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CitiBike. Bike Sharing. Whoop de fucking doo.

Who cares about bike sharing? Limp wristed liberals...amirite?

OK, stop right there. It IS awesome, and I will tell you why, sir or madam. Lets start with the basics of CitiBike.

All over Manhattan are docking stations. These stations hold the bikes in a "bay", which is controlled by magnetic locks. You can use a docking station key (which is bought online) or your credit card to rent a bike. A coworker of mine had a key which I could use, and gives me 45 minutes of free bike time per use. I would suggest watching a video on how to dock and unlock a CitiBike:

Docking stations are pretty convenient, and there's an app which you can download which shows you the closest docking station. Most of them seem to be within a 4 block walk of each other, so the city is canvassed with these docking stations, making them fairly easy to find (more on this later).

The city also has tons of bike lanes. If you were to be a frequent reader of another local blog in town that hates bike lanes & bike sharing & anything that Dawn Zimmer does (she could cure cancer, and they would still fault her for not curing Parkinsons) - but I know that bike lanes are important and should be enforced and respected (especially after testing them).

So, what do we know? It's easy to rent them. There's a bunch of docking stations. Bike lanes make it easy to navigate the city streets. I have a cute French Bulldog named Rocco (how did this get in there? -editor)

And the one key thing that makes it great: It "opens" up the city.

What does that mean? Opens up the city. Well, let me tell you.

I work in a great part of the city called the West Village. It's picturesque. The city that you mostly see on Hollywood TV (they film here every week for TV shows like "Person of Interest" and "Elementary"). Lots of cute boutiques, stores and restaurants but a significant lack of "lunch spots". It was a trillion times worse about 6 years ago, and it has gotten better, with new places opening up, but there was a time in which you had three choices for lunch within a 10 minute walk: a deli, Chinese food, Indian food, or McDonalds. That's it. Often we were told by delivery people we were too far away and they won't deliver to us.

Today it's not so bad, but we are still a bit off the beaten path. One day last week I said, "We should get Shake Shack."

"Too far to walk. And they don't deliver.", the Chorus from work said back.

"We should use the CitiBike. I'm sure I could ride there in less then 10 minutes from here.", I replied.

"If YOU are going to ride there, we are in!", they cheerfully replied.

And so began my experiment as a delivery guy. My co-worker gave me his CitiBike "Key", and my nearest docking station was three blocks away. I had a few problems with the key at first - I didn't understand which way to insert it (begin jokes here) & once unlocked, I found using the bike lane a bit troublesome with very crowded cross-streets (like at Houston & West Side Highway) - people basically ignored the bike lane, and its a bit like playing "Frogger" on a bike. Not for the meek.

Since when am I meek? I was able do work my way across (Out of my way people! I have a package to deliver!) - zipped down the West Street Highway bike path (its a dream!), and then docked my bike at the Battery Park Ferry. Two block walk to Shake Shack. Ordered food, went back to the docking station. I strapped down my bag full of burgers on the front of the bike which had a very handy basket with a bungee cord attachment to hold small bags in place:

Back to work & we were happily munching on Shake Shack burgers for lunch. Total time was 10 minutes to bike there each way, and 10 minutes to order. Plus it was a nice day outside, and it was fun to get off the desk.

While we were basking in a post-burger glow, a co-worker said, "This was great. Next week - you gotta get us Katz's Deli with a CitiBike."

Challenge accepted!

I mapped out my route that I needed to ride & where I could dock my bike near Katz's. Rode down Bleeker Street which was really simple...until I got to Bowery Street. For those who don't know Bowery Street is a major New York thorofare like Broadway or Canal Street, but not like a "highway" like West Street or FDR drive (you wouldn't have a bike on here, anyhow). Things got a bit more tricky on these roads just due to the amount of traffic and the general disdain by these driver for people on bikes. You could feel their seething wrath for pedestrains, bike, small children and adorable French Bulldogs that have 6500 fans on Facebook (What's with the bulldog reference?? -editor).

More of a minor issue than a major one, but when planning to ride around the city its not a bad idea to stay off the major roads, in my humble opinion. I have watched enough reddit videos from China, India and Russia on what happened to motorcycles & bikes versus tractor trailers & trucks.

I did run into my first issue at Katz's Deli - empty docking stations. The problem with the popularity of the CitiBike is its success. After I dropped off my bike at a completely empty docking station, went to the deli & returned in 10 minutes, the bike was rented by someone else. Using my iPhone app, the cloeset station with free bikes was at least 8 blocks away (a station was 4 blocks away, but empty & a second station was 4 blocks away in the opposite direction I was going with one bike. I didn't want to risk walking there to find it empty - so I walked 8 blocks to the next free station).

I rode back to work, and my docking station had 2 free spots. Not a big deal, but the other problem are areas that have no free spots at a docking station - and you have to find a free spot to park. Like I wrote, most stations are 4 blocks from each other so finding a free spot shouldn't be TOO difficult. I think in the future the people who manage CitiBikes will figure out where to add more docking stations or bikes to offset this problem, depending on usage.

But - we had our Pastrami on Rye's and I had my Turkey Rachel. Co-workers were excited and the security guards eyes bugged out when they saw me walk in with a Katz's Deli bag - and pleaded with me to let them order, too, next time.

On a side note, if you check or for delivery - they can charge you $20 per delivery & you have to order $75 worth of food to get Katz's delivered to you. Hell, you could take a taxi for $10 each way. The bike is a much cheaper alternative to taking a taxi. I didn't find that it made me too sweaty (however, I would not recommend wearing anything other than casual clothes), but my heart rate did jump a bit versus walking.

I'm signing up today for the annual pass. Even if I don't live in the city, I have often found myself looking to walk to places that were within the 10-20 block radius, which is too short for a taxi and too far for an easy walk - just grab a CitiBike to get around for now on.

Now if only Hoboken's bike share was THIS easy...

What do you call a Southern inspired, Filipino fusion former coffeeshop now BBQ joint?

Just call it by its old name - Legal Beans.

Chris Escudero, a former lawyer, and his wife Mimi first started in 2004 by buying former candy store on Grand Street in Jersey City and turned it into a coffee shop known as Legal Grounds. Then, in 2005, opening Legal Beans Cafe at 86 Garden St, which began as a local neighborhood coffeeshop, selling their home roasted beans (from Legal Grounds), pastries, breakfast and lunch sandwiches in a glass walled eclectic store. In 2010 they founded "BBQ At Legal Beans" in 2010 on Division Street in Jersey City. Chris & Mimi not only had the stores, but also a thriving catering business, too.

Then 2011 happened with a great deal of flooding on Garden Street which did a lot of damage to the store. Up next, Hurricane Katrina. A year later, Hurricane Sandy. It wore on Chris - and, as he told me, he couldn't give the Hoboken location the attention he wanted. He shut down the business after Sandy, and decided to re-launch the Cafe as a BBQ joint for two reasons - One, the popularity of his already established BBQ At Legal Beans in Jersey City and Two - he saw a lack of BBQ options in Hoboken.

He wanted to corner that BBQ market now.

After trying it myself last night, I think we have a new King Of BBQ for Hoboken. There are other restaurants that sell BBQ in town, but since Joey's BBQ closed we haven't had a restaurant that just focused on BBQ. Plus, they are doing a buffet-style serving option, which you don't see very often in town. You can get a plate, load up what you want to nosh on - sit down and enjoy yourself or load up a to-go plate, too. Everything has flat-pricing, depending on the side of the plate.

Legal Beans Cafe isn't going to be the next Dinosaur BBQ, Blue Smoke or Hill Country. Lets get that out of the way first. But, for Hoboken in which most restaurants are mediocre at best, this is poised to be one of the best in town.

After filling a medium sized plate of food for $10, on my way out, their credit card machines were not working yet - and were taking cash only. I didn't have cash on me and the Chase ATM was about 5 blocks away. Chris who was there, just shrugged - "Just pay us next time..." That's something you don't get in NYC. The neighborhood of Hoboken can't be beat. I went home with my plate of food with Rocco, who was very interested in helping with leftovers.

I tried the espresso-rubbed ribs last night. Fall-off-the-bone fantastic, with a dark chocolate, smoky undercurrent flavor. I was in love. Then I tried the pull pork. Sweet, but smoky with a dense thickness of pork that I haven't enjoyed since Hoboken Eddie was doing pulled pork sandwiches from the kitchen under Sullivan's Bar. Also tried Brined, Rubbed, and Smoked Chicken breast - I thought the briny flavor was great, but it clearly was sitting too long and was dry. Finally had the spicy sweet potato, which is mashed sweet potato with pepperjack cheese. Wow. Silky, creamy with a hint of 'jack - worth getting this every time. The best part about the buffet is you get to try different things or just load up your plate with ribs. It's really your choice. I'm a big fan of noshing on this & that - and i'm looking forward to my next visit to try the brisket & the BBQ chicken.

