Living here for as long as I have, I basically have formed opinions on all the restaurants and know what I like and what I don't like. Often, I like trying new places that open up and more often than not - they get one chance with me to prove they are better than the rest.
Texas Arizona is a good example of this. It's been open for years and years, and I have probably drank there about fifteen times in my 17 years here. I ate there about two. I always found the food to be very average, and nothing to write home about. It was basic bar food, greasy and "meh".
Last Saturday I found myself walking around the area, because I just got a fantastic 90 minute massage at Body Balance 1 block away. I read something about their recent changes. Texas Arizona redesigned the bar a bit, adding a new "Craft Beer Bar" with taps to a section where there used to just be table seating. It was very impressive. They must have 250 new beers on tap or in bottle.
Remind you of anyone? Oh, that's right: Village Pourhouse. Not only did I predict that Village Pourhouse was going to raise the bar, but it appears that I have been vindicated. Texas Arizona gets it. The standard Hoboken bar with the Guinness, Coors Light, Yuengling, Sam Adams, Blue Moon and Stella isn't going to cut it anymore. As a bartender I pleaded with my bar owners to find a niche, to get more off the beaten path beers or put up a "Beer Of The Month" where a new beer is rotated into and out of circulation. There's only so much space a bar has to store beer in kegs or coolers - I get this. But clearly the discerning palate will opt to go to places like Texas Arizona or Village Pourhouse.
And it's not just about beer.
See, having a nice beer list will only get you so far. I decided, reluctantly, to order lunch at Texas Arizona. Now I say "reluctantly" because I have ate here in the past and remembered the food basically sucking. But I figured that they couldn't screw up a grilled chicken BLT too much while I sampled a few IPA's from their list (tried Flying Dog Raging Bitch IPA & Nectar IPA, both were very tasty).
I was served my food in about five minutes. It was Saturday, and there were about 25 people in the bar, but I was a bit shocked at how fast I was served.
To my surprise, the sandwich was quite good. Chicken is chicken. It's hard to screw up grilled chicken. What makes a sandwich, to me, is the roll and what's inside. The roll was soft and flavorful. The lettuce and tomato clearly were fresh, they weren't sitting in a fridge and limply added to the roll. The bacon, crisp, as I love it. The kicker was the chipotle mayo. Really made the sandwich complete. Even as I write this now I want to eat another one.
The bartender, Greg, was there patiently explaining to me the beers that were on tap. He was a bit reserved at first, but I kept pestering him with questions and being the only person at his bar, he started to warm up a bit by the end. He told me that they replaced their chef a few months back, and nodded in agreement that the food, at one time, wasn't very good at the bar (he worked there for six years). Greg also noted that the bar made other internal staffing changes and is very much actively trying to improve themselves.
One lunch won't make me a convert, but it's certainly a good start for a bar that I once written off my list of places to eat. My only concern about Texas is that the menu is a bit...basic. They have the standard burgers, wings, quesadillas, sandwiches, etc...
I told the bartender, Greg, that they found a niche with the beer, they need to find a niche with their menu. If they are "Texas Arizona" shouldn't they do Tex-Mex or BBQ? Name one good BBQ place in all of Hoboken (Joey's BBQ is closing)? You can't. Something to think about if they want to distinguish their bar food over the rest of the bars here in town.
Bottom line is that if you have tried Texas Arizona in the past, you may want to try "Texas Arizona Version 2.0" - it's not the old tired bar it used to be. Looks like not only do they have one of the best locations in town to watch "The Parade", but now they have some of the best beer and food, too.