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June 4, 2007

Bar Tips For Newcomers

Last Friday, I got off the PATH train, and was flagged down by Steve, sitting outside Texas Arizona and watching The Parade. It was Friday, I didn't have nuthin' to do, so I said, "Fuck it".

Sitting down, he introduces me to the 3 girls at table sitting next to him, Jen, Kelly and Carrie. Kelly and Carrie are new 24 year old transplants to Hoboken, and brimming with questions.

One question was, "Where can we go to DANCE?"

Steve and I collectively rolled our eyes and I laughed because it was such a 24 year old question of a girl to ask. Yes, I know the fairer sex likes to dance, but I have noticed that the desire to find a place to dance lessens over the years with Hoboken women (oh, if dancing is doing on - any woman of any age will partake, don't get me wrong).

My answer to their question was that i'd suggest Willie McBrides, Whiskey Bar or O'Donohughes for live music. I'd suggest The Madison or The Bar at 10th and Willow for a DJ.

They asked, "What about Black Bear - is that fun?"

Steve and I both groaned and gave a very similar answer, "Sure, its great when you are a 22 to 26 year old frat boy who likes to stand elbow to elbow in a packed bar. I stopped going there 10 years ago, but you are 24 so maybe you like that scene."

They asked, "How about Bahama Mama's?"

We answered, "You can't be seriously considering going there? They put the 'ass' in 'class'. We wouldn't be caught dead in that bar. Plenty of better bars to choose from."

Our suggestions were Green Rock or Black Bear, taking into consideration their age and what they were looking to do.

Then that got me to thinking. I have lived here quite some time and maybe I should add my .02 cents out there about what I think about local Hoboken bars, and what I think you can expect from going there. So, here's the Philly2Hoboken list of bars, and my commentary...

3 Forty Grill - Was one of the first lounge-style bars, but has lost its luster over the years. Good waterfront location, but most of their major crowd has moved to Trinity or Lua. It can be a hit-or-miss bar, and worth passing on the way to Trinity.

Bahama Mamas - They should change the name to "We are NJ", and be done with it. 90% out of towners go here, 5% of people who just moved into Hoboken and 5% bachelorette parties.

Bar None - I can honestly say I have yet to step foot inside this bar. Mostly composed of everyone from Union, Bayonne and Jersey City with "English as a second language", if you catch my drift. I can say I don't know one friend of mine who ever said, "Lets meet up at Bar None for some drinks!" or "I was at Bar None last night..."

Black Bear - Beta Beta is more like it, because this is the frat house of Hoboken. Hey, I loved Black Bear when I was 23, too. Big bar, with lots of TVs and a great crowd. I'd definitely send people to drink here if that's the kind of crowd they want - it is a Sportsbar Meat Market.

Brass Rail - Excellent bar, gets a great crowd after 10pm. My only reason why I don't go here more is that every time I have been there the bartenders are as slow as dirt and I have yet to get a buyback there. Maybe if I knew a bartender, i'd be more inclined to hang out.

Buskers - Dark and dreary bar. I just don't like it. No windows to see anything outside, and you pass by never knowing if there is a good crowd or not. This place gets a good neighborhood crowd, but the days of Miss Kitty's are well over.

Carpe Diem - middle of fucking nowhere. Who is going to go all the way the fuck over here to this bar unless you live within a 3 block radius. Look, I know the owners are trying hard and I respect that, but there's no chance i'd go to this bar...ever.

City Bistro - Excellent bar, one of the top bars in Hoboken that gets a good, consistent crowd. Can draw a slightly pretentious crowd, but i'd go here over The Madison any day of the week. Has a great rooftop bar in the summertime to chill out. This is also a favorite bar of many local sports celebrities (NJ Devils & Arturo Gatti).

Court Street - The only people I know who say, "Let's meet at Court Street!" are also the kind of people who think that staying out until 11pm is a "late night". You have your parents in from out of town, and they like a drink? Bring them here. Love the bar, the food and wine list notwithstanding.

DC's Tavern - very small bar, with a great jukebox, good bartenders and a down to earth crowd. Problem is that its too far off the beaten path for me, but that suits the regulars just fine. They would rather have their slice of heaven than share it with the idiots of town.

Duffy's - irish pub with a dart board that attracts a neighborhood crowd. Was once popular on a Monday night in 1995, but hasn't seen much major action since then.

East LA - I cannot fathom why this place gets as crowded as it does. First off, its owned by Mayor Roberts. Secondly it has a capacity of 125. Thirdly, it has a very small bar "area", with booth seating comprising 75% of the establishment. Their main draw seems to be the frozen margarita's and easily half the crowd is from out of town. Even writing this it boggles me how it draws a crowd.

Elysian Cafe - Could be one of my new favorite bars. Great bartenders, with a mixed crowd. Very good food. Only downside is that it doesn't get a lot of 'eye candy' like some of the other busier bars, but if you are on a date or meeting friends for a good midtown place to drink, i'd choose Elysian.

