Day Trippin' on the Route 130 Corridor

Living in New Jersey for over twenty years, I get sick of the same old jokes about "what exit?". Sure, New Jersey is a car-based state, but there's a lot more here than just highways -- and to prove that, I'm writing about traveling on Route 130 through Burlington County.

Day Trippin' on the Route 130 Corridor

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by joellevand on August 15, 2005

I can still remember the excitement of heading to the Howard Johnson on Rte 130 North after a holiday shopping excursion with my mother and her two sisters, my cheeks red from the cold and my lips colder as they slipped around the red and blue striped plastic straws in my unusually thick milkshake.

In the car, a navy blue Buick Skylark, were the many trophies of our consumer hunting expedition: bags from Boscovs and Children’s Sample Shop among the other fashionable middle-class stores of the outdoor promenade of the Willingboro Plaza, where we’d picked up everything from kitchenware to a new Girl Scout uniform. While my mother and her sisters chatted about big, important adult things, I swung my legs happily; we’d started the night out with a meal at the Ponderosa Steak House and now I was ready for our drive back up the highway to the Delran Shopping Center to see the newest Disney animated feature in the Millside Theatre. Dining, movies, snacks, and shopping all on one highway!

Ten years later, tooling down the highway at speeds hitting seventy or eighty, hardly any of that early-eighties economic establishment that was the Route 130 corridor was evident as it became a no-man’s-land of teenage loiterers, stabbings, and good ol’ fashioned drag-racing. While some of the diners of my childhood were still in operation, most had begun a strict curfew policy; no one was willing to stay open twenty-four hours. The Willingboro Plaza was a ghost town, a rat-infested shell that stood as a depressing reminder of prosperity while vines and weeds slithered up the sides of the Howard Johnson like the tentacles of some Lovecraftian monster from it’s watery home and the Millside slowly decayed, it’s marquee still bearing the name of the last movies it showed, including the abominable Spice World.

Flash forward another ten years. Now in 2005, commerce is returning to the hollow remains of the once glorious corridor. The theatre has been knocked down to make way for a new Target Greatland store and the Hartford Square Shopping Centre has brought a shops, salons, and even a Quiznos to the tiny burbs of Burlington County. We even have a college on our fair corridor and enough unique Mom and Pop shops to make it well worth a two hour detour on your next trip up north.

${QuickSuggestions} While I’ll try and cover the highlights of this fun and diverse strip of sixty miles in New Jersey, there’s not enough room to cover every nook and cranny of the state, so I’ll give you a few places worth a mention, though not necessarily a whole review to themselves:

Holiday Ice Cream
Okay, I used to work for these people, so I’m not the best judge of their establishment – especially when I know all their dirty little secrets – with an emphasis on dirty. However, they’ve been voted the best ice cream stand 15 years in a row by the readers of the Burlington County Times, beating out such favorite national chains as Baskin Robbins and Dairy Queen, so you should definitely check these people out. Several thousand New Jersey residents can’t be wrong – at least not fifteen years running!

Pennsauken Mart
The Mart – a dirt mall, flea market, yard sale en masse, and everything in between when you need something quick and dirty – is closing down its doors to head for new digs down the highway in Willingboro, but not before it has a massive moving sale. Check out the Avon and Mary Kay sales ladies (even if it’s just to glimpse the blue eyeshadow, acid-wash jeans, and big hair that New Jersey ladies are stereotypically known for) as well as the Amish market for unbelievably good homemade foods at unbelievably low prices; it’s a great and cheap source for whole wheat flour, wild rice, and those other health foods that Wholefoods overchages for!

Rick’s Army Navy Supply Store
Yes, you can buy the World War II surplus tank in their parking lot, but only if you have the prohibitively large sum their asking for it and a big rig to haul it away on – it doesn’t come road ready, and New Jersey state troopers don’t particularly care for tanks. That said, if you’re looking for something a little less expensive, there’s tons of camping gear and the cheapest Army surplus boots in South Jersey.

Golden Dawn
Okay so sinister name with Alistair Crowley connotations aside, this diner makes one of the best breakfast trays you’ll ever eat. I heartily recommend the tomato, onion, and cheese omelet with whole wheat toast. Trust me when I say it’s just delish!${BestWay} Next time you’re on your way through Jersey on the Turnpike/ 95, why not take a little detour and see what real Jersey girls know makes New Jersey great. Come see that New Jersey isn’t just factories and guys with an uncle named Sal. This is the heartland of New Jersey.

From 1-95 North, take the Delaware Memorial Bridge into New Jersey and follow the signs for Rte 130/Collingswood. Then you can pick up the PA Turnpike to the NJ Turnpike in Florence and keep going north, or head up to Bordentown and pick up interstate 295 to 195 and the Turnpike or Parkway.

