By Jeffrey Page
Published: Friday, June 29, 2007
“So say you and some friends are up at Skylands Park in Frankford shouting for a minor league team called the Sussex Skyhawks - or maybe looking at antiques down the road in Lafayette, sliding down waterfalls at Mountain Creek over in Vernon, or hiking up the High Point monument in Wantage - and you feel a little hungry. You could turn south for the ride home.
Or you could step into a showy time machine called the Chatterbox.
Try the Chatterbox. After all, how many times in life can you expect to order something called the Big Wazoo while seated in a dining room whose centerpiece is a gorgeous red ’66 Corvette - not a model, the real thing - where there’s a picture of Elvis in 1958 looking young and terrific in black leather, where you hear Chuck Berry singing about Nadine and Carol, and where Patti Page sings about losing her little darlin’ during the Tennessee Waltz?
And as far as $50 for the four of you is concerned? This is not a problem.
For our $45 and change, we got not only four tasty meals, beverages and a dessert, but also a quick trip to the Fifties and Sixties. In addition to that Vette, there was an old race car and a very sexy motorcycle to check out. The music ranged from Chuck to Elvis to the Beatles; Jerry Lee to the Youngbloods. I would have bet Springsteen was next, but I didn’t hear him. But this was still Jersey, so they must play Bruce at the Chatterbox, right? The scores of movie posters decorating the walls included ads for “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes” showing a vibrant Marilyn and “The Graduate,” “Psycho” and “Love Me Tender.”
No more skating
If all that’s not enough, be advised that on summer weekends you can park and be served in your car by a carhop. The Chatterbox’s carhops used to conduct business on roller skates, but the insurance company cleared its throat, and that was the end of that. Don’t you love insurance companies? Next, they’ll order the Chatterbox to quit playing Chuck Berry - something about his making the heart beat a little too fast and the soul feel a little too happy.
The Chatterbox is enormous. And round. And somehow with all due respect to our fellow Jerseyans in Sussex County, you don’t expect to find a place like it out in the sticks. In Paramus maybe. Or Lodi. But in Frankford? No.
Saturday night is cruise night, when people show up in their shiniest cars and fastest wheels from the Fifties. Some guys have a pack of cigarettes rolled up in their T-shirt sleeves. “People just drive over and eat and hang out for a while. It’s a lot of fun,” says Don Hall, the owner of the Chatterbox. On Thursday nights - motorcycle night - 800 bikers typically zoom over to the Chatterbox to show off their machines. The second Friday of the month is Corvette Night.
All this plus a menu that celebrates the backyard grill - chicken and steaks, burgers and dogs - but that also offers any number of salads and wraps, ribs, pierogies, barbecue and that Big Wazoo, which turns out to be a large grilled kielbasa served on a roll with sauerkraut. You want to spend $43? You can do it. Follow the numbers. Here’s what we had:
With the sandwiches and wrap came a choice of creamy coleslaw, ordinary French fries, fresh fruit salad that was crunchy and cold, potato salad or apple sauce.
We were at $38.15, took a long, hard look at the dessert menu and opted for reason and caution. For $4.99, we asked for four spoons and one Blueberry Hill, which was a warm blueberry crisp, vanilla ice cream, whipped cream and blueberry sauce. It was delicious and sweet enough.
It would have been pure poetry if, as dessert was served, Fats Domino was singing his most famous song.
But it was the Beatles with “She Loves You.” And you know? That can’t be bad.”