here and everywhere. Based on the photos, what do you think?
Playmobil toys are hallmarks of Germany, but where there’s a will, New Jersey will find a way, and in fact the manufacturer has its warehouse and US offices right here in a complex in Cranbury near the Turnpike 8A entrance.
The products are made in Germany and Malta, and distributed in the US through this facility. With a side jaunt through the warehouse complex though, it is easy to see the company’s logo face emblazoned hundreds of times larger than life on the building’s exterior. There is no retail at this location, although they have been known on occasion to have a warehouse sale–but there is a Playmobil Fun Park and store at Woodbridge Mall for those who are inspired to purchase. Toys make everyone happy!
Few places in the world have the population of giant horseshoe crabs that New Jersey does–it is a mecca for the ancient critters, who like our state’s sandy shores for breeding, feeding and happy daily living. However, now a truly giant horseshoe crab–47 feet long to be exact–has moved in to the Brielle/Mantaloking area.
The $96,000, 25,000 pound concrete sculpture, designed and constructed by Point Pleasant artist and SCUBA instructor Christopher Wojcik, in partnership with the Blue Ocean Institute, is temporarily situated on a barge in a Brielle marina. We visited the giant crab while it was still above water and it was a sight to behold. No crowds, little fanfare, just a 12+ ton crab on a boat, and super cool.
As part of a program called Art as Reef, it was due to be sunk three miles off the shores of Mantaloking on July 25 but was delayed due to weather and still awaiting deployment as of this writing. The crab, which will hold the Guinness World Record as the largest underwater sculpture in the world, will serve as an artificial reef for more than 150 species of marine life. Another feather in the New Jersey cap!
A NJ-only chain with 10 locations in and around Monmouth and Ocean counties, Surf Taco quite simply has delicious Mexican food. The menu includes all sort of traditional items such as burritos, enchiladas, tacos, salads, etc., and a variety of daily specials. The salsa bar exceeded our expectations in a very pleasurable way–the mild salsa was addictive, the salsa verde was delectable, and hot salsas were HOT indeed (ie: not for the faint of heart).
We visited the Belmar location on a darkened and stormy afternoon along with hordes of damp and bikini-clad beachgoers escaping the rain for a tasty lunch. The atmosphere is beach-shack casual–perhaps a little too casual, as we do wish there were a shirt required stipulation for dining in… Ordering is done at the counter, where service was friendly, and brought to the table based on a number system. The wait time was reasonable and allowed us the opportunity to raid the salsa bar multiple times even before our food arrived.
Our meals were fresh and flavorful, and prices were fair. Would definitely return, especially on a less humid and rainy day with fewer patrons and more clothing.
In 1734, the site of the Walnford Estate was a working gristmill. A Philadelphia Quaker named Richard Waln saw an ad for the property in a 1772 newspaper, and was compelled to buy its grist mill, saw mill, fulling mill, blacksmith and cooper’s shops, a large 2-family brick house, five tenant houses, farm buildings, 100 plowed acres and two orchards. He renamed it Walnford, constructed an elegant home and moved in with his wife Elizabeth and children in 1773.
The site saw many changes over the ensuing years: Son Nicholas Waln and his bride Sarah Ridgeway Waln took charge of Walnford in 1799. The property grew to 1300 acres and and a 50-person village. Nicholas died, and the two Sarahs—wife and daughter—maintained Walnford as agriculture and milling production moved
west. They sold off some of the acreage and focused on redesigning the home, adding a post office, rebuilding the mill after a disastrous fire in 1872, and adding the current carriage house and cow barn.
The property stayed in the Waln family and was transformed into a quiet Colonial Revival estate until it was sold after 200 years of occupancy to Edward and Joanne Mullen who lived in the home and ultimately donated it to the Monmouth County Park System in 1985.
We toured the main house, learning interesting details such as the nature of the original flooring, paintings of the residents, operation of the old-fashioned kitchen, the sleeping quarters and arrangements, and eyeing the original period antiques. We also walked through the carriage house and stables (“some” of us are apparently 14 hands tall), and visited the grist mill, which, we determined would make one cool apartment in modern day.
An antique car installment was on display, but we were too late to see anything of consequence and focused instead on the free tour, friendly guide and serene grounds (that we wish we owned). The park system holds programming on site–ice cream making and eating, tea parties, educational seminars etc.–and there are fully usable picnic tables on the grounds.
There used to be a load of covered bridges in NJ, but now there’s only one left–in Delaware Township. It is pretty cute.
It is called Green Sergeant’s Covered Bridge, and it has quite a history. In the days of horse and carriage, drunks from the local tavern would stop their horses right in the wood structure, thinking they were home, and go to sleep. Now it welcomes motorists and cyclists traveling westbound over Wickecheoke Creek on Rosemont Ringoes Road near Stockton (a regular concrete and stone bridge accommodates eastbounders).
The bridge, named after local mill operator Richard Green Sergeant, was erected in 1872 during the administration of Ulysses S. Grant, and totally rebuilt in 1961 using its original materials. Important note: the pronunciation of the bridge name is “sir-gent” not “sar-gent.” Locals will laugh you out of town if you get it wrong.
We exclaimed with glee when we finally came upon this bridge, since we weren’t sure exactly where to find it. After driving over the 84-foot covered span, we pulled to the side to take photos, read the historical plaque and, ok, swipe some rocks for the garden from the dry streambed (shh).
As the lone remaining of its kind in the state, this bridge is a non-negotiable stop for all Newjerseyologists.
Andy Griffith may be gone, but the spirit of a bygone era lives on at Rambo’s Country Store in Califon. It is, no doubt, an odd stop for a group that is 2/3 vegetarian, as its main claim to popularity is as a meat counter. However, even the more herbivorean of us enjoyed a trip to a different time at this unusual find. Touted as “not a convenience store,” the store showcases meats, deli, homemade dinner specialties (chicken pot pies are a mainstay and the store says they sell 60 per week!), and grocery items in a old-fashioned general store setting.
The store was built as one of the town’s three original general stores, by Abraham Philhower in 1888, and it has been in continuous operation ever since. It was sold to the Apgar family, who owned it for almost 50 years, and then taken over by the Rambo family who ran it for another 50 years (the butcher shop section was added during this time by Leonard Rambo, Jr.).
The store is now owned by Donald Freibergs, who was born and raised in Califon, and worked stocking Rambo’s vegetables shelves before and after school when he was only 10 years old. He and his wife, Marie, bought the shop in 1998 and work together there as a family with their children Margaret and Andrew. The pot-bellied stove, 1911 hand-crank cash register, counters and wooden floors are all original. Leonard Rambo, the former owner, still comes in twice a week to help out, stuffing sausages and helping out with the meat deliveries.
We partook in a sandwich, chips and some diet sodas (resisting the temptation for an ice cream cone), and sweated old-fashioned summer style on the store’s rustic porch. Other customers (including someone also with a dog named Bentley) were going in and out as we sat. It was good to see an old mom-and-pop shop thriving in the middle of our usually modern state.