A blog about living in Aberdeen, New Jersey.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Route 34 Strip Is Aberdeen-Matawan's New Main Street

Times change.

When we first moved to the area thirty years ago, Main Street in Matawan was a different place. A neighborhood-sized Foodtown grocery store was not in contention with Price Club. Harris Hardware was not yet wrestling with Home Depot and Loews. Matawan Drugs was not competing with CVS and Walgreens. And Johnnie's Cozy Corner was serving breakfast and lunch to a walk-in crowd that wasn't coveting an IHOP meal. While there's still a bank, a post office, and a library on downtown Main Street, there's little else to draw a crowd.

Today's Main Street is the Route 34 Strip between Main Street in Matawan and Lloyd Road in Aberdeen. Locals looking to avoid the big box stores and movie multiplexes in Keyport, Hazlet, and Holmdel go instead to convenient shopping centers and stand-alone store fronts along Route 34. Here are some of my favorites:
  • My regular light breakfast gnosheries are Starbucks and Eli's Bagels. See what Mack-Morris Realtors has to say about Eli's. They're not the only ones offering praise.
  • A more substantial meal can be found at Park Place Diner, Trattoria Rustica, or Court Jester. Peter's Fishery is good but my wife is allergic to shrimp so I'm not a regular.
  • An exotic meal can always be found at Amravathi (Indian), Kicky's (pan-Asian), or Mahzou (Japanese).
  • Fast food includes many of the regulars: McDonald's, Taco Bell, KFC, and Burger King. (Wendy's is on Rte 35. Subway is near the Parkway Exit 120; and where the heck is a local Quiznos??)
  • When Friendly's closed, that left the strip with no chain restaurants: the closest Applebee's are in Middletown and Marlboro; Friendly's and TGIFridays are in Hazlet. Red Lobster is in East Brunswick. And Chili's and Houlihan's are in Holmdel. (I heard that a Benihana will replace the Macaroni Grill that closed in Holmdel. True?)
  • Summertime desserts are found on the strip at Ice Cream Palace or, just north a ways on Route 34 to Rita's Italian Ices. And don't forget Stewart's drive-thru on Main Street just south of Route 34 for summertime burgers, fries, and fountain drinks and desserts.
  • Shop Rite and Stop and Shop are the big grocery stores on the strip. Maybe too big? Neither is the kind of place you want to drop into for a quick purchase of hot dog rolls or milk and eggs. Shop Rite has lots of ready to eat meals and a fancy bakery near the door, but you have to walk to Pretoria to find the milk, eggs, and juices. No doubt there is a market for a cozier, more convenient grocer.
  • None of the drug stores have a local character. That market is glutted. I think I shop most at Walgreens on Broad Street, but they're all pretty much the same. Watch for a shakeout.
  • Bank of America probably has the most local branches but its office along the Route 34 strip is completely off anyone's radar. Could it be more difficult to get into or leave? I take my drive-thru ATM business to the BOA branches on Main Street in downtown Matawan and the Hazlet branch near Airport Plaza. (I dearly miss the drive-thru ATM in the A&P shopping center on Route 35, by the way. That ATM disappeared when the UJB branch closed and brought its ATM into the A&P store eons ago. That old branch became the Cliffwood branch of the US Post Office, thus the many inexplicable "drive-thru lanes" behind the post office.)
  • For fun there is Strathmore Lanes and the Clearview Cinemas in Strathmore Shopping Center. You can rent a movie at Blockbuster, but I suspect that business is on borrowed time.


  1. Don't forget about the new Siam Smiles thai place. My fiance and I have become regulars! They're also on 34, in the Pine Valley "plaza" between the Hess and the Flower Shop on rt 34.

  2. Apparently the place used to be called Cafe de Thai. I'll have to check it out, then I'll add it to the list. I like Thai food. (Blogger doesn't always do a good job of notifying me when a new comment has been posted. Sorry for the delay in responding.)

  3. What about the new place Maloney's down on actual Main Street? Every time I pass the place it's rocking! What the heck do they have going on in there?

    Just got back from there, had a bad cut of the porter house because one side was extremely chewy and the other over cook, so i just ate the fillet side, and now i am in my house throwing up from food poison. And do you think the owner cared!! NO, didn't even come over and say sorry about the cut. Just a sorry would have been sufficient. The waitress was great, the owner or manager whoever he is is very high up on himself. So needless to say i eat porterhouse all the time and i would have rather grabbed a McDonald's happy meal instead of eating that garbage

  5. My Mom would take me to Johnny's for grilled cheese and chocolate milk when she got her hair done across the street back in the late sixties. In high school (Matawan) we'd cut class for grilled cheese, burgers and fries before heading to Holmdel park (The Nike missle base was still there)to hang out with friends.

    We'd go to Jensen's meat market (before Foodtown bought them out) across the street from Johnny's (Had that plastic life-sized cow on the roof..LOL)every week. The next nearest food market was the Food Circus (with that giant clown sign) on RT 35 in Middletown, way before they built the Shop-Rite on Lyod Road. Come to think of it the first and only McDonolds was across RT 35 from Food Circus (which became Two Guys and now I don't know).

    The only indoor movie theater was The Strand in Keyport (well before it's...uuhm seedier side) everywhere else was Drive-In's. You had to go into the city to see the major movies in the winter (thats where we saw all the early Bond movies The Good, Bad and the Ugly and 2001).

    Drove through the area last summer first time in 28 years, if it wasn't for rote memorization of all streets and highways I would have gotten lost at every turn. I barely recognized a thing. Change happens...but it's sad to see places and people go.

  6. hi. I'm trying to remember what the store was before it was Jamesway (currently the stop-n-shop). Any idea?


  7. Hey, Jay. Hope you're doing well. Saw you on "What Would You Do?" Nicely done. They're lucky they do that show in NJ. I suspect people might be less tolerant in the Red States. Before Jamesway it was S E Nichols department store. My wife used to sell appliances there.

  8. Jay,

    I believe it was Nichol's for a while. I was trying to remember what it was before that!!!
    This is Mrs. Evans...Dan, Tim & Tom's mom.

    1. It was Grant's before Nichols.