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Success Story: Pals Cabin

Even in tough economic climate, this business thrives

This May marks the 79th Anniversary of Pals Cabin. Pals Cabin is a north Jersey landmark. Perched at the intersection of Eagle Rock and Prospect Avenues, the white chimney, boldly emblazoned with black capital letters, unmistakably declares “PALS.” Then, there’s the aroma that emanates from that chimney, appealing to a meat lover's most primal urge.  

Pals Cabin has been run by three generations of the Horn Family, with very humble beginnings. Pals was founded in 1932 as a 10’ by 12’ hotdog stand by Martin Horn and his “pal” (yes, that’s where the name comes from) Roy Sale. The business nearly closed following the first year, then, luckily prohibition was repealed. Martin and Roy began to sell alcohol, and soon got the idea to sell charcoal broiled steaks at affordable prices.  The business flourished. Today Pals has 300+ seats, an extensive menu, a full bar and, according to Martin’s grandson, Marty, Pals sells hundreds of burgers a day, and countless steaks. 

Before my visit, I heard a lot about the Pals burger and wanted to experience it for myself. Marty let us into the kitchen, where he and veteran cook and grill master, Ernest Goldman, showed us how they prepare the famous Pals Burger. How was the burger? Perfect! Click here to watch the video.

Following my burger lesson, Marty led us through the Winchester Room, complete with portraits of General George Custer. Don Horn, Marty’s father, is a Custer enthusiast and is on the Board of Directors of The Little Big Horn Society. Needless to say, remnants of American history could be found throughout Pals.

We then went to what is undoubtedly my favorite room at Pals, the Tap Room. The Tap Room was originally called the “Entertainment Room,” and is complete with bar, and red, scalloped banquets. The corner banquette in Tap Room is known to be Yogi Berra’s favorite seat. 

Over the years many celebrities have passed through Pals, including Bob Hope and Babe Ruth. The Entertainment Room also houses the piano Liberace played while he was the piano player for Pals. Unfortunately, the Horn/Liberace relationship soured when the young piano player requested a $20 raise. Martin Horn Sr. refused and Liberace headed west.

The story of the Horn Family and the success of Pals Cabin is the quintessential American success story. It was necessity that was the mother of invention for Martin Horn Sr., but dedication, passion, and pride is what has sustained the business for three generations. 

Micki Marias May 12, 2011 at 03:11 PM
Had my first lobster dinner at Pals way back in 1958 at the age of 8, while visiting from Ohio. My grandparents decided it was time for all the grandchildren to try lobster. My grandfather bought lobster dinners for 8 adults and 7 grandchildren. We celebrated a birthday that day also. I remember the candles that kept lighting back up after they were blown out. Pals will always have a warm place in my heart. We have returned many times over the years and have always enjoyed the food and service.

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