Such a restaurant and theme would be fitting of Central Pennsylvania more than anywhere else, but there it was in the middle of Long Branch, New Jersey. Casey Jones’ Restaurant is an establishment that left an indelible mark on my early days of eating out. After all, there was an actual train car attached to the building where you could sit and eat. What child would not find that cool? I feel like I ate here more frequently than the other restaurants profiled in this column. Once again, this feller bit the dust in 2007, meaning the upper end of my teenage years. My memories of Casey Jones are vivid, perhaps because it was just too unique to slip off into oblivion.
When you first walked in, there was a giant cardboard cutout of New Jersey radio legend “Big Joe” Henry. He was pictured with a rack (or two) of ribs, for which the restaurant was known. There was a dining area immediately when you entered, with a bar room to the left. On the right was the first train car, a caboose, which was a dining and lounge area for smokers (remember those days?). If you walked past that down a pathway, it brought you to two more former freight cars turned into dining areas. These certainly got the job done for atmosphere. They were long and narrow, and a bit darker than any dining room I had been in. This area was booths only. The backs were extremely tall, possibly to the ceiling. This gave each party total privacy. When factoring in the lighting, you could not have a more cozy experience. There was a small lantern on the wall that hung above the specials, drinks, and dessert menus. This emitted a calming golden glow on each table.
I do not actually remember what I would order for a meal. Ironically enough, I recall enjoying their New England Clam Chowder and also their house salad. Why something so trivial? The dressing was amazing—a cross between a Caesar and an Italian. They had a special menu they would put out in the spring and summer where you got both the soup and salad with the entrée. The meal that stands out is the baked Boston Scrod. My mom would order it every time. I believe I had it a few times as well. Aside from the ribs, it was the seafood which also shone brightly. The wait for a table on Fridays during lent would literally be out the door.
Other little tidbits include them offering beer “by the yard”, which was literally a cup as long as a yard stick. I remember my dad having that a couple of times and pre-21 year-old-me getting the cup filled with soda. They had the Casey Jones logo on them and could be taken home as a souvenir when finished. There was also an area with free books in the front of the restaurant. You could take one to keep and read. A sign next to the books kindly asked you to bring a different book on your return visit.
Overall, there should be more than just the one or two pictures online of this place. I really figured there would be more. I have a lot of childhood memories. Upon doing some research, apparently a diner opened in its stead after the 2007 closing but only lasted a few years. As of 2017, the property was zoned for residential, and the building either has already been knocked down or is awaiting the wrecking ball.