I called Chris after eating to give him my review of what I liked and what I didn't like. I told him that there was something 'different' about his southern style BBQ. He laughed and said, "Yeah, my wife - she's Filipino and we get spices that they don't sell in America and use that in our dishes. Peppers and other spices that you can only buy in Asian specific markets."

After talking with him a bit more and trying to convince him to add a Paleo mashed garlic cauliflower to the buffet for people like me, I told him that if the food quality stays high (for example I told him that the chicken was dry) - he would have a customer like me there every week. He told me that the Cafe was still a work in progress. They are using the buffet but also letting people know that you still can call in specific orders if you don't want a buffet. Or, if something that dries out quickly, like the brisket isn't on the buffet, you simply can ask for it in addition to other things from the buffet - they will make it on the spot for you. Also, the plate sizes will be changing. He plans for a medium, large and "super size" plates which will be something like (still to be determined) $7, $10, $15 depending on your appetite.

Only time will tell if Legal Beans Cafe will be able to thrive in a very fickle town like Hoboken. It's not on Washington Street and will really have to hope for a solid delivery business.There are not a lot of seats in the Cafe, I counted about 12 tables with 2 seats each (when the weather improves the outdoor seating will return), and many tables have been displaced by the large buffet counter in the middle of the cafe. Also they have changed their hours opening at 7am to 8pm weekdays (closed on Tuesdays) & will include a late night option for weekends - open until 1am on Fridays & Saturdays. I'm sure the kids at Stevens will love this. You can check out the

The Best Of Hoboken 2012

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I often meet people from out of town who ask, "Hey do you know a good place for..." and I always have an answer. This is my unabashed list of favorites, in no particular order, and maybe you should try them, if you haven't already done so.

Italian Restaurant: Augustino's
Sandwiches You Need To Try: Hoboken On Rye
Late Night Eats: Windmill Hot Dogs
Chicken Wings: Village Pourhouse (try the Sweet Chili Sauce!)
Cheeseburger, cheeseburger, cheeseburger: Five Guys Burger and Fries
The Mutz?: Fiore's
Brunch: Elysian Cafe
Steak dinner: Dino & Harry's Steak House
New Bakery: Choc O Pain
Pizza SLICE: Giovanni Pizza
Pizza PIE: Grimaldi's Pizza
Diner: Malibu
Sushi: Maru (Robongi is a close second, trust me Maru gets fresher sushi!)
Indian: Karma Kafe
Irish Bar: Moran's
Cuban Sandwich: Havana Cafe & Lounge (La Isla a close second!)
Dog Walker: Email me - I have someone
Cup O Joe: Legal Beans (Try the Costa Rican brew!)
Place You Never Heard Of, But Need To Try - NOW: Cucharamama
BYOB Restaurant: Cafe Michelina
Drinks with the guys: Pilsener Haus & Biergarten
Drinks with the girls: The Turtle Club
Wine Bar: Bin 14
Second Best Wine Bar Where You Won't Spend A Fortune: Court Street Restaurant & Bar
Ice Cream: Rita's Ice Cream (the frozen custard rocks!)
Dog Store: Beowulf
Best Bar To Get A Buyback: Mulligan's
Where To Meet Other Under 25 Year Olds: Shannon Lounge
Where To Meet 25-32 Year Olds: The Madison
Where To Meet 33+ Year Olds: Cafe Elysian
Where To Meet Born And Raised Hobokenites: The Wilton House
Where To Take Your Parents For Dinner: Amanda's
Where To Take Your First Date To Dinner: Zylo's
Where To Take Your Second Date To Dinner: The Dining Room At Anthony Davids
Chinese Food: They all are pretty average in Hoboken, no awards given!
Italian Deli: Vito's Delicatessen (Fiore's is great, but Vito wins because they have so many more options whereas Fiore's Roast Beef is the main draw)
Bagels: Hoboken Hot Bagels
Restaurant You Should Really Try More: Onieals
Best Sports Bar: Wicked Wolf Tavern
Best Sports Bar, If You Are A Philadelphia Fan: Mulligan's, where the Philadelphia Eagles Club and Philadelphia Phillies Club meet!
Best Restaurant If You Live In Northwest Hoboken And Are Too Lazy To Walk To Washington Street: 10th & Willow Bar & Grill

That's basically my list.

Marty O'Brien's: First Impression

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The other day I had the day off from work and decided to try Marty O'Brien's - over on 1st and Bloomfield. Same owners as the old restaurant, Buskers, but they did a fresh new paint job, and renovations to make it fresh, along with new menu items and attitude.

When lunch rolled around, I had lots of choices and figured i'd try out Marty O'Briens. Over the last two weeks I have been out walking Rocco and seen lots of crowds at the bar for dinner service. I have looked over the menu and it seems like a welcome addition to the neighborhood.

Now, I have written it once and I will write it a thousand times but here's my issues with blogs who write their so-called reviews of new restaurants:

1. Every restaurants will put on their "good face" for the first three months. The owners usually are on hand daily and are watching to make sure everything is going well. You can really tell how good a restaurant is after a few months if people are coming back again and again.

2. People write "one and done" reviews. I personally think a restaurant should be attended at least three times before someone writes an official review. I write "first impressions" just for fun, but when I sit down to write something concrete I do my homework on the place.

3. The worst culprits are so-called-reviewers who are also paid by the establishment for advertising. I know a few people in Hoboken who blatantly write glowing reviews of their clients restaurants and they have no shame. It's sad. There should be people who have some kind of integrity when writing reviews to state that they have been compensated with a free meal.

Anyhow, i'm sure aside from my three rules you wonder - what did I think?

Lets talk first about what I liked. I love what they have done to the old Buskers. I like their waiters uniforms which are black shirt with black tie. Very "mob" like Italian sharp look. They have a standard beer menu, with a few specials. They have a decent wine-by-the-glass list, which is nearly unheard of at downtown restaurants aside from Brass Rail. Lots of outdoor seating, and very "dog-friendly" attitude by the restaurant to bring your pooch out to eat, outside too. The bartender Chris who served me was very cool, and had a great personality - which I think is more critical than people know for a success of a restaurant or bar. People come BACK to see bartenders that they like. Chris heard it was my first time there, and my first beer was on the house.

I ordered Buffalo chicken wings & the "Philly" cheesesteak.

The wings were good. Not great. Good. I'd order them again. They had a decent buffalo sauce, with just a light bit of spice and not like someone slathered on Frank's Hot Sauce and called them buffalo wings.

The Philly cheesesteak was below average. The roll was fantastic. Great roll. Big pluses there. But the steak had some kind of brown gravy with it...and the cheese looked like two slices of deli-style yellow American cheese slapped on top. To the owners of M.O.B.:

I am available as a consultant to fix your cheesesteak dilemma. Please email me at - it's really not THAT hard to make a good steak, especially that your rolls are so damned good. You don't need "whiz", just get provolone cheese instead of whatever you were using and give the steak more than just two slices. The meat itself was actually fine, but the brown gravy-like substance threw me off. I mean if you didn't call it a Philly cheesesteak, and called it Marty's Steak Sandwich, and told me that i'd get some kind of gravy in there I wouldn't have ordered it. I was secretly hoping that someone in Hoboken finally learned how to make a good steak, like Carl's makes in the city.

But one bad steak won't stop me from going back and trying again. I mean, it was their new "lunch" menu, so i'd like to try dinner one night. The cost of the lunch wasn't terrible, especially that I was comp'd a beer - it was $21 with a $6 tip - $27 total. I'll be back to try some more of the food, especially that I love wine and always look for a place on Sunday nights to replace my lost long love, Court Street - it's just too far to walk 11 blocks now, and I tried a few dinners at Clam Broth House, but CBH is just too expensive for the kind of food they are serving. I'd rather save my $60 and eat somewhere in the city like Raoul's!

I'd say that Marty O'Brien's is off to a good start, but I remember when Buskers was hot out of the gate, and fizzled. I guess I better go out there and try it a few more times before passing judgement.

Texas Arizona Version 2.0

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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. 051611.jpgThey 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.

The Best Restaurants Of Hoboken 2011

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Living up here for the last 16 or so years, there's a couple things I have learned. One of them is where to eat out in Hoboken. Often I talk to new Hoboken transplants and they ask me "Hey, where should I go for..." - and this is my opinion on where i'd send them. Enjoy!

