06/20/2016: The Red Eagle Tavern has permanently closed. We can only hope that a dive just as deep will one day rise from its ashes.
Red Eagle Tavern
1503 Chapel Ave. W
Cherry Hill, NJ
Hours: 11 am-3 am
As long as I can remember, this place on the side of route 38 in Cherry Hill has been catching my eye. Like, even before I started drinking. From the outside, it looks like there’s some class to this place. The building has a cozy-looking brick shell, and a nice hanging wooden sign, with, yep, you guessed it – a red eagle on it. I wasn’t convinced this place was even going to be a dive bar. I expected a sports bar with a crowd. How wrong I was. This is the deepest, diviest, place I’ve ever been to.
On this particular cold Tuesday night in mid-December, I was out running some errands, and I was trying to get some friends to meet up with me afterwards for some food and drink. Nobody wanted to meet up, so I thought, “what the hell, I’ll check out that brick place on Route 38.” Wow. I walked up to the front door of the Red Eagle, looked through the window, and immediately thought of turning around. That’s how shitty this place looked. But I was hungry. And thirsty. So, “fuck it,” I thought. And I went in.
As I sat down at the bar, the bartender looked kind of surprised that I was there. There were only two other customers in the whole building – two nurses, still in scrubs. They must’ve just gotten off from work, and decided to stop at the first place they saw that served booze. I can’t think of another reason why they would have chosen this spot. I ordered a Yuengling and perused the menu, squinting hard in the dimly-lit space, for a couple minutes. As the bartender came back from the tap with my beer in hand, I ordered a bacon cheddar burger with fries. She handed me my beer, and disappeared into the kitchen.
Ten minutes later, just as I downed the last sip of my flat, stale Yuengling, the bartender reemerged from the kitchen with my meal in hand. Yes, she was the only employee there that night. And yes, she cooked my food herself. For a whole ten minutes, there wasn’t anybody behind the bar. Not that there needed to be – no more customers came in during that time, and the three people that were already there had enough booze to last them the duration of her absence. She handed me my food, and then retreated back into the kitchen. I didn’t see her again for a few more minutes.
My bacon cheddar burger and fries tasted just like a meal from McDonalds. This burger was identical to one you would get from the fast food chain, complete with the [unnecessary] addition of ketchup on the bun. And the fries were pretty damn similar to McDonald’s, too. The pickles were surprisingly fresh. As I ate my meal, I surveyed the rest of the joint.
This place doesn’t look like it’s changed at all since the 1970s. The walls and windows are riddled with neon beer signs, and the room itself was full of ugly, old tables and booths, most of which I’m assuming haven’t been sat at in 35 years. You know, the kind of fake wood-panel booths that you’d see in a diner in a seventies movie that took place in the mid-west. The only evidence I saw of any patronage in the Red Eagle were the numerous posters for APA billiards leagues. I guess they have a pool league here, which might attract a few people a week.
As sad as the Red Eagle is, you really get a lot of bang for your buck here. I paid $15 for two beers and a burger that was almost too big to finish, with a fucktonne of fries on the side. Other affordable menu items include hot dogs and grilled cheese, both of which run around the $3 mark, as well as breaded banana peppers (an item I’ve never seen on a menu, but one that certainly has my interest) – also around $3. Your wallet certainly won’t disagree with the Eagle.
This is one of the saddest bars I’ve been to in recent memory. Flat draft beer and mediocre food. If you want a filling burger, or something similar, you’re just as well off going to a fast-food joint. Food and drink is cheap, though. If you really want a drink and some food, and you’re really short on cash, this place is alright, I guess. But if you decide not to go, you’re not missing anything.