Farside Bar - Was once my favorite hangout, but I really don't go here anymore. Just nothing really special about it, an American bar, with a dartboard and lots of Stevens kids or people who belong at the Black Bear. Does have a core die hard regulars who go there and love it, just like I once did.

Four L's - struggling to make a new identity, really would only go here to eat at the moment.

Gaslight Restaurant - gets a great local crowd, but unless there was some sort of special reason to go there (ladies night or industry night), I don't see a reason to really drink here unless you had a family member working here.

GoldHawk - another good neighborhood bar, that occasionally has events in the back room like a Comedy Night or guitarist.

Green Rock - probably one of the most popular bars in Hoboken at the moment. Gets a great crowd, lots of eye candy, fairly good service (even with non-regulars). Only downside is that the bar is sometimes too busy. I would always send someone here if they asked me where to go to drink.

Hobson's Choice - Another extremely popular bar, but lost some of its popularity to Green Rock, across the street. Still gets a good crowd, but isn't the Hobson's it used to be. It was once "THE" bar to go to on the weekends.

Lana - Mostly out of towners who go here to dance. Really don't know a single person who goes here.

Liberty Bar & Restaurant - I fucking hate this bar. If you go there enough, you will say the same thing unless you are pals with someone there.

Louise & Jerry's - Excellent dive bar, if you like that sort of thing. Gets a lot of the artistic and industry (read: bartenders) types here. Seriously, if you like dive bars go here. If you don't, avoid it. Sort of like DC's, but with a bigger crowd and occasionally can get the idiot frat boys.

Lounge 11 Bar - Ground zero for everything Guido. "DJais Hoboken" could be its other name.

Lua - Excellent bar with great service, but a terrible, pretentious crowd. Its too bad, because I really like this place but they always get the steroid meathead types here and the women who love them. Can get a bit "Guido-y", like the extras from "The Sopranos" like to come here. I'd rather go to The Madison than here.

Madison Bar - The bartenders are probably the best in town, its the people here who make it crappy. Far too often I go there and its just a J. Crew pretentious yuppie crowd, like when I used to go to Villanova bars. Sad part is that I like that kind of girl (the J. Crew kind of girl) but hate having to be around the J. Crew kind of guys that ruin it. Get my drift? Sort of like Green Rock, but the crowd is a bit older, like late 20-somethings to early 30-somethings.

Maxwell's Bar - Excellent live music venue, with a die hard core regulars who love the place. I would never step foot in here unless I was going to watch a band. Can be a bit overpriced, in my opinion.

Mc Swiggan's Bar - large irish ale house, with pool table and dart board. There's no major draw to this bar, in my humble opinion unless, again, you know someone working there. I haven't been inside this bar in 5 years, but pass it all the time.

McMahon's Brownstone Alehouse - Francis, the owner, also bartends here, and has always been a class act to me. Would certainly go here more if I lived near the bar, but otherwise its more of a neighborhood pub.

Mikie Squared - I work here, so take my opinion for what it's worth. The weekend crowd can be hit or miss, some weekends we get a great crowd, and other nights can be dead. I think we have nice, personable bartenders, and the crowd is very similar to The Elysian - good, core regulars combined with people on dates, or groups going to eat. Not sure if people are going to skip over all the other places in town to really come here, in my opinion.

Mile Square - Another bar I fucking hate. You may love it - but I hate it. Don't go here.

Moran's - Love it! My favorite Irish pub, with another bartender/owner who works behind the sticks, Lenny who treats everyone right. Catch Will O'Connor playing his guitar on Friday night. Tell bartender Tom that I said his beloved Giants suck and you may get a free shot out of it. Kevin the bartender is easily one of the best in town, makes you feel welcome everytime.

Mulligan's - this is my second favorite Irish pub, and the bartenders & owner are the reason why. Look, its not a meat market bar, but is a great bar if you are going to hang out with friends, enjoy a few beers, shoot some pool or play some darts. A big international soccer bar, and gets a lot of Irish, English and other folks from across the pond who drink here. If you are a fan of Philly sports - the Philadelphia Eagles Club & the Philadelphia Phillies club both operate out of this bar.

Nag's Head - great local irish pub with a die hard core of regulars. Won't ever be a "popular" bar and that suits the regulars just fine.

Nine - Very popular bar on Thurs, Fri and Sat evenings can be hit or miss on other nights. The majority of patrons from out of town. Sort of like the bastard step child of Lua and The Madison. Much larger bar than you think, with an odd layout.

O'Donoghues On First - used to be the #1 bar in town around 1996 and the owners haven't spent a dime upgrading the place since then - really a dive bar now. Now a shell of its former self, it gets by on hosting various cover acts and beer pong tournaments. Urinals smell like ass. I would only go here if my date was a punk rock girl.

Oddfellows - Meh. No special draw for this place other than the restaurant. Can get a good bar crowd, but is so inconsistent, that i'd never recommend it. Also have yet to ever see a buyback here, once.

