When people think of places to eat in Howell most think about the various restaurants on Route 9. Since 1983, one establishment located on Route 33 has provided not only the high quality food their customers have asked for but also a place they feel comfortable going.
Rod Cunliffe, the owner of said when he opened the restaurant almost 30 years ago, he wanted to give people from around the area someplace good to for lunch and dinner. "I grew up in Howell and there was no decent places to go," he said. "I figured if somebody did something decent in the area we wouldn't have to drive to the shore."
Having worked in the auto supply business in Asbury Park after serving with the Wall Township Police Department, Cunliffe said he wanted to try something new. "I liked to cook," he said. "I always spent time in restaurants and bars and I said you know what, why not own one. I grew up in this town, I knew it needed something so I figured lets take a shot at it."
With Route 9 still being developed Cunliffe said the location of the restaurant was perfect for what he was hoping to build and it has worked out well ever since. "There was nothing on this highway," he said. "This was an old shot and a beer joint with a decent piece of property." And since the Route 33 bypass was built, not only has traffic picked up in the area but so has the number of customers walking through his doors.
His son Zac, who is also works at the restaurant, said he has seen the changes as he has grown up in the business. "When it first opened you could go play in the street," he said. "It's a major highway now."
The Cunliffes sold the business in 1990 but bought it back after a fire 10 years later. Once they were back in charge Rod said they worked on expanding the location to accommodate more customers while providing the same high level of service.
The father and son said they are proud of their Howell roots. That includes Zac's successful wrestling career with the Rebels before competing with the Broncs of Rider University. Now he spends his time working at the family restaurant and serving as an assistant coach with his alma mater.
Working by his dad's side, Zac said he hopes to help continue the success he has seen grow through the years. "My goal is to take some of the stress off of him," he said. "It's a lot going on and it's not just one person that can make this work." They both agreed that it is everyone who works there that makes the restaurant a success. "If you're not on the same page you're not going to end up making it in this business," he said.
In addition to the food, the Cabin is also known for the events that are held on the property. That includes Thursday nights during the summer when motorcycles by the hundreds fill the parking lot. The events are popular not only for the bikers, but also other people who come to see the machines up close and personal. "They come out with the kids and they walk all around and there's 300 motorcycles," Rod said. Since its inception, an outdoor beer garden has been added giving the riders somewhere to enjoy their time during the summer nights.
Sports fans also come to The Cabin to watch their favorite teams on one of the three dozen televisions spread throughout the building and on Friday and Saturday nights live music always brings in a good crowd.
The Cabin is also very active in helping local groups with fundraisers. That includes people from not only Howell but also Freehold, Colts Neck and other surrounding communities. For groups interested in holding a fundraiser they are encouraged to call the restaurant at 732-462-3090. "They bring as many people as they can and we cut them a check for 20 percent of the food," Zac said. "We make it as easy as possible for them."