Elizabeth Memories

pastBy Diane Norek Harrison

ELIZABETH-Here are some memories from former Elizabeth resident Roger Stryeski: “Attached are some of my memories of Elizabeth in the 1970s.  Most are concerning food and where to get it. I came to Elizabeth and St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in 1974 and worked there until 1987. Coming from a small Bergen County town, this was the first city, excluding college and the Army, that I lived in.  And it was a fun food town to be in and single.

“After the evening shift, there was the eternal Spirito’s and later Finnagel’s at the arch.  Spirito’s was no butter and constant yelling and screaming and utensils being thrown in the kitchen.  Good Friday was the big day with clam sauce.  Finnagel’s had an American menu and the kitchen was open late catering to the Eastern Airlines crowd.  It was the first place to have Newcastle Brown Ale.

“Date dining was Daphne’s at the Sheraton and Johnny Murphy’s Brass Horn.  Daphne’s also had a great cocktail lounge and I loved the Veal Oscar.

“One date at Daphne’s was with a lady from the Philippines.  She marveled eating raw veggies and snails at an upscale restaurant.  In her country, only poor people ate those. Murphy’s was fun because of the crowd of regulars.  Mr. O’Connor had a brass plate for HIS table (something only seen at bar stools).

“Working various shifts, I hit other places.  After a day shift at the hospital, I would go for roast beef at the 640 Club on South Street. Coming off midnights and having breakfast at Bruce’s New Yorker on East Jersey or Pete’s (?) on Elmora for the $2 specials.  Sunday’s was picking up bagels at Elmora Bagel and alternating with the Snowflake Bakery, across the street, for buns.  In those days, IHOP on North Broad had scrapple.

“I remember the old lady places such as Dorothy Dennis’ for seafood and Polly’s Elizabeth Inn in the Halsey House with their mismatched crockery.   And I once went to Christine Lee’s to see the place that had a more than a food reputation.

“Lived for a period in Elmora, getting sandwiches at Goodman’s and trying (and not impressed) with the kosher pizza from the Jerusalem Pizza.  Before Evelyn’s on Westfield Avenue, there was another restaurant that had cabaret.  Evelyn’s had the best lobster tempura.

“Hotdogs were a partisan fight:  Jerry’s, George’s, Stewart’s, Nathan’s or some ‘foreigner’ would suggest Peterson’s in Union.

“Dieter of the infamous Red Parrot had short lived places at the Winfield Scott Hotel and on Magie with Swiss-German food.  And for a short time there was the Velvet Room at the Carteret Hotel.  These felt like high end private clubs (then again it was my youth).

“Some people think of this time as the age of shrimp cocktails, steak and Mateus Rose.  I remember eating stuffed calamari and being regular for oil and garlic spaghetti.  One item for an appetizer that I do miss was the baked baby bries sprinkled with almonds and the accompanying crusty French bread.  Flambé food was still in vogue and wines were Blue Nun and various Corvo’s and they were the hot items of marketing.”

Thanks Roger for sharing your memories in my column! Have similar memories for Clark, Linden or Rahway? Hoping to hear more from readers from all four towns. .

If you have your own memories or past material for Clark, Elizabeth, Linden or Rahway you can email me c/o dianenorekharrison@juno.com or send copies of your material to me c/o CMD Media 1139, East Jersey St., Suite 503, Elizabeth NJ, 07201.

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