Bagels: JP Bagel Express, 52 Newark Street.
Bar Food: Farside Tavern, 531 Washington Street
BBQ/Cajun: Oddfellows Rest, 80 River Street
Brunch: Elysian Cafe, 1001 Washington Street
Burger Joint: Five Guys Burger & Fries, 319 Washington Street
Chinese: Precious, 128 Washington Street
Indian:Karma Kafe, 505 Washington Street
Italian: Augustino's Restaurant, 1104 Washington Street
Italian Deli: Vitos Italian Deli, 806 Washington Street
Basic Pizza: Giovanni's Pizza, 603 Washington Street
Grandma's Pizza: Balbo's Pizza, 70 Hudson Street
Brick Oven Pizza: Grimaldi's Pizzeria, 133 Clinton Street
Sandwiches: Park & Sixth, 539 Park Avenue
Sushi: TIE! Maru, 219 Washington Street or Robongi 520 Washington Street

And a few that i'd list under "Special Occasions":

Where to bring Mom and Dad? Amanda's Restaurant, 908 Washington Street

One of the best in town: Anthony David's, 953 Bloomfield Street

Most overrated: Lua, 1300 Sinatra Dr

Most underrated: Court Street, 61 Sixth Street

Best First Date Place? Bin 14, 1314 Washington St

Best Second Date Place? Cafe Michelina, 423 Bloomfield Street

French Press: One of the cooler things I have bought is a Bodum French Press.

Way back when, I used to brew my coffee in the morning with coffee maker, put it in a thermos and carry it to work. The coffee was OK. Some days I would treat myself and get Dunkin Donuts coffee, but hated paying almost $3 for a large cup of coffee.

At work one day I watched a co-worker offering coffee from his French Press, and I was blown away. It was delicious and simple. And cheap!120210.jpg

I walk over to Empire Coffee in Hoboken or McNulty's on Christopher Street every other week and buy whole bean roasts and it costs me from $4 to $18 per 1/2 pound depending on the region. That will last me two, maybe three weeks. 15 days can cost me about $45 dollars from buying Dunkin Donuts everyday.

Then, I bought on a Krups coffee grinder, and it works great.

My morning routine is simple, before I leave my house for work I grind my coffee and take it into the office in a Ziploc bag. My French Press is in the office, at my desk. I add my coffee to the pot and fill the French Press with the hot water in our company kitchen. I stir it and let it sit for 4 minutes. That's it. Coffee is ready, and it's a trillion times better than what my company has sitting in the kitchen and better than Dunkin Donuts coffee (buy the Jamaican High Mountain Blue coffee if you don't believe me!)

At the end of the day, I clean the French Press simply by pouring out the old grinds and a quick clean under running water, letting it air dry on my desk for the next day. Once a week I take it home and put it in the dishwasher. If you are like me and work in an office, and have access to these things, you will save a TREMENDOUS amount of money a day by not buying coffee. Plus, if you love Starbucks or Dunkin Donuts, just buy their coffee and brew it yourself. You will taste the difference.

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In the old days of Hoboken, it was easy to just buy a bar, fix it up, get a few beers on tap, hire cute girls to work at the bar, and get the rake out to pile up those loads of cash.

Today, however, the "Hot Bar of the Moment" has a shelf life of only a few months. Remember 3 Forty Grill? Trinity? Quays? The Chandelier Room at The W Hotel? All once reigned as the "HBotM" in Hoboken, and the title currently belongs to The Wicked Wolf.

One of the next contenders to the crown appear to be The Village Pourhouse, opening at 205 First Street. Originally the site of O'Donoghues, it has been bought by the primary investors, Sean McGarr & Michael Sinensky, of the two Village Pourhouses in New York, located at 928 Amsterdam and 64 3rd Avenue. Hoboken's is one of two new bars by the owners, with the other bar opening up on 366 W 46th St in Manhattan.

I must admit the bar brought back memories. O'Donoghues was once the king of all Hoboken bars back in the mid 90's. Take Black Bear, Green Rock and Whiskey Bar combine them into one bar and you had OD's. Now, looking around, I saw the ghosts of my memories linger in a few corners, I would remember wanting to get to the bar after Seinfeld to listen to the Grateful Dead cover band - was it "Box Of Rain"?

I had a chance to meet with one of the minority owners, Rob Gebhardt, over the weekend, who gave me an inside tour of the newly renovated property. I told him my "HBotM Theory" of how bars are popular when they first open in town, and how they eventually are just replaced by the next bar that opens a few months later.

"We aren't a group of guys who suddenly decided to open a bar. We have a history in this business. We know how to make a successful bar, that's part of the community and adjusts to what the neighborhood wants. The two bars in the city are both next to NYU and Columbia. They are sports bars designed for that community. If you look over our theme nights, we want each night to be a 'destination bar' for different interests from whole town.", Rob told me as we sat in the "The Sky Box" lounge section of the bar.

Rob showed off the various quadrants that the bar was designed. There are four different zones, each with their own sound system. Around the bar are 27 HDTVs, and they have about twelve "Sounddog Wireless Audio" boxes. The Sounddogs give patrons sitting at a table the ability to listen to any of the HDTVs in the bar. So, for example, if one zone of the bar has the Giants game on, you can listen to the Colts game with your friends at the table.

The various sections of the bar are referred as the party rooms. When first entering The Pourhouse, the rectangle mahogany bar dominates the western side of the front room which was designed to embrace the old Irish heritage of O'Donoghues, along with a sports memorabilia case and flickering gas lamps. There will be assorted tables along the wall to sit, along with 8 HDTVs.

The Dugout, near the south end of the floor, was designed to host two separate booths that can seat 6-8 people or one big booth for 12-16 patrons. HDTVs frame both sides of The Dugout, to give patrons control of what they want to watch. They were specially designed for comfort and utility - each leather banquettes has their own pullout drawers to store purses or light coats.

The Red Light Room is the eastern section of the bar, which can be designed to have its own bartender and sound for groups up to 90 people. They have 8 HDTVs in this section also. Plus, there is a "private entrance" for people hosting parties, to avoid the lines outside.

The Sky Box is situated in the southern end, where the old stage used to be, replaced with raised leather banquettes, a small separate private bar, and open area which can be used for additional tables or open space. 7 HDTVs are scattered around this zone, and there's a skylight, hence the name, which allows natural light to shine in from the roof, or can be shut to reduce glare. The southern wall also has a high definition projector to show special events like the Super Bowl, NCAA tournament or boxing.

"Having the various sections of the bar gives the Village Pourhouse the ability to be fluid.", Rob told me. "You can have in one section some parents with their kids and in another section can gave a crowd of Yankees fans watching baseball."

Kids? I asked Rob that one of the reputations that the other Pourhouses had was that they were a frat-bar hangout. Was that their plan? I noted that the Flip Cup Guys were signed on to have Thursday nights at The Village Pourhouse, did he expect parents to bring their kids to the bar while those tournaments were going on?

"We recognize that we have a community here of diverse interests. From stay-at-home parents during the weekdays to the typical young bar crowd you get on a Thursday-Friday-Saturday. We aren't interested in being a frat bar. Both of the owners are parents, and have children. Part of our strategy here is to be inclusive. When parents come here, kids under five eat free. Now, do I expect parents to be here on Flip Cup night? Maybe. The design of the bar, the sound system and the various seating areas, gives us the flexibility to be almost four bars in one.", Rob explained.

Looking over the weekly events, they did take into account various interests besides the Flip Cup crowd on Thursdays. There was karaoke night on Wednesday. Taco Night on Tuesday. Saturday college football and Sunday NFL football (with breakfast bingo!). They also plan to be open for European football on Saturday & Sunday mornings.

Plus with the 2nd floor kitchen renovated, they will be offering an exclusive menu. I told Rob that some bars open up with much fanfare, with an executive chef, and two months later the chef leaves and replaced with a much cheaper and not as skilled labor in the kitchen.

"No way. Not here. Each Village Pourhouse has one chef who is trained by our chef in the city. We want to be consistent. If you ate in a Pourhouse in the city, we want you to be able to come to Hoboken, order from our menu and get the same delicious meal you ordered in the city. We aren't trying to be anything but normal good American pub food, but do add a little twist on our menu. For example, the Lamb Burgers are outstanding."

I asked him if they really had 130 beers available. What if I wanted to sample them?

"We have flights of beer here.", Rob told me, "From the beers on tap & we will open a bottle and that's part of the flight service."

What about proper glassware? Rob nodded and showed off the various kinds of glasses, each for a different brand of beer. I asked to make sure the Guinness was on nitrous tap, separate from the rest of the beer. It was.

I was impressed. I asked about the owner situation here. Sean McGarr and Michael Sinensky were primary owners, along with the previous owner of O'Donoghues and a few other minority owners, like himself, who all had a vested interest in making sure the bar works. Rob told me that all the employees from OD's were offered jobs to come back, and it appears that Vinny and Janine, along with the bouncers would be returning. All the new servers and bartenders are specially trained by the management to give service with a smile. Even stenciled on one of the walls is "[insert phrase here]"

I must admit I did walk into the interview a bit skeptical. After reading a few comments on about the Village Pourhouse I was afraid that this was going to be another frat-kid bar. Certainly seems like it will have some of that, but also appears to be a very welcome addition to the downtown neighborhood, which has a had a few recent renovated pubs, but The Village Pourhouse just raised the bar to the next level. It would be a shame to just call it a sports bar. I would surmise to say The Village Pourhouse is primed to become THE sports bar to which all other so-called sports bars in Hoboken will be measured.

