Death Seat Burger at Old Canal Inn in Nutley

by Melody Kettle

Nutley’s Old Canal Inn reopened under new ownership in 2011 after being closed for several years. Many of the old traditions are coming back in new and interesting ways. Case in point: The Death Seat Burger Platter.

I first heard of the “Death Seat” at the Old Canal Inn when I found a copy of Weird New Jersey at the Barnes and Noble in Mission Valley in San Diego. Who would have thought that several years later I would not only have the opportunity to see the actual death seat, but eat the burger after which it is named!

Of course before eating the Death Seat Burger Platter it’s always good to know a little about the background on Nutley’s most infamous piece of furniture.

The Old Canal Inn opened in the 1930’s on East Passaic Avenue along the Nutley –Bloomfield border. The township border actually runs through a portion of the building – the shuffleboard is actually in Bloomfield. A working class fixture for decades, the establishment was owned by the same family until it closed in the early 2000s. The Conca Brothers of Nutley knew a bit of the history, found the building to be structurally sound, and saw an opportunity create the next chapters of this landmark by building on the past. The original maple floors and chestnut bar have been restored to their mid-20th Century appearance, the old beer taps are back with some new additions, and the Death Seat is featured near the front of the bar.

According to legend, somewhere in the latter part of the last century, a patron of the bar died in one of the barstools. A burger was not involved. Not that long thereafter another patron met the same fate, in the very same barstool. And a legend was created.

Flash forward to 2012 and the Death Seat takes a prominent place on the menu on Mondays.

The Death Seat Burger Platter is BIG, so big that you definitely have to eat it sitting down, and that death part, while eating it I thought I died and went to heaven!

So what is a Death Seat Burger? Start with a grilled burger. The full kitchen at the Old Canal Inn includes a grill. Then layer it Nacho Cheese, Garlic Mashed Potatoes, Jalapeno, and Tomatoes But wait, you don’t think it stops with a bun, do you? The entire burger, bun and all, is beer battered and deep fried. It's then served on a large platter that includes homemade slaw, homemade pasta salad, fries, lettuce and pickles. That’s right, homemade, as in right in the kitchen, with fresh ingredients with just enough mayonnaise to pull it together. Most slaw and pasta salad out there, in my opinion is just mayonnaise with some added texture. That’s so not the case here. It was all about the vegetables!

The cool part – patrons who eat the Death Seat Burger Platter get a black t-shirt announcing your accomplishment to the world. Sadly, it is served only on Mondays at the Old Canal Inn.

The Old Canal Inn is located at 2 East Passaic Avenue in Nutley. It’s just down the street from St Valentine’s Roman Catholic Church.

~ How can you tell John Lee ate the burger? Check out the photos, who else would use a knife and fork to eat a burger. The other dead, pun intended, giveaway, is that the fork is on the left and knife on the right. #nerdalert