In 1875, Tom Moloney opened Moloney’s Meat Market in Bayonne. In 1900, John Moloney came to Ireland to work for him. Then John married Lizzy (O’Hare), the cashier, moved to Jersey City, and opened his own Moloney’s Meat Market in the location where it still sits today – 627 Newark Avenue. (In truth, it was actually across the street, but you’d use the same parking spot, so we’ll call it the same location.)
Continuing the lineage, John’s son Leo (who was a medic’s aide in the Army) took over, and in 1982, one of Leo’s seven sons, Tommy, bought (yes bought – those were different times, right?) it from him. And it’s Tommy who still owns and operates the shop today.
Tommy, starting at the age of 15, learned how to cut each piece of meat in the shop, including lamb, goat, and deer. “Everything came in whole in those days,” he told me, “I didn’t want to wait on the customers. I wanted to learn.”
Walking into Moloney’s, as a lover of both meat and small businesses, is such a treat. Immediately greeted by massive glass cases full of beautifully presented meats, (which are candy for the eyes and appetite), customers then chat sports, weather, and recipes with Tommy. Everyone who enters seems fond of him; the feeling is palpable. One well-dressed man even comes in not to buy meat, but to stand in a particular spot because it’s cold outside and he knows that this spot is always warm. No one seems to find this unusual.
Tommy and Eddie (an employee working alongside Tommy) go about their business informally, but professionally. (Does it go without saying that Tommy knew Eddie’s grandfather since before Eddie was born?) Because of its near century and a half legacy, as well as the traditions that have been maintained over time, Moloney’s is so solid in its identity that customers inherently understand they’re standing someplace special, somewhere nostalgic. Tommy still puts sawdust on the floor, for example, a throwback from the days when sawdust aided in the cleanup at the end of the night.
I bought a giant piece of beef tenderloin (filet mignon) for a beef wellington recipe (which fed 4 adults and four kids with leftovers), two packs of Irish Bacon (Irish bacon comes from the loin. American bacon is from the belly.) and two packs of bangers (Irish style pork sausage.)
For sure, I’m a great cook. But the wellington wasn’t great becasue of my technical skills. It was great because Tommy buys high quality meat and trims it perfectly before wrapping it and letting you take it home. And the beef wellington was THE BEST beef wellington I’ve ever had. Legit.
“On ice?” I ask. “As opposed to?”
“Cryovac.” He replies, frowning.
“What’s wrong with that?” I wonder.
“Smothers it,” he says.
“What about organic?” I push.
“Not into it,” he replied. “Just another way to put extra money on it.” He paused. “Sorry. That’s gonna to have to be for the next generation.”
I let it go. If anyone would know, it’s him.
Tommy shows me their handmade fresh mozzarella while he tells me about the 1,000 lbs of corned beef they cook for sandwiches on St. Patrick’s Day, and the 5,000 lbs they sell to customers. “We have a line out the door all day,” he says. (Hint: Plan for it.)
His biggest challenge? No parking. But Tommy is not new. He understands his customers as well as his product. He offers phone ordering and curb service.
“That’s good. That’s enough,” he tells me, when the conversation pauses. I can’t resist. I ask him his favorite meal.
“Free,” he laughs.
“What do you order in a restaurant?” I say.
“I don’t order meat,” he replies, “I order seafood.”
“Your favorite cut then,” I persist.
“The seventh rib,” he says, “On the prime rib. I like the deckle.” He shows me.
“The deckle?” I ask. “Is that a secret?”
Tommy smiles. “Not to me.”
Moloney’s Meat Market is located at 627 Newark Avenue, Jersey City, NJ.