May the best bar win.

Lucky's Famous Burgers - Hoboken

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Was just on the phone the other day with Michael Trenk, the managing partner for Lucky's Famous Hamburgers, which is opening a new store at 79 Hudson Street in Hoboken.082610.JPG

Michael currently owns two Lucky's, and is expanding his "Angus Empire" into Hoboken, with the creation of the third store. Signs have been up for months saying "Summer 2010", and I emailed him asking what the deal was. Turns out, he says that the store is only three weeks away from opening!

Talking to him he told me that he was planning to open a store in the area for years. First was at the old Kebab House (now The Taco Truck Store) and the other place was at Yeung II Chinese (now W. Kodak Jewelers). Both deals fell through, and he has been trying to find a suitable location since 2007.

The story behind Lucky's is that it was first created in 2002, and "the three New York City restaurateurs" bought Lucky's in 2005. After a few years, Michael is the owner and general partner of the restaurant - and note that this is NOT a franchise. He runs each store much like he runs his bar and restaurant, Prohibition, on the Upper West Side. Michael believes strongly in that the customer comes first. He told me that "if we have regulars who come in once a week, I want our store managers to know what their favorite items are on the menu. If my employees aren't kind to our customers, they won't be working at my store very long".

Michael worked as the general manager of The Capital Grille (42nd street), and before that managed at Nobu and The W Hotel in Manhattan. Originally from South Orange, Michael moved to New York 20 years ago. Turns out the NJ boy is coming back - he's moving to Hoboken in about eight months.

"Yeah, my wife wanted to move back to NJ, so this is our compromise. I still want to be close to Manhattan and Hoboken to me, just like another neighborhood of New York.", Michael told me, "But, I am having a hard time finding a place to live - I have two dogs, and many new apartments in town don't allow dogs - like the Tea Building."

With the hamburger becoming the new steak of the masses, Mr. Trenk is very aware of bringing a quality ingredient to the plate of Hobokenites. He uses 100% Premium Gold Angus Beef (80% lean, 5.5 ounces), which is NEVER frozen, along with fresh lettuce, tomatoes, and onions on a Martin's Potato Roll. He notes that because he is using Premium Gold Angus Beef, that when cooked, his beef does not greatly shrink. Also, Lucky's has two sauces, the Lucky Sauce and the Chipolte Sauce, which have been huge hits in his current stores. He also offers "really great veggie burgers, sweet potato fries and turkey burgers" on his menu for those looking for an alternative to beef burgers.

He plans to offer free delivery (watch out Five Guys!), and have late night hours. Currently, he plans to be open Sunday to Wednesday from 11am to midnight, Thursday 11am to 3am and Friday & Saturday from 11am to 4am.

This weekend was my first one where I didn't own a car.

And I needed one.

I had to return my license plates to the DMV in Jersey City and had two options:

1. Take the PATH. This would take me 30 minutes each way.
2. Rent a car. This would take me 12 minutes each way.

The PATH train would only cost $3.50, whereas Zip Car costs $9 - $12 per hour.

Knowing this, I decided to use the Zip Car, and rent for two hours (read how Zip Car works here). I figured I could make a day of it, using the car to drop off the license plates, hit the driving range and shop at Trader Joe's in Edgewater.

I had registered for Zip Car a few weeks ago, with my corporate account. It only costs me $25 a year, with no registration fee. Is your company eligible? Might want to check here.

Zip Car has lots of different cars available, and each have varying price levels. It was a Friday when I rented and I could have been frugal and chose a Mazda 3 series for $9 an hour - but I figured I could splurge and rent a BMW 328i for $12 an hour. What I discovered when renting was something that Zip Car failed to mention: $5 charge every time you rent their car.

That sucks. If you rent for three days or three hours, you are hit with a $5 "New Jersey Domestic Security Fee (per day)". That's a fee that Trenton NJ imposed on us after 9/11, but there are some people trying to battle this bullshit tax.

I wanted to rent the car in the morning, but to my surprise, many of the cars i'd like to drive were rented from 9am to 12 noon. That was a bit disturbing. There were some economy cars available, but I really wanted at least a Mazda, and all eight of them were rented in Hoboken! There were others available in Jersey City or New York, but I wasn't about to take the PATH to the car. Instead I adjusted my hours and rented the car from 12pm to 2pm.

I used Zip Car's online reservation system about 48 hours in advance, and its very easy to rent a car. It gave me directions to where it was parked, and on Friday went to my car in the parking garage on 77 Park Avenue.

The first problem I encountered upon entering the parking garage was - where's my car?
I was in a multi-story parking garage, and had no idea where the car was located. My iPhone application from Zip Car was a big help here. It has the ability (when reserved) to honk your car horn that you are renting. I hit the "honk" button and sure enough my car chirped to attention only seconds later. I used my Zip Car key card to unlock the car (but you can actually use the iPhone app to do that, also).

Upon entering my BMW, I ran into my second problem - where's the key? I looked in the glove box. Under the visor. In the arm rest box. Under the seat. There was a good five minutes of searching for the key. Finally I located it under the steering wheel, attached to a thin metal retractable cable. It wasn't a standard key, either (this coming from a guy who's last car was a 1993 Volvo) - figuring out how to start the car took me another five minutes. The car had a push "Start/Stop" button, and I kept pushing it but it wouldn't start. I didn't realize that I had to put my foot on the brake to start it (even though this is common practice for cars with keys, but I wasn't even thinking about that because the push button threw me off).

OK, so ten minutes later - I was ready to leave. But then I ran into my third issue. The car was in a parking garage and the parking spots were very, very tight. The BMW is next to a concrete wall on the driver side and another Zip Car on the right. Backing out of the spot took a lot of work, since I never drove the car before and wasn't used to how much room I had. Plus, I was driving a $35,000 rental - and didn't want to ding it. After a bit of maneuvering, I got the car out of the parking spot and was on my way.

The valet let me out of the garage, but thought that if there wasn't a valet available (lets say I needed a car at midnight) - it would make things difficult to get the car out of the garage, since it had automated gates and I didn't see in the visor any kind of garage card to let me in or out.

After leaving the garage, I drove to Jersey City DMV. The ride was real quick and I was happy that I rented a car versus taking the PATH. I parked in a parking lot, and the next problem showed up. The valet at the parking lot wanted to park my car.

Like I described before - the key is attached to the car. When the valet parks the car, how can he lock it? I had to give the valet my Zip Car key card and show him how to lock the car. At first he wasn't even sure if he could let me park my car in the garage, he was very confused. After some initial issues, he relented and parked the car.

Also before he parked the car he pointed to the back of the car saying, "Hey man, do you know your car has scratches?"

I got out of the car, and saw the scratches along the wheel well. Now, I didn't inspect my car before I got into it. It was my first time renting a car with Zip Car and didn't even think to check that. I thought back to my tight parking spot, and thought "Did I do that?"

I'm 99% sure that it wasn't me. You know when you hit something with a car. It was a tight exit, but i'm sure it wasn't me. I used the Zip Car iPhone application to report the damage, and left a voice mail detailing the damage to the car. It has been three days later and no one has called me back about it. Insurance & gas with Zip Car is part of the package deal when you rent.

I dropped off my license plates and was out of the DMV in five minutes. I know everyone has nightmare stories at the DMV, but I have to say the Jersey City one isn't so bad. Everyone was very friendly and helpful.

I got back to the parking lot, paid $3.50 for parking, and drove to the driving range. It was 12:30, and still had 90 minutes on my reservation.

At the driving range, I rented a bucket of balls, and took my time. But there lies the next problem with car rental: The clock is ticking.

The great thing about owing a car is freedom. You can do what you want, where you want, when you want. If I decided on that Friday that I wanted to go see a movie in Edgewater or eat at P.F. Changs - that's no problem! Or if there was traffic or a big line at Trader Joes, it's not a big deal, you own that car.

Not so with renting a car. The beauty of Zip Car is that you can rent hourly. The downside is that other people make reservations hourly, and you must, must, must have the car back to the parking spot ON TIME. Zip Car stresses this over and over.

Now, the upside is that you can call or text Zip Car to extend the reservation (or use the iPhone application, which I heart) - if no one else has reserved the car.

I was done at the driving range by 1:30, and figured I could quickly drive next door, shop at Trader Joe's in 15 minutes, and scoot back from Edgewater to Hoboken in 15 minutes.

Boy, was I wrong.

Getting to Trader Joe's, parking, shopping, checking out: 20 minutes - and I was at a breakneck pace, too. Bought about 12 items. Got in the car, looked at the clock in the car and it said 1:49pm.

I had 11 minutes to drive to Hoboken, which was about 7 miles away. Damn, damn, damn, damn.

