442 Valley Brook Ave. Lyndhurst
In the mood for fish and chips, but feeling that a quick trip to Scotland is out of the question? Well there is a happy alternative! It is called The Thistle and can be found in Lyndhurst, NJ.
The restaurant is a clean, warm and friendly place run by Jane Souza and Susan Jutkiewicz, the granddaughters of the original owner, Annie McCurley. Originally the restaurant was in Kearny, and it passed from Annie to her daughter Julia and her husband Jerry "Skeeter: Leahy sometime int he 70s. When they retired the building in Kearny was sold but their daughters, Jane and Susan, re-opened The Thisle in a new location. Their brother Billy Leahy, a chef, helped the sisters get the restaurant going.
The staff is courteous and friendly. The current "occupant" of the kitchen is Kyle Jolly who keeps the great food flowing.
The fish and chips are great (and so are the desserts). The menu (which has the story of the restaurant on it) has a variety of starters and entrées which are reasonably priced and the portions are generous. There are soups, salads and of course fish on the menu with a variety of desserts that include apple bread pudding, a great brownie and rhubarb pie. You can also order a small platter of Scottish biscuits and buttery shortbread. In addition to listing all the delicacies offered by The Thistle, there is a "history" of The Thistle on the back.
The building is divided into two parts - an entry area after which you walk past the kitchen and into the charming dining room. (shown here with Susan Jutkiewicz)
The dining area is nicely appointed and is decorated with some wall hanging with Scottish themes like the Burns picture below.
The Thistle is open 11:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday to Thursday, 11:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday. They are closed Sunday and Monday. This is a really great place to come and have a bite to eat (especially if you are a sea food lover or have a yen to go to a place with a Scottish atmosphere.
HERE THERE BE SEA MONSTERS - AND A LOT OF OTHER STRANGE THINGS.
by Tom Doran
Without and to a degree within, Scotland has a reputation for being a mystical land - full of supernatural beings, magical places, and a belief in the powers to see the future.
With awe inspiring scenery and a sometimes too often dark environment (thanks to a lot of rain), it is sometimes easy to get caught up in such things - especially if one is so inclined. People outside of Scotland think men run around in kilts all the time, that Braveheart is historical fact - and that it is at once an incredibly friendly place - with some incredibly fierce people.
Some of that is true - fostered by the media, be it movies, TV, traditional musical forms, or the novels and writings of Scotland own bards, who themselves spun out a fantasy history with enough facts to cause some serious confusion - and a will to believe that in this modern world, there are still secrets and magic places and living fantasy.
Into this ripe environment we can believe anything. Even that there is a monster trolling the depths of Loch Ness. Now, the problem with this is simple - fairies and brownies, redcaps and Baobhan Sith, kelpies and silkies and all the rest are supernatural phantoms that come and go - can be seen and unseen at will. They have their own set of rules apart from the natural world, the world we inhabit - and they change in a whim. It's fun - but also incredibly convenient.
Nessie on the other hand is not considered a supernatural beast - but a living, breathing creature that inhabits a sustainable and researchable natural environment. It is zoology (or Cryptozoology) and science. And while there are many lake monsters around the world, it is the Loch Ness Monster that has the upper hand as far as popularity goes.
This May will herald the 79th year since the first "modern" sighting - though there are references that supposedly go back to St. Columba in the sixth century. The first known photograph made world headlines. Adventurers and big game hunters took up the challenge to capture or kill the beast.
The problem was, the photo was a fake and while it took a very long time before the photographer spilled the beans, looking at it now makes one wonder how anyone could have been fooled in the first place. It just doesn't seem quite right. But, we wanted to believe. Many honest people do - and there are many sightings - many photographs, but all just short of being proof.
Many scientific expeditions have been mounted since the 1930's - sonar scans with fleets of ships, marine biologists, submarines, underwater cameras and more - and all have come up empty handed. Scientists have counted the fish in the loch (as best as possible) and determined that there isn't enough fish to sustain even one animal let alone a family of such creatures. Theories were then floated - there were underwater caves and the canny creatures fled there when they were being searched for. Smart beasties indeed. But the beast in general is not considered to be supernatural - but a clear and present inhabitant of this earth - a creature out of place and out of time - but not out of this world.
I'm more inclined to believe in wee folks living in abandoned hill forts than in the Loch Ness Monster. Mainly because I can't prove it - only "feel" that they do. We are almost not expected to be able to prove such things. But a giant aquatic creature - a dinosaur? Well, I'd sure like it to be there - but I think one of the things that people enjoy, is the mystery of it - the possibility that there is magic in the world - even a kind of natural magic - something not supernatural, but something real - just undefined.
Scotland's scenery and weather and tales and legends - and to some degree its remoteness to most of us allows us to believe in the possibility of wonders. For tourism's sake, the Scots themselves will tell you so. Is it all make-believe to get tourist dollars? I don't think so - and if not believed, perhaps just a good sense of fun.
But don't let any of that deter you from believing - or visiting. You may find yourself walking in the Scottish hills one day and sense something watching from the woods, or hear the strange sound of a woman crying by the water's edge - or spot a long reptilian head rising out of a dark loch and bellowing at the rain - and its incredible reputation.