Onieal's - Lots of people fucking love this bar with a passion. There's two camps: You love Oneal's or you love Moran's. I love Moran's. Take it for what it's worth. Basically they are the same bar, except Onieals is a bit more posh and has a restaurant.

The Quays - Remember, its pronounced "Keys". Sort of a boring lounge that was slapped between Trinity and 3 Forty Grill. Gets an ok crowd, but really doesn't have a major draw.

Quiet Woman Pub - another neighborhood pub, gets a bunch of regulars who love it and most everyone else avoids it.

Rogo's - Cried the day that Black Bear opened and stole 90% of their crowd. Great buffalo wings and ultra die hard regulars who may start a bar fight if you dare slight this bar. I fully expect emails starting with "Rogo's is GREAT! You SUCK!" - kind of entering dive bar status.

S Sullivan's - This is the worst bar in Hoboken, avoid it like the plague. I lived within 2 blocks of this bar for 12 of my years here and been there enough to hate it. Just gets terrible bartenders who don't give a fuck about you and a crowd of people that belong outside Yankee Stadium, except they would root against the Yankees. Reminds me of a bar that belongs down by the docks.


Scotland Yard - More like Scotland Yard's Basement. I know the owner, he's a great guy and a Philly fan, but I just can't stand his bar. The layout is terrible, and its tiny. They get jazz music (I hate this music), and the only reason i'd go here is to see Michelle, who is a cool bartender (not sure if she is even there anymore).

Shannon Lounge - Newly renovated and one of the biggest bars in town. It draws a decent crowd, mostly people who are 'pubbers', and would be a place to meet other people like that. Can get a bit frat-boyish at times.

Teak Sushi - The want to be like Lua, but aren't.

Ted & Jo's - Another neighborhood pub, with good food. There's lots of people who swear by this place, but rarely do I find anyone who doesn't live near here who will go out of their way to come to the bar.

Texas Arizona - With its great location to the PATH, they always have a good crowd. I would consider it one of the best sportsbars in town. Pittsburgh Steelers club meets here each Sunday. Sort of a meet market crowd and can be hit or miss sometimes.

The 8th Street Tavern - this bar sucks ass.

The Bar at 10th and Willow - Dance! Dance! Dance! Put your hands in the air! Oohhhhhh!

The Basement - Tiny, but I liked the joint. Someone told me they are under new management.

The Cage - The gay bar of Hoboken. Funny, but its next to Lana and "Lana" backwards is...?

The Dubliner - This is only popular during the summer when the Sky Bar is open. Otherwise, usually dead.

Three-A's Olde Bar & Grill - Excellent bar, great food and gets a die hard regular crowd. I hate this bar because all my friends who live near it insist on coming here - and its not near anything else.

Trinity - Probably the #1 bar in town, sharing that title with Green Rock and The Madison. It gets a consistent crowd of typical Hobokenites and out of towners who flock to it. It is "THE" place to be if you go out in town and are looking to meet people.

Whiskey Bar - Large, open layout, with live bands every weekend. Not my scene, really for people who love(d) Bon Jovi and are proud to be from Jersey. Just not the kind of place I recommend to anyone. My recommendation doesn't matter, because the joint makes money hand over fist.

Willie McBride's - Picked up where O'Donohughes left off. Gets live bands and decent crowds. Somewhere in between an Irish pub and The Madison.

What's your opinion?

Posted by Furey at June 4, 2007 12:54 AM

Comments

Excellent review, and I pretty much agree on everything.

One place you didn't mention was Tonic, which in my opinion has the most inconsistent crowd ever. Either the place is completely empty, or it's completely packed with bachelorette parties. So basically I only recommend it to people planning on throwing a bachelorette party.

Also, has anyone ever been to Baja? Looks intriguing.

Posted by: Kevin McCormick Author Profile Page at June 4, 2007 12:52 PM

Tonic closed down a month ago, Kevin.

Baja I didn't add, only because it was less of a bar and more of a staging area for people waiting for tables at Baja. They have a great tequila list, though.

Posted by: Furey Author Profile Page at June 4, 2007 4:18 PM

Heh. The punk rock girls don't want to go to O'Donoghues. Trust me. We want to go to DC's or Maxwell's. ;-)

Posted by: a_siren Author Profile Page at June 4, 2007 7:11 PM

Lies! Your favorite bar is Ted & Jo's corporate hack! ;)

Posted by: Furey Author Profile Page at June 5, 2007 11:40 AM

wow you really know your bars.
i'm not a resident of hoboken anymore, but visit from time to time and whenever i've passed by madisons on a sat night, it has a huge line of mostly girls who look the same. guess they're all fighting over the jcrew bunch!
ps i liked your review of 8th street Tavern best.

Posted by: janine Author Profile Page at June 5, 2007 12:31 PM

Heh. What can I say? I'm a true Gemini. Part corporate sell-out, part punk rock girl.

Posted by: a_siren Author Profile Page at June 5, 2007 3:55 PM

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