I used the iPhone application to extend the reservation. I only needed 15 minutes more. Only issue is that you can't extend 15 minutes, you can extend in 30 minute blocks. I was fortunate, I extended it and no one else had a reservation for this particular car. In retrospect, my advice here is twofold:

1. You can't cut it close with these kind of rentals. Doing it over again, I wouldn't have gone to Trader Joe's.
2. If I did decide to go to Trader Joe's, I should have checked for the extension earlier.

I was lucky this time.

I drove back to Hoboken, parked the car in the crazy tight parking spot, locked the car and walked back to my apartment.

Total cost?

  • Hours: noon to 2:30pm / 2.5 hours / $12.00 an hour = $30.00
  • Miles Included With Reservation: 20 miles used out of 180 miles, no extra fee
  • New Jersey Domestic Security Fee (per day): $5.00
  • Sales tax for NJ: 7%: $2.10
  • Parking Garage at Jersey City DMV: $3.50
  • Total Charges $40.60 or 16.24 per hour
Remember, I could have saved some cash if I rented a $9 per hour Mazda, which would have cost me $22.50 for 2.5 hours. I figured for $7.50 extra - which is about the same price for a mixed drink around Hoboken, I could get a fun car to drive.

My overall impression is positive, even with my minor quirks I mentioned. If I were to rent this car again, I wouldn't go through the same delays I first experienced (like finding the car, finding the key, and starting the car). I also would be sure to inspect the car before I pull out of the teeny, tiny parking spot, which I didn't do.

Probably next time i'd rent the cheaper $9 per hours Mazda 3. The Beemer was fun, but wasn't THAT fun to drive. I had the A/C cranked up and the pleather seats still were uncomfortable against my skin on the hot summer day. The car was fun, but still found the acceleration to be "touchy" on the 3 series - seemed like there were two speeds, fast or overdrive.

But those still, to me, are minor quirks. When I do my math, like owning a parking spot ($185 monthly), insurance ($85 monthly), gas ($30 monthly) - owning a car costs me $300 monthly.

If, in the future I were to rent a Mazda 3 (which is a trillion times nicer than my 1993 Volvo) every Friday for three hours to run errands. It would cost me about $33.89 ($27 for three hours, plus $5 security fee, plus $1.89 tax) each Friday, or $135 a month.

I mean, just to equal the cost of owning my car, I could rent the Mazda eight times a month - twice a week - and still save $29 on what it cost me to own a car. ($33.89 x 8 = $271). Owning my car I never, ever used it eight times in a month. Ever. I was lucky if I used my car 4 times a month while living in Hoboken over the last 10 years.

I have already reserved my Mazda 3 for my Thanksgiving visit to Washington DC (Estimated Cost: $334.93, Thursday, Nov 25th, 6am to Saturday, Nov 27th, 3pm, two days, nine hours). Sure that seems like a lot, but when you do the math, it is 57 hours and costs me $5.88 an hour, excluding tolls).

I did look into Hertz to rent a car that day instead of Zip Car, and found a few issues:

  1. It is cheaper daily, but you pay for gas & insurance with Enterprise or Hertz.
  2. They are open Saturday from 9am to noon. Closed Sunday. So I HAVE to be back from DC by noon or I will pay for Sunday and Monday at $73 a day. I kinda hate that. Plus I have to rent the car and park it on the street on Wednesday night until I leave Thursday morning.
  3. If I rent from Hertz it will cost 3 days at $73.49 = 220.47 USD, plus taxes and fees jacks it to $253.74. Not including gas, which I estimate will be $30-40 for a trip to DC. So lets say $290.

I weighed my options and figured for $44 more I get insurance and don't have to go nuts rushing back to Hoboken by noon, I have until 3pm.

I figure by the time Thanksgiving rolls around, the money I will have saved for August, September and October ($300 per month x 3 months = $900) will offset that cost ($334.93) and most any other minor rentals between now and then. I expect that I will be renting a car once or twice a month in the foreseeable future, and when it gets cold seems like I use a car less and less.

I also plan to join Hertz Connect. Through June 2012, Connect by Hertz is offering 2 years of membership for free ($25 application fee applies) and is providing a $75 driving credit when using the code: HOBOKEN at time of enrollment.

This, That, The Other Thing...

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Couple of things going on in my life. Thought i'd share.

Feet! Ever since I started the "diet" in January, I also have been doing a bit of running on a treadmill. One issue I ran into recently was that my left heel would get sore, and tingle a bit. This is the same leg where I broke my leg in 2005, and I was concerned that my running may be causing issues. My friend mentioned that he went to Foot & Ankle Care Associates on 108 Washington Street. I made an appointment, and they determined that I have a slightly higher arch than normal, which causes me to run on the outside of my foot, and caused Plantar Fasciitis, but no heel spur according to x-rays. Long story short is that they took a mold of my feet, and are making me orthotics which I will put in my running shoes. I'll update later on how that goes.

Stand Up Paddleboard (SUP)! If you haven't been paying attention this is the hot new sport according to the Wall Street Journal and New York Times. My friend Matt has been telling me about it since June, he bought one and uses it in Ocean City, NJ. Apparently, it's been the newest thing to start using on the Hudson River, and there's no rentals, but you can learn to ride one by taking a class with the NY Kayak Company or on Wednesday nights 6-8pm they offer a class for beginners who want to try SUP. I signed up for the 2 hour class and tried it last Saturday. I had a lot of fun, fell off the board about 20 times, I would do it again, but since I am 6'3.5 - I had a board that was 11'6" and had some major issues balancing on it because my center of gravity is so much higher than smaller people. Towards the end of the session, I got better and was using muscles in my legs that I never used before while running. Also note that when doing SUP I was wearing a life jacket the whole time.

Million dollar idea: Open up a SUP rental company in Hoboken and operate out of Weehawken or Hudson Cove. The laws of a SUP is that it is considered a vessel according to the US Coast Guard. Translation? You can take it anywhere on the Hudson River. Of course the last thing you want are people renting the SUP, going out into the Hudson and getting run over by boats. I would have to imagine that renters would be restricted to just the coves, and not allowed to enter the Hudson unless they have an instructor with them. The NY Kayak company doesn't rent SUPs. You can store your own SUP at their store (located at Pier 40) for the season for $800 and go anywhere you want. Again, I think in 4 years from now you will see an explosion of people doing this on the Hudson. It's a fun way to exercise, and get to explore the coastline of the Hudson River.

Also for those who think "Ewwwwww! The Hudson River is so nasty!" - you should do a bit more research. The Hudson River is actually much cleaner than you think. I'm not advocating going into the River and drinking the water, but I don't think it's any less safe than going into the ocean at any of the shore points.

Here's some mini-reviews:

Chicken Factory! I tried the Chicken Factory the other day. Don't let the name fool you, it should be called Korean Chicken Factory. I tried the Bulgoki (Korean BBQ Beef with Rice), and I liked it - but think the portions could be bigger. Definitely was hungry after eating it. I will try some of their other items on the menu.

Farside! If you haven't been to the Farside in a while, like me, you should really get over there and try their new revamped menu. I'm a bit of a foodie, and have to say it's easily one of the most underrated kitchens in Hoboken. This will sound dumb, but everything is good on the menu. One of the biggest criticisms I have in Hoboken is how "average" the bars are with their lame kitchens. If you live anywhere near Farside, I would highly recommend you go there and try their food. I'd be frankly shocked if anyone was disappointed, I loved the crabcake sandwich the other night and the 1/2 rack of ribs were delicious. Also try the garlic Parmesan French fries.

Taco Truck! I have been a long and true advocate of the Taco Truck, and now the store is open. It is fantastic, and if you haven't tried the Taco Truck store yet, I do actually pity you. I heard grumblings about how the portions are too small, and I can agree to that - they aren't giant Tacos. To me, it is a simple equasion of taste to price. For example, I said how at Chicken Factory I felt like the portions were too small - but it was good. Whereas, Taco Truck is also a bit small, but I think the food is just fantastic. I'll pay more money for great food. They told me the other day that two people came into the store and ordered the Seanito off the Secret Menu. I found that funny.

Clam Broth House: I wrote about my first impression a few weeks back and I have been back to the CBH since then. I have to say that i'm glad I went back. I tried a few other things on the menu - like the Margherita Pizza and Guinness Fish and Chips. Both were very good. Only issue I still have is that I have been back three times, and each time I sat at the bar - and yet it still took the bartender longer than five minutes to acknowledge that I was at the bar. I don't expect a bartender to come running over immediately, but I worked in the industry - and it almost becomes a joke when I look at my friend like "Do we have to raise our hand to get noticed?" It's too bad because I know one of the bartenders there and she's fantastic, and even she was busy chatting with some customers while I sat there with a girl friend and wondered if she would come over to us. I finally had to shout her name in order to get her attention, and this is at a bar with maybe 12 people sitting down. Oh well.

