Legendary Circus Drive-In put up for sale, future now in doubt

Legendary Circus Drive-In put up for sale, future now in doubt

The Circus Drive-in, Wall, the state’s most iconic drive-in restaurant and a Shore landmark for 60-plus years, is up for sale.

“The phone has been ringing off the hook all week,” said Gerard Norkus of Harold Wien Real Estate. “I’ve never seen anything like this.”

The listing on the firm’s web site describes the 1.64-acre site site as “one of a kind” and located in “the Premier Retail corridor of Southern Monmouth County.”


”The request is $200,000 a year on the ground lease, which includes everything,” Norkus said.

The purchase price is $2 million. “(The owner’s) first preference is not to sell, but that is not to say it’s not for sale,” Norkus added.

A ‘for sale’ sign appeared on the Route 35 property about a week ago, and the news has shocked and saddened loyal fans, especially those who fear the Circus might be torn down eventually. The restaurant’s assistant manager posted the news on her Facebook page:

The Circus, marked by its magnificent smiling-clown neon sign, opened in 1954. Richard Friedel owned it until seven years ago.

“I can’t match the fast-food places,” he told me in an interview for my book, The Food Lover’s Guide to New Jersey. “The only way I can beat them is by giving people good food and a lot of variety.”

The Circus was especially known for its soft-shell crabs; the restaurant went through about 800 a day in season. Those soft-shell crabs made my list of 50 Jersey Foods You Must Try Before You Die:

The menu was, naturally, circus-themed, with such dishes as the Bareback Betsy, the Wild Animal Special and the Daredevil. The drive-in was open from April to generally the end of September. 

The Circus, the most splendid example of the state’s vanishing breed of drive-in restaurants, was a must-stop in any Jersey Shore summer.

Peter Genovese may be reached at pgenovese@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter at @PeteGenovese or via The Munchmobile @NJ_Munchmobile. Find the Munchmobile on Facebook and Instagram.

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Published at Wed, 04 Jan 2017 15:15:00 +0000