From the Turnpike, Exit onto 195 West. Get off at Exit 60, I-295 South, and then follow the signs for Rte 130 South to Burlington or North to Bordentown.

If you travel by NJ Transit, the Riverlink light rail line runs parallel to the highway, coming closest at Burlington City Center. Hop off there and wander down High Street until you see the Burlington Diner.


Member Rating 4 out of 5 by joellevand on December 2, 2005

As a teenager, my friends and I weren't really into clubbing, fake IDs, semi-alcoholic track that half of our regional high school seemed to aspire to. Conversely, we weren't part of the loitering in parking lots, harassing anyone over 30 group either. We were part of a fairly large subgroup of teenagers particular to the wilds of New Jersey known as the Diner Set, kids who diner hop from one to another as each closes for the night, finally congregating in one 24-hour joint, where we passed the night away drinking, smoking, and talking about sex, among other things. Among my group of drag racing, boyfriend-swapping, and '50s-era teens, there were two diners we favored above all others. One was the Medport Diner in Medford New Jersey; the other was Dynasty.

I can still remember sitting in the back booths in the smoking section after school, looking over our shoulders for teachers or administrators as our friends smoked cigarettes and joints, and we tried to fix up one of the less-attractive members of our fringe group with a slutty girl who hung on the fringes of our work-related group who'd slept with my boyfriend a month prior. We had a plate of mozzarella sticks and a single cup of coffee between the five of us: myself, Nanette, Doug, and the couple we were trying to fix up. In most places, this sort of act--ordering one item for multiple people just so teens have a place to stay after-hours--would be quickly recognized and we'd be thrown out on our asses, but not here. Hell, one waitress even got into the conversation, trying to convince this girl to "slum" to the prom with our nice but unfortunately enabled friend.

And that waitress is still there today, 6 years later, still sitting in on teenager's conversations, still minding the smoking section with a telltale cough well into the morning.

The menu is fairly diverse for a tiny roadside eatery. On any given day, you can order fried shrimp, a hamburger, lasagna, or any other American-style comfort food, plus a choice of New Jersey-style "health food," tuna salad stuffed in a tomato or a veggie burger dripping with white American cheese, and soft drink refills are always free.
7001 Route 130 South
Edgewater Park, New Jersey
(609) 461-3151

Mastoris Diner

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by joellevand on December 14, 2005

When one thinks of words like “fine dining” and “banquet,” “wedding” and “cocktails,” one can rarely reconcile such a place as being a diner. Our brains simply will not allow us to mingle the images of women decked out in frilly, cake-like dresses that cost more than our cars and a diner, a notoriously dark, dingy, smoke-filled establishment with regulars named Chuck and Butch who roll through in big rigs and waitresses named Martha with blue-white hair and the husky voice that accompanies three decades of chain-smoking.

Mastoris is a rule-breaker, the exception that proves the rule as it were. A diner in every sense of the word, from an expansive and inexpensive menu available during all hours of operation featuring diner staples like mozzarella sticks and jalapeno poppers to its cozy booths, it is also just what its promotional materials promise: a fine-dining experience.

There are various rooms with various smoking regulations, including a large dinning hall and banquet room where, on most Saturdays, it is not unusual to find a newlywed couple kissing and cuddling beside a towering confectionery creation from Mastoris’ large and capable bakery, which can handle anything from simple three-tiered white puffs of fondant and marzipan to the elaborate multicolored sloping skyscrapers of the trendy, hipster set.

This is not your teenage hangout diner. There is a long, large garden room with floor-to-ceiling windows, glass chandeliers, table linens in most rooms, and the standard paper placemats in few. There’s also, much to my girlish delight, a fully stocked bar that includes a fully capable bartender who can pour you an unbelievably delicious pint or whip up some cosmopolitans that’ll make your mouth water.

And then there’s the bakery, which many local families often order all of their pastries from, whether it’s danishes for the local American Legion meetings or the aforementioned wedding cakes. People from all over South Jersey travel here to pick up loaves of their sugary blood sugar-busting cinnamon or cheese breads, which are served complimentary with every meal and available for purchase for $5. The cupcakes are absolutely beautiful creations, and they have the uncanny ability to make one of the best tiramisus outside of Italy.

Most of all, in addition to the smartly dressed wait staff, the full-service bar and bakery, and the impossibly posh décor, there is an atmosphere, an ambience if you will, of all the nice things in life, a place where calories don’t count and carbs are your friends. From the chicken scaloppini to the surf and turf (try finding that in your local greasy spoon!), every detail has been attended to in order to make this a full, wondrous dining experience.