Lucky's! I am so looking forward to this opening. Why? Two reasons. One - Five Guys Burger and Fries doesn't deliver (for free). Two - I have a co worker who lives in NYC and raves about this place. Says that it is different than FGBF, but very good. The sign says they are opening Summer 2010 - I don't think that is happening. But mark my words, I guarantee you that when this place opens, that FGBF will "suddenly" deliver for free, instead of the bullshit $3 delivery charge.

Joey's BBQ! While i'm ranting a bit - I have to write about Joey's. I love the food, but can't stand it when I call there, with a good 45 minutes until they close and get told that "they are no longer accepting deliveries". This has happened about three times, and i'm tired of it. I'm someone who eats later at night, I just don't usually get hungry until about 8:30pm or later.

La Isla! When i'm not eating from the places I mentioned above, I try to "eat healthy" during the weekdays. When I do - I go to La Isla and order their chicken breast. It's the best deal in town. A rotisserie chicken breast for $3.50. I get it every night for dinner, pair it with broccoli, spinach or asparagus. Also I use a dash of Jack Daniels BBQ Sauce #7 on the side (probably about 1 tablespoon). I dip the chicken edge (sort of like how you would dip sushi into soy sauce) into the BBQ sauce, and it's soooo good. If you are watching your weight like I do - this is a great way to have a good meal and not kill yourself with too many calories.

I am usually very careful on weeknights to limit my carb intake - so that I can enjoy Joeys, Lucky's, CBH, Taco Truck, Farside or Chicken Factory on weekends! Remember people the key word is MODERATION! I don't order those during the week, only on Friday, Saturday or Sunday.

Hoboken Eddie

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Living in Hoboken everyone has a different perception of our town. My story began here in 1995, when I moved in with a two college friends into a railroad apartment on 6th and Bloomfield for $900 a month - total. They were crazy days when the majority of the town was filled with post-college kids looking for cheap places to drink, eat, and relax.

During that time, our local haunt was Stinky Sullivan's on 6th and Washington. It was a stone's throw from our apartment, and it had a good jukebox.

After a few months living at our new apartment, I saw a guy standing outside the bar, in between Washington and Bloomfield on 6th, carrying a stainless steel tray filled with pulled meat from a station wagon into the kitchen. He had salt and pepper hair, a ruddy face, and notice that the kitchen below the bar, which was never used before this day, had a few other people doing some kind of renovation work.

I stop him and asked what was going on - if a new restaurant was opening. He said that he was opening one, and it was his kitchen - his name was 032610.jpgChef Edmund Patrick McCarthy, or "Hoboken Eddie". Eddie was a funny guy, always had a smile on his face and generous to a fault. After his kitchen opened, I would dare say that I was one of his "regulars", if not his primary customer. I couldn't get enough of those pulled pork sandwiches with his special homemade BBQ sauce.

Being a regular, I would often hang out with Eddie after closing time, and we would get to talking. I found out that Eddie's dad actually was a graduate of Steven's Tech and he had NINE siblings. He left home around fifteen years old, to get a job as a dishwasher.

One thing led to another and Eddie moved from washing dishes to making dishes. He credits his mother as his greatest influence for his craft, and after many years working in a kitchen he started to develop his own sauces. Back in the early 80's, in between his days hanging out at Maxwell's and living on 4th and Monroe, he would make some extra money by selling it at local street fairs or with "Joey and Stevey" at Truglio's Meat Market on 10th and Park for cheese and hamburger meat.

He left our state of New Jersey for greener pastures in the mid 80's to work in Vermont and later in Key West, towards the end of the decade. He made many friends over that time, earning the nicknames of "Green Mountain Eddie" or "Salty Eddie". He has lots of stories to tell, and lived a full and rich life just cooking and having as much fun as possible.

Eddie returned to NJ, and it was during that time I learned those stories, and watched as he started making his sauces in the little kitchen below Sullivan's bar. They multiplied in numbers and he eventually had about twelve different sauces. I used to help him bottle those sauces before the Arts and Music Festivals, adding labels to the still warm bottles and having a few beers with him and his co-workers.

Those were great times, when the kitchen was open. You know how you can look back on a certain part of your life and realize how good it was - Hoboken Eddie's was one of those times. There aren't many times that a really great kitchen comes along in Hoboken, and Eddie's was simply outstanding. Pure comfort food - from braised beef sandwiches, hamburgers, mac and cheese and fries galore. There was nothing fancy about his greasy spoon. It could sit about 10 people, and that was pushing it. Often I would walk into the kitchen and there would be a line of people waiting to order. I would hate it. I wanted this little kitchen to myself and these "intruders" were ruining my special kitchen.

Years past and Eddie decided to focus on his sauces and close up the kitchen. It was a very sad day for regulars like myself, and I even tried my best to have Eddie & his partners do something with renting The Farside kitchen where they make his dishes and used his sauce - but it fell through.

Hoboken Eddie left and started selling his sauces to local stores, boutiques and restaurants. Eventually his created an online store,, where he now sells seventeen different sauces, and has won Chili Pepper magazine's famous Fiery Food Challenge. Some of Eddie's other sauces have won awards, too: the HomeMade BBQ Sauce, Hot Sauce, Jamaican BBQ, Merlie's Magic, Home Grown, Sweet and Sour and Spicy Mustard are all award winning sauces.

You can still spot Eddie at every Arts and Music Festival in Hoboken. He's usually selling his sauces on the corner of 6th and Washington Street, every year, and is worth going out to meet. His sauces are available locally, in almost every boutique food store. In the future Eddie hopes to make his return to Hoboken by opening up a new restaurant, with the possibility of making a franchise of Hoboken Eddies and there are some plans for a possible reality cooking show, too. You can keep up with him on his Facebook page, and I would encourage you to try those sauces...and as Eddie would say, "Ya Hear Me??"

Sit & Stay Dog Training

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After Rocco joined me in my home, one of the goals I had was to make sure that I was trained properly in obedience training.

If you scour the internet or watch TV, there's a thousand people who will give you a thousand different ways to train a dog. Everyone has got an opinion on the "right" way to train a dog, and each owner needs to figure out what is best for them and their dog.

What *I* wanted was to learn about positive reinforcement with Rocco. I asked my dog walker, Lauren (who, by the way, is excellent and if you are interested in her services, feel free to email me and I will pass along her contact info) for a reference.

She didn't hesitate and told me to use the trainer that she used on her Siberian Huskies: Joana Watsky, owner of Sit and Stay.

I called Joana, and we talked a lot on the phone. She asked me about my dog, what I was looking to achieve, and how she could help.

I already knew a lot, with thanks to my sisters for their advice, but I wanted to make sure that I was laying the proper foundation to raising a good dog now, and not trying to correct bad behavior later.

Joana explained how she worked with positive reinforcement to train puppies, and that it was never too early to teach owners these methods. Also she would cover grooming, housebreaking (with command words once outside), basic commands (sit, stand, down, "leave it"), command praise and dog psychology - plus any other questions I had.

We made an appointment, and she arrived at my home last night.

Suffice to say, I already knew a lot of what she taught me and it's a great class for a first time owner or someone, like me, who does have dog experience but is looking to fill in the gaps.

I learned a lot, especially about redirecting Rocco's love to chew everything. Often I would catch him chewing on my couch or going to a lamps electrical wire - and of course i'd say "NO". But she taught me that it's not enough to just do that, we have to say "Leave It" and then direct him to something that is positive, like a dog toy he can chew on.

She was also teaching me that while i'm teaching Rocco that i'm the "pack leader" I have to temper my love towards him. It can't just be "affection, affection, affection...then discipline". He has to earn attention through being a good puppy, not just be an owner who showers him with playtime or petting. Not letting him up on furniture or sleeping in my bed (I haven't allowed this since day 1).

There was a lot of other things she covered, including teaching Rocco "sit", "stand", "down". "Down" was a bit tricky, Rocco has a stubborn streak and didn't like "down", but her persistence and training methods did get him into a down position. Commands like "stay" and "come" would be taught at a later date when the puppy is a bit older.

By taking this class I also got 15% off her group obedience class in the future, which I will be attending when Rocco is about 6 months old. If you are like me, and live in or around Hoboken, have a dog and want to learn a few things - I highly recommend taking this class.

Eating Raoul

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Bonus points if you remember that D movie from the 80's.

No, didn't watch the movie this weekend, I went out Friday night to Raoul's Restaurant at 180 Prince Street.


As you know, I am not a huge fan of anything pretentious. Most of the bars or restaurants I will avoid if they come across as "the place to be" - i'm looking at you, The Madison. I don't mind fine restaurants or "cool" bars, I just hate the kind of places that don't make you feel welcome unless you are "important". The Madison will always have a dark place in my heart because they make people wait in line when there's no one in the bar. Who does that? But I have to say i'm impressed with what Andrew W.K. is trying to to. He's what I would be doing if I had a few million...make others happy, some money and not being a douche about it.

