It’s been the home of St. Patrick’s Day parties, political gatherings, and funeral repasts. Cryan’s Beef and Ale House – a homey Irish pub on South Orange’s 1st Street – will celebrate its 30th anniversary on Friday.
If the walls could talk, they would tell stories of family-friendly dining, gatherings of Seton Hall University students, and some eclectic happenings from over the years.
The festivities will kick off at 4 p.m. with a complimentary supper buffet until 6 p.m. and $3 drinks all night. "Amazing Art and Wonderful Willie," the first band to perform at Cryan’s 30 years ago, will play dance music from several decades until 8 p.m. The duo is comprised of longtime Maplewoodians Art and Willie Gartenlaub. (Check out the photo from that inaugural appearance, attached to this article.)
Owner Jimmy Cryan said his guests are like family. One example is customer Carol Lawrence, who has eaten there every night since 1982. “If she doesn’t show, she has to call and let me know,” says owner Cryan. “We really are a home here.”
Lots of folks named Cryan will probably be on the premises. Jimmy is the youngest of six children born to John Cryan, the former Essex County sheriff and state assemblyman. The elder Cryan was the Irish immigrant who opened the first Cryan’s in the Vailsburg section back in 1960, expanding to 30 locations by the 1980s. Back in the day, every Cryan in the clan was running one or more locations, many of which did not bear the family name, but included the Erin Hotel in Belmar, Shenanigans in Vailsburg, Soap Creek Salon in Jersey City, Dolly Dimples in Howell, or Fatso Fogarty’s in North Arlington.
John Cryan passed away in 2005, drawing an estimated crowd of 7,000 to his wake. Nowadays, his son Joe has taken up the political torch, as a state assemblyman since 2002.
Jimmy Cryan says the anniversary is a tribute to the average 300 people a day who have passed through his doors, including thousands of Seton Hall students who mostly show up after 10 p.m.
Over the years, Jimmy Cryan said his family has made a point of hiring students who are working their way through school, and many return to hold wedding rehearsal parties and other milestones at the restaurant. “They’re good kids, I have to say that,” said Jimmy. “They’re not into fighting. They just want to have fun. And they always walk here or have a designated driver.”
The students also have their own policing tradition. Since seniors are the only ones old enough to drink, “If they see an underclassman at the bar, they’ll rat him out,” says Jimmy. “They waited three years for their turn at the bar.”
A statue of St. Patrick graces the dining room, which was purchased in Ireland. A previous statue in the restaurant was from the Sacred Heart Church in the Vailsburg section of Newark. The Cryan family had donated the statue and it was returned to the Cryan family after the church closed.
That statue was a given back to the Diocese and donated to the Gates of Heaven Cemetery in East Hanover. This new statue, which will be in the restaurant for the celebration, is usually accompanied by a votive candle and an “intentions book” where visitors scribble prayers, promises and dreams and have them blessed by the occasional visiting priest.
The restaurant has a menu that ranges from traditional shepherd's pie, to burgers, sandwiches and nachos.
The public is invited to help celebrate. For details, call the restaurant at (973) 763-7114, or visit them online at www.cryans.net.