Come early or expect to wait--seats fill up fast at this local favorite, especially on the weekends.
Mastoris Diner
Routes 130 & 206
Edgewater Park, New Jersey, 08505
(609) 298-4650

Stewart's Root Beer Drive-In Diner

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by joellevand on December 15, 2005

Remember those old '50s-style drive-in diners, the ones where you pulled up along the side of the building and cute waitresses on roller skates and waiters in white paper hats served you at the window? Probably not, as these are mostly an invention of Hollywood, with very little substance in the real world. However, one such drive-up diner does exist, right on New Jersey's famous Route 130.

Stewart's Root Beer is more than just a landmark, it's a Burlington City tradition. Three generations can trace their first job back to this little orange-and-white shack, where root beer floats are called "black cows" and "California burgers" resemble very little of the health-conscious cuisine we've come to associated with the modern Golden State. The boys still wear white paper hats, the girls skirts and aprons, and both make change at the car side window with the help of flip-down coin dispensers slung low on their hips.

Of course, no place is all ambiance, and Stewart's is home to some of the most delicious fast food you'll find in the state. The hot dogs are old-fashioned pork hot dogs slow roasted, the way soda shops used to do them; the milk shakes are thick and malted; and the fries are crispy, crinkled, and served with tooth picks for classy eating.

David absolutely adores the '50s Americana kitsch value of driving up and eating in the sweltering heat of a late summer afternoon, blasting the radio and watching the high school-age waiters hit on the freshmen waitresses when they think no one's looking. It's strange that, with all the '50s nostalgia cafes reminiscent of Pulp Fiction, you actually can find the most authentic American '50s experience in a building built after the Second World War.

A family establishment, Stewart's is open from mid-May until late September and closed every Sunday. Items are available for takeout. The best day to go is the first open day of the season, when locals compete for a spot in the parking lot to win the honor of First Person to Eat at Stewart's for the year, a title that includes a free meal.

Stewart's Root Beer Drive-In Diner
584 South Delsea Drive
Edgewater Park, New Jersey, 08360
(908) 276-5700

Che an Assistant Manager at the Rte 130 Cinnaminson Wal-Mart!

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by joellevand on December 3, 2005

Two weeks ago, David and I were on our way home from work, and we needed to get a few things, including something to eat, and remembering how wonderful ASDA curries were, we decided to get the cat food, flea collar, envelopes, etc., from Wal-Mart and check out the food section.

Well, of course they don't have curry here, nor did they have the Little Britain DVD that had just come out. But hey, we got the cat's stuff and the envelopes, so that was enough for us. We found the "express" check out and got in line.

Twenty minutes later, the line hadn't moved.

It took 30 minutes to get two people up in line because the register operator first ran out of coins and had to wait for someone to come to her. Then she got a WIC check she couldn't figure out how to process. Once again, she put the light on, but no one else came to help her. We considered getting into one of the massively long queues for more than 20 items, but they didn't seem to move fast either, and we could have left, but we were tired and it was on the way home, and with gas being what it is....

While waiting, we spied those "Tell Us How We're Doing" comment forms and filled them out in line. David was content to just check the boxes, but not me. Where it said "Was there anything you couldn't find today?" I listed everything I couldn't find that day--and every other time I've gone into the Cinnaminson Wal-Mart and left without the item I wanted. When it asked for additional comments, I went off on a tirade about how dirty, disorganized, and foul that store is and how unhelpful the staff is, and ended with querying as to where the store greeters are? I like my smiley-faced sticker given to me by a cute, friendly old man who waves when you walk out with your cart, like the Maryland Wal-Mart had. I also stated nothing was going to make me go back to that Wal-Mart, and I'd be taking my business to Target, not that they cared.

"After all, I'm just one customer. Neither you nor Target will notice my presence or lack thereof, but I will."

Surprise, surprise: there was a message on my answering machine tonight from Che, the Assistant Manager of Cinnaminson Wal-Mart (bit of a career step-down, isn't it? But I guess you can't get much of a job when you're dead.) Che (who didn't leave a last name, for obvious reasons! ha-za!) told me that if I called before 10pm, I could come into Wal-Mart to "discuss" my letter, which was forwarded with a letter from corporate, and so he could "help find" whatever I couldn't find.

Which is funny, as I mentioned in the letter that I had to go to three separate stores to find what I was looking for, and they weren't things that I'd need to buy later. How many Little Britain DVDs does one need, exactly? And what about the things they don't actually carry, like curry? Will Che manage to make it magically appear with his magic Communist powers of DOOM?!

What part of "Will never shop in Wal-Mart again" did they not understand? Did they just assume I was writing a letter of complaint to get something for free? Didn’t my good grammar, decent-enough spelling, and lack of legal threats not clue them into the fact that I was genuinely pissed off and not just begging for a hand-out? Surely not all complaints are written by 5-year-olds whose parents allowed them to watch too many Police Academy movies, filled with expletives and threats of lawsuits.

Still, I am intrigued. If nothing else, I might be able to prove, once and for all, that Che lives!

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