But I digress.

My brother was coming up to town, with his wife, and wanted to go out to dinner. They lived in NYC, on Duane Street, for 3 years, before moving out in 2002. It was really great to have a family member living in the city from 1999-2002, and I tagged along with them to try out many great restaurants and bars. Some were borderline when it comes to my snooty scale, but even I can't turn down trying places like Nobu.

K was coming up and already picked a place for us to eat - Raoul's Restaurant. I don't recall eating there, and he said it had the "best Steak au poivre ("pepper steak") in the city". I looked at the place online, checked out the menu and the prices and part of me inwardly groaned. But...he's family and sort of stubborn like I can be stubborn about certain things. So, I decided to just go with the flow.

I meet them at the Soho Grand around 8:30pm on Friday, with K giving me a "Yo" call from across the lobby. I inwardly chuckle, because to an outside observer, someone not from from Philly or New York, probably don't even understand what that translates to. "YO". Think about the colloquial nature of that greeting/attention phrase. Our family and friends grew up saying that. It was the classic phrase amongst my brother and myself, and it was just...pleasant to hear it again. Again, this is hard to describe, but I enjoyed hearing a friendly face say it.

I scampered up the steps, shook K's hand and then went to the bar to have a few drinks while we waited for his wife to join us.

The Soho Grand was "THE" hotel once, and still is nice...but it's showing its age. Sort of like that beautiful 20-something club girl that is now the...sort...of...over 30-something girl still trying to be the club girl. Still beautiful...but you see the wrinkles and spots showing up.

At a copper topped table, stained with old glass watermarks, near the bar we ordered a drink, and I started the night with a glass of Oban. I gotta say this for my scotch people...isn't this the most beautiful scotch you can buy? It is like silk. I love drinking it, just too bad it is $90 a bottle (although I did see a place in New York selling it for $70...but still.)

K and I chatted a bit. My old memories of our previous golf game from last year were a distant can get angry over stuff, but it's let that go and move on.

That sort of reminds me of friendship. I think you can really tell who your friends are about how they react to disagreements. If you are really friends, you forgive and let things go. If you weren't meant to be friends, then you harbor that hatred or jealousy. K and I may get upset over each other, but a few months away and seeing each other again is a wonderful least for the short term.

After A* joined us, we walked over to Prince Street.

Raoul's is a small, 40-50 seat bistro in the heart of the Soho at 180 Prince Street.

My fears of an overbearing, snobbish restaurant quickly washed away as soon as I entered. It was a great looking tavern, with a small 12 person bar, a few boots and tables packed into the approximately 1000 square foot space (no larger than many restaurants we have in Hoboken). It had pictures lining the walls of various eclectic designs and portraits. A beautiful tin ceiling, and a buzzing crowd and I just breathed in the scene.

The maitre d' was an older, tall guy who reminded me of Michael from Sobsey's Produce. He spoke to my brother for a few moments, offering us two different seats, a booth for 4 or a 6 top by the window.

Now those in the restaurant biz usually don't give up a 6 top to three people, especially in prime real estate at the corner window seat.

No problem, they sat us down and the feast began.

I looked over their wine list, hoping they would have the same wine that Matt and I had at Wolfgang's...Stag's Leap Artemis. They didn't. My brother had a look and asked if I tried Ridge Zinfandel.

Zinfandel? The horror!

No. I didn't, and he said "Trust me" and ordered a bottle.

Glad I did. The peppery zinfandel was a big hit, and we shared the artichoke appetizer with Raoul's vinaigrette. Really great, served cold (I may have preferred warm), but still a tasty treat to enjoy over wine.

My brother ordered the Steak au Poivre (with French Fries), I ordered the Rack of Lamb (with Roasted Asparagus, Spinach and Olive) and A* had the Seared Big Eye Tuna (with Cucumber Pousse Pied and Melon)

Oh. My. God.

Those are the only words that do justice to this meal. We all shared each other's dishes, and there weren't any leftovers. It was so good, I was already contemplating when I would return after our meal, when I saw someone walking towards the exit.


He looks familiar.

Where do I know...that's Ryan Gosling.

He was coming from the back of the restaurant, sitting in the booth behind the one we were first offered. That would have been an even more interesting blog posting, because I know I would have have some more interesting things to say. Suffice to say, looked like a regular guy. Taller than I expected. He had his trimmed beard and knitted skullcap rocking. I watched as he approached, but didn't linger long at looking at anyone who lives in New York is quickly trained to do. We aren't the tourists who gush "OHMYGODITSRYANGOSLING!" and fawn.

But, I did just write a paragraph on him, so I guess i'm guilty in some regards for even writing about it. Bottom line is that I wasn't expecting to see anyone semi-famous and it was mildly amusing to see a "star" after finishing our meal and enjoying our port wine.

Oh..forgot that part. We concluded the meal with dessert (I had the Crème Brûlée and K & A shared Profiteroles), and port wine. They had a very tasty 20 year old tawny, but at $20 a glass, I wasn't going to have seconds when I can buy a bottle for $50.

The night ended on a 3rd bottle of Ridge Zinfandel, and many funny stories and chats with my family. It was early by the time we left the restaurant, only 11:30, and my walk back to the PATH and then into Hoboken by a few minutes after midnight.

A great night. Definitely a date place. Definitely not cheap, but if you are a bit more careful with what you buy (the 3 bottles of wine alone killed our bill), it's something that I can fit into my "treat yourself well" night. Last year I had the shore house at Bradley Beach, maybe this year i'll skip the shore house (I was approached recently to see if I wanted to re-join...i'm thinking about it...) and treat myself to some great NYC restaurants like Raoul's.

If there is ONE restaurant you need to try before you ever leave New York at Raoul's.

Wolfgang's Downtown

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PHONE: 212-925-0350

HOURS: MON-THU: 12:00PM-10:30PM, FRI: 12PM-11PM, SAT 5PM-11PM, SUN: 5:00-10:30PM

Over the years living here I have been fortunate to try many steakhouses in the city. I have dined at Sparks, Bobby Van's, Strip House, The Palm, Smith & Wollensky, Peter Luger's, The Post House, The Capital Grille, MarkJoseph...the list goes on.

Suffice to say, I think I have a good feel for steak and steakhouses.

Now that i'm working in the West Village for 'Corporation X', I have had a chance to explore the neighborhood. Only a few blocks away from my office is Dylan Prime and Wolfgang's Downtown. My buddy Matt mentioned the idea about grabbing a steak, and away we went.

Wolfgang's was started by the head waiter at Peter Lugers, Wolfgang Zwiener. He took the best aspects of Luger's, the steak, and added something even better: a comfortable place for everyone to enjoy the experience.

We made reservations for a Thursday at 7pm, and were seated promptly upon arrival. The establishment is upscale, but not fussy. Many other steakhouses have a pretentious air about them which make dining there, for me, a bit annoying. I can't stand walking into a restaurant where you, the customer, need to feel like you walked into God's gift to Peter Luger's. I'm sure someone will come rushing to Luger's defense, but I have been there three times and each time it seems I have the rudest waiter who needs to make me feel like I don't belong in their inner sanctum.

Nothing like that at Wolfgang's. Everyone was friendly, and the people there were upscale casual, some in suits, and our seats were in front of the restaurant, with the large expansive glass windows, providing the view of the cityscape along Greenwich street.

We barely glanced at the menu, already knowing that we would share a Porterhouse for two, and grabbed the canadian bacon appetizer along with a seafood platter we would share. Combine that with a bottle of 2005 Stag's Leap Artemis Cabernet and we were ready.

There comes a time in your life when there is a simple harmony to the world. I can remember a few times in my life when this happens, when it seems that the world slows down and becomes less complicated. This was one of those nights. Maybe it was the wine, the company and the food which became an orchestra of pleasure for the senses, but I was relaxed and enjoying my night.

The fare was a pleasure to behold, along with quick, efficient service. The canadian bacon was a bit of a disappointment, I heard so many good things about it, but I was expecting more. The seafood platter was delicious, next time I am definitely ordering that again. The porterhouse steak was cooked to perfection, accompanied by hashed potatoes and asparagus.

Our "dessert" were two glasses each of Oban scotch, and by 8:30pm I was full and heady from a really great meal. We headed back into Hoboken, taking the PATH from Christopher, and ended the night at Mulligan's with a couple of drinks and a few games of pool.

In retrospect, I think that's one of the highlights of living in Hoboken. You get all the great aspects of what the city has to offer, but can hop on a train and be back at your local pub in a short time.

I really want to try to get out more, far too often I find myself in a rut - working, sleeping, eating, repeat. Certainly I cannot eat at places like Wolfgang's every week, it was extremely expensive (the wine and the scotches didn't help), but completely worth it. Now I have to try Dylan Prime next...

