What was Thomas Edison ‘s favorite dish? Just a mile away, he had an industry producing over 2,900 patents of the world’s first electrical appliances, while his wife received international scientists and other inventors. Did the Edison houseguests, like Madame Currie or Eastman (Kodak) try the famous mushroom soup? Edison’s daughter, who also lived in nearby Llewellyn Park in a fairytale inspired rustic French Style Castle, affrescoed with madrigal scenes, did she take her kids to Pals for hotdogs? Or her brother Governor Edison, who lived next door in his Buckingham Palace inspired stone mansion? Of course!!
Pals Tap Room was a favorite spot for the local industrial age millionaires, who ventured over the Mountain at Eagle Rock to enjoy local grilled fare, while hobnobbing with other celebrities. They came to enjoy the view of the dawning of the new world, the spectacle of the skyscrapers rising in the distance, illuminated by Mr. Edison’s miraculous invention of electric lights. Guests from the nearby five star Hotel Montclair, (now the site of the Rockcliffe) would venture to Pals for the famous grilled meats and mushroom specialties. Montclair and Llewellyn Park, perhaps the wealthiest neighborhoods in the world at that moment, lay just at the foot of the hill. At that time, the roster of names was said to be like opening one’s medicine cabinet….Colgate, Yardley, Wilkenson, Merck and then there were the Sinclairs, the Goodyears, Auchinclosses and Roosevelts, many of whom enjoyed cruises together on luxury liners or trips to nightclubs in Bermuda, some “hot spots” designed by the very same internationally famous nightclub designers of Pals Tap Room.
When a friend of mine’s grandfather who invented the homogenization of milk dined at Pals, he demanded that his butter be brought to the table chilled in bowls of ice. He also had a concern about secretly being served garlic. The chef would have to come out of the kitchen to promise him that there was no garlic whatsoever anywhere. Another friend’s dad who lived at Undercliffe Road had a direct hotline going between his butler and Pals’ hamburger grill all hours of the night. Pals’ clients were among the wealthiest people in the world at that point in history.
My grandparents stopped in frequently and my mother and father went on dates there. From the Tap Room’s windows, you could see the Golf Club, the Holmes Estate, now Mayfair Farms, and the Holmes’s riding rink, now Whole Foods and Kmart. These were the last drops of our local fox hunt countryside, before suburbia moved in and the wealthy country estates moved farther west, to the Morris County horse country.
Who would entertain these fine industrial revolution figureheads and New York City millionaires? Henny Youngman, Jay Mills, George Brown and none other than Liberace, who was discovered at Pals! His baby grand with a brass plaque remains as the focal point of the Tap Room’s bygone glamour. Pals Cabin’s founders, the Horn Family, discovered Liberace, who had started off as their children’s piano teacher. I remember Mrs. Horn who was an acquaintance of my mother, a tall stylish lady dressed “to the Nines”.
Today, greeting the third and forth generation of Pals loyal regulars is Marty Horn’s great grandson
Mike Dan, a handsome and charming spitting image of Pals Cabin’s founder. History repeats as Pals remains my favorite historic local venue.