Remembering New Jersey: Pals Cabin

by Peter Candia
Pals Cabin

New Jersey is home to a lot of food history. Legendary pizzerias, century-old hot dog joints and a network of diners whose lights stay on for 365 days a year. One piece of such food history served as the cornerstone of New Jersey steakhouses, but today, it stands only in memory. Instead, a CVS Pharmacy takes its place at the intersection of Eagle Rock and Prospect Avenues in West Orange, NJ. For the 81 years prior to its closing in 2013, though, the plot of land served hundreds of thousands of steaks, charbroiled hamburgers, calves liver, coconut cream pie and more. 

West Orange’s Pals Cabin might be gone but will never be forgotten. Those lucky enough to have dined there will remember its white facade with bold, red lettering that read “PALS CABIN CHARCOAL BROILED STEAKS,” and the dim-lit dining rooms, adorned with wood detailing and red-leather-backed booths were equally as iconic. The big white chimney wafted scents of flame-grilled beef into the atmosphere. It was a restaurant that was passed down through three generations, and at its peak was larger than life. But its beginnings were much, much smaller. 

Marty Horn and Roy Sale circa 1932 | Photo via Pals Cabin

In 1932, Marty Horn and Roy Sale opened up a small hot dog shack in the empty West Orange lot. Over the years, the tiny cabin (deemed “Pals Cabin”) added a bar and by 1936, expanded into a full-service restaurant. The duo added steaks to their menu and despite the economic catastrophe, saw business continuously grow. Early pricing of Pals staples included 10-cent hot dogs, 25-cent steak sandwiches and 50-cent steaks. Pals became a known name in the late 30s when Duncan Hines—one of the earliest American food critics—visited the restaurant and gave it a positive review in his published guide, “Adventures in Good Eating.” 

It wasn’t long after that Pals became a known name and thanks to Hines’ published review, it wasn’t just West Orange residents that knew about it, but Americans across the country. With a lack of chain restaurants at the time, and an interstate highway system in its infancy, people relied on Hines’ guide to discover small-town eats when traveling. Pals, with its exceptional food and commitment to hospitality, proved to be one of the area’s first great full-service restaurants. 

Diners could stop in for a sandwich and a beer or enjoy a sit-down meal complete with roast turkey dinners and broiled chops. Guests even traveled from all over just to try the mushroom soup, which remained world-famous until Pals’ final days. At this point, the eatery boasted several dining rooms, a counter and a bar. It was a versatile restaurant and its popularity orbited around that very idea.


New York Yankees slugger Babe Ruth was a frequent guest at Pals Cabin as he golfed in the surrounding area and would stop by for a bite before heading back to Manhattan. And while The Babe brought his own fame into the restaurant, Pals Cabin was also responsible for kick-starting the fame of others. In the Tap Room, famous American pianist Liberace played piano for a payment of $40 a week at just 18 years old—long before he was the name he is today, though his time as the restaurant’s pianist only lasted six months when the rising star requested a raise and was denied. The piano Liberace played was kept in the Tap Room until the day Pals Cabin closed in 2013. 

The years following Pals Cabin’s early success saw continued growth and as The Great Depression ended and the economy bounced back, it only had a positive effect on Horn and Sale’s chophouse. The list of celebrities who frequented Pals Cabin is extensive. Yankees catcher Yogi Berra loved to dine in The Tap Room, even having a preferred seat and comedian Bob Hope was known to eat at the West Orange establishment. 


In the 70s, New Jersey Governor and West Orange native Brendan Byrne was a regular at Pals. The politician never shied away from his love for Pals Cabin. During the reign of The Sopranos, two episodes included scenes in the legendary restaurant—its dim lighting and timeless decor served as the perfect backdrop for the award-winning drama. It was in season four of the show when Pauly Walnuts exclaimed: “I’ll bring my ma, the three of us, we’ll go have lunch over at Pal’s Cabin, huh?”

Pals Cabin was simultaneously an elegant steakhouse and a working-class lunch counter. The burger was often regarded as the best in New Jersey and though I haven’t had it since my last time there in 2013, I’d be remiss to say that I disagree. Part of Pals Cabin’s continued success was Horn and Sale’s commitment to keeping the restaurant in the family. This practice continued until its final day in business. 


In 2013, Pals Cabin closed due to increased costs and a slow burn of decline in customers. Though the restaurant was still immensely popular, it was a far cry from the days when it comfortably filled the massive space’s five dining rooms each night. As property tax and bills became too much to justify, the family—now in their third generation of owners—decided to shut the lights off for good. Pals Cabin’s final service was on May 30, 2013,

shutting the book on a massively successful 81 years in business. 

For a time, you could get many of the Pals’ classics, such as the burgers, desserts and the immensely famous mushroom soup at Roseland’s Fairchild’s Market, but the collaboration only lasted a few years. As it stands, the fare at Pal’s Cabin exists only in memory, but if it will ever return in any capacity remains a valid question. For us fans of the New Jersey institution, we can only hope. 

Do you remember Pals Cabin? What was your favorite thing to eat there? Let us know in the comments below!

About the Author/s

All posts

Peter Candia is the Food + Drink Editor at New Jersey Digest. A graduate of The Culinary Institute of America, Peter found a passion for writing midway through school and never looked back. He is a former line cook, server and bartender at top-rated restaurants in the tri-state area. In addition to food, Peter enjoys politics, music, sports and anything New Jersey.

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Lesly Cardoza July 9, 2023 - 2:26 pm

Es extraordinario saber la historia de Pals Cabin,recién nos habíamos mudado a West Orange y mi hija y yo fuimos a comer allí para selebrar su cumpleaños en febrero 2013,reguerdo haber probado las hamburguesa
exquisita. Nos sorprendió cuando meses después lo derrumbaron.

Martin July 14, 2023 - 9:55 pm

Head to Bottle Hill Tavern in Madison for all the Pals favorites — Cream of Mushroom Soup, Redwood, Turkey Dinners, etc. Owned by Marty Horn and partners.

Mary July 15, 2023 - 10:02 am

The mushroom soup! To die for!

Jim M July 17, 2023 - 5:04 pm

Who could forget Pal’s Pancake House, just a little further along Eagle Rock Road?

Keith Thompson October 10, 2023 - 8:19 pm

Ate there many times with my family when I was growing up in the 60’s and early 70’s. Remember enjoying the chopped steak dinner. It was always an event for us.


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