Max Miller • Aug 19, 2019

I grew up in Millburn, a short fifteen minute ride away from downtown Kenilworth. However, for some reason, I have only visited there twice -- once in 2012, and once yesterday.

The 2012 visit was somewhat spur-of-the-moment. After seeing a movie in the Mountainside multiplex on Route 22 with my parents, we wanted to eat something, and I found an Indian restaurant in Kenilworth on the internet. Feeling somewhat adventurous, I insisted we go there. The food was good, and the town seemed nice, so I wondered why I had never been there before. However, I had no reason to go back, really, so I didn't until yesterday.

I suspect that amongst Millburnites, Kenilworth is often lumped in with places such as Elizabeth, Union, and (gasp) Newark, based on its location. Maybe that is why I had never been there? Or maybe it was just coincidence.

My second visit was made because of Kenilworth's franchise of Ralph's Italian Ices, a Staten Island classic. A friend and I were returning to New York City from NJ and decided to wait out the traffic a bit with dessert. Ices in hand, we strolled westward along Kenilworth Boulevard, taking in the town.

As we proceeded from the Ralph's, which is close to the GSP exit ramp, we observed the town rapidly change, going from slightly dumpy and run-down (for example: the pedestrian signal to cross North Michigan Avenue is controlled by the push-to-cross button, but the button is out of service, thusly always presenting the orange do-not-cross hand) to a very nice suburban downtown. The library is located centrally on Kenilworth Boulevard. There was one very fancy-looking fine-dining restaurant, along with a number of others, of cuisines such as Italian, Thai, Greek, French, Indian, and Portuguese. Italian seemed to be the modal ethnicity, but Kenilworth appears exceptionally diverse.

We also observed a laundromat on Kenilworth Boulevard, which on a Sunday night was in use by at least a few people. This is sort of a sign of economic diversity (I don't even think there is a laundromat in Millburn).

In the nicest part of the town there was a balloon store, the quaint footprint of an earlier era, when such single-product stores in suburban NJ towns were economically viable. Here's hoping Dream Factory Balloons can continue to persist.