Fleet Feet

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Fleet Feet
604 Washington St
Hoboken, NJ 07030
(201) 533-1200

I started my interval training, and I noticed that my shins (in both legs) were getting very sore by the fourth week of running. I made sure I was stretching right, targeting my hamstrings, quads, glutes and calves before and after each run. Yet, I still found that I was plagued with shin splints, and remembered that when I ran track (briefly) in high school that the same thing would happen but eventually they would go away.

Of course that was 20 years ago, and it didn't seem to be getting better as I ran. I took the last week off from running, and did some on line research. Aside from HOW I ran, and HOW I stretched, many sites also mentioned that your running shoes could be the culprit.

My Nike shoes were in good shape, but I bought them about 4 years ago when I first joined Club H, and really just didn't do much research into the shoes. I figured they were by Nike, they were running shoes, and they cost over $100 - so they must be good.

Little did I realize that there are many factors that go into buying the correct running shoe, and we all have different biomechanics and foot shape that affect what shoes we should wear. There were online sites that had various recommendations to guide me, but most said the same thing: "visit a biomechanics expert or experienced shoe retailer" when choosing a good running shoe.

I orginally wanted to just figure it out myself, and buy something online, and asked a friend what were his running shoes. He said "Asics. I buy them at Fleet Feet, I think they take the time to fit your foot wife swears by them, plus it's a small business in Hoboken providing something different, I like to support that stuff."

Last night, I stopped by the store, which was located on 6th and Washington to see if they could help. I was greeted by the employee, and he asked if he could help - and started to talk to him about running, my running style and what I was looking for (including my problems with my shins). He listened to what I had to say, and I told him that I was interested in Asics (Nimbus-10 to Cumulus-10), and he agreed that Nimbus were a good brand to look at, but first said we should measure my feet and see how I walked.

I have always been the same side shoe over the years, but what I didn't take into consideration was the flexibility of my arch. A "normal" foot has an arch, which also gives (flexes) when you put weight on it. Some people have flat feet, which is when there is no arch to the foot, and others have high arches.

There's also pronation, which is the rolling motion of the foot from heel to toe and you can determine pronation by the wear on the rubber sole of your shoes. Neutral is an even roll, Underpronation is when the outside of the foot absorbs more weight and overpronation is when the inside of the foot takes the majority of the weight - and the wear of the insides or soles of your shoes will help determine this.

These were things that I never really considered when buying a running shoe. I figured shoes were shoes, and it was a bit of an eye opening experience. After working with Shawn, who later I found out was the owner of the store, he knew which shoes would work for me, and we tried on a bunch of shoes from Brooks, Asics and Mizuno. He showed me one model of each maker which were the "intermediate" shoes and one model which were a bit more "advanced".

I had six pairs of shoes in front of me, and I tried on each shoe, feeling how the length and width of the shoe fit my foot. I found that the Asics were a bit more narrow than I liked, but very soft on my feet. The Brooks were good, but I wasn't super impressed. By the time I tried on the Mizuno, I felt like my feet were leaping off the ground and ready to run.

I was even encouraged to try a "test run" with the shoes, and I walked outside, and ran a half block down Washington street, stopping at East LA. The shoes felt really good, and I wanted to go running right away!

I went back to the store, and asked Shawn that they felt good and he told me a few things about buying from Fleet Feet.

First, if you buy them and in the next few days find that the shoes are uncomfortable, you can always come back and return the shoes for an exchange of something new. I really liked that because I was afraid of buying shoes and making the wrong choice. For example, the Asics felt great but they had a more "cushiony" feel to them. The Mizuno were more "springy" to me, as if they propelled me forward with each step. So I was happy that I bought with Fleet Feet versus buying from an online site that may not have such a flexible return policy.

Second, they keep track of your purchase history at Fleet Feet, and once you spend $250 at their store, they send you a $50 gift certificate. That's a nice way of rewarding customer loyalty.

Third, Fleet Feet isn't just some faceless corporate entity. The local running clubs HoHa and The Mile Square Running Club include Fleet Feet & other locations in Hoboken as their local starting point. Both clubs are co-ed, social and always looking for new members of various ages and running paces.

I was really impressed after leaving the store and happy with my new purchase. I was glad I went to a local store to get properly fitted, rather than guessing at a shoe from an online store.

Team Fortress 2

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Remember I wrote about Half-Life 2: The Orange Box in my last entry?

For you non-nerds, just stop reading now and read something else from my blog that you may have missed over my years and isn't my "Essential Entry". How about my Top 5 Embarassing Moments: High School? Or The Top 5 Memories Of My Father, for my relatives who haven't read it...

For those who enjoy video games, read on.

Brunch: Mikie Squared


One of my favorite meals is brunch. My last report was about Court Street's brunch. My next report is about Mikie Squared, owned by Michael and Cindy Fasciano, who also own Margarita's on 8th and Washington. 101606b.jpg

Of course you can take this review with a grain of salt, I do work at this restaurant, but I don't work during brunch. I have been working Saturday nights there for the last few months and eating at the restaurant at least once or twice a week for dinner or brunch. The brunch at Mikie's is every Saturday and Sunday from 10am to 3pm. They regularly get a sizeable crowd, depending on what college or NFL game is on television.

The brunch menu has quite a few interesting and eclectic choices. You should know that nearly everything they serve is made from scratch. Unlike many restaurants in Hoboken, Mikie Squared takes the raw ingredients of every dish and prepares it on the premises. What they don't make in the restaurant, they only serve the highest quality ingredients and their attention to detail is what will win you over.

I have sampled many of them, and this is what I can tell you. The Huevos Rancheros ($10) is by far my favorite dish. It is a symphony of ingredients, including two sunny side eggs, on top of a crisp tortilla shell, with melted monterrey jack cheese and refried beans, a touch of homemade fresh guacamole and diced tomatoes, along with a Ranchero sauce complete the dish . It is served with homefries.

The Eggs Benedict ($11) comes as a close second favorite for me. The simplicity of the meal, with poached eggs over Canadian bacon and english muffins is what I like most about it. One of my biggest peeves with eggs Benedict at other restaurants is the Hollandiase sauce. Some restaurants make them too buttery and others are heavy with the lemon juice. The sauce they use I think is a wonderful balance between the two and its subtle effect on the palate is what makes me order this time and again. 101606c.jpg

I have tried the Pancakes ($10) and the French Toast ($11), also. The pancakes remind me of French crepes I have tried in Paris, with its light, fluffy, thin texture. The pancakes are served with fresh sliced bananas and strawberries. Also note that the syrup is real maple, not some nameless industrial processed syrup.

The french toast is made with brioche bread dipped in battered eggs and cinnamon, then pan fried and dusted with powdered sugar. A sweet amaretto strawberry sauce is drizzled over top, and it is served with fresh bananas and strawberries, along with real maple syrup. As one person commented to me, "They are to die for!"

I have tried the Steak and Eggs ($12), and its a great power breakfast for those looking for a protein infusion to start their day. Made with marinated hangar steak and sunny side up eggs, I think of it as the "hangover cure". Wolf that down to start your day and soak up the alcohol from the night before, and you will be right as rain. 101606a.jpg

They have also added a few new dishes in the last few days. "The Bambino" Italian Omelet ($11 - With homemade mozzarella, red bell peppers, sliced fresh tomatoes, with homefries and toast), Fabulous Shrimp Frittata ($12 - tomato, scallions, and shrimp with homefries and toast), The Defibrillator Omelet ($11 - Not for the feint of heart! ham, sausage, bacon, jalapeno & pepperjack cheese, with homefries and toast), Mikie's Breakfast Burrito Wrap ($11 - A tortilla wrap filled with two eggs, sausage, homefries, peppers, onions, and homemade guacamole).

I'm a firm believer that you get what you pay for. Certainly some people are going to read the prices at Mikie's and say, "Wow! That's expensive. I can go to a diner and it only costs "$XXX" for "XYZ"!"

I agree that there are cheaper alternatives in Hoboken. But I seriously question the quality of those ingredients, the way that the food is prepared and the attention to detail. Sure, eggs are eggs, but Mikie's bacon is large, fresh and have a smoky, crisp flavor. The hollandaise sauce, mozzarella, guacamole, homefries, along with a multitude of other ingredients are made fresh in the kitchen. They only buy the highest quality shrimp, beef and pork. The fruits that accompany many dishes are freshly sliced, the sauces are homemade and maple syrup is of the highest quality and fantastic with the pancakes or French toast.

But, to each their own. Mikie's is easily one of the top tier brunches that Hoboken has to offer. Looking to bring your family in for an impressive brunch or maybe a choice for someone special in your life? I'd choose Mikie's.

Brunch: Court Street


I can love both fair and brown;040206.JPG
Her whom abundance melts, and her whom want betrays;
Her who loves loneness best, and her who masks and plays;
Her whom the country form'd, and whom the town;
Her who believes, and her who tries;
Her who still weeps with spongy eyes,
And her who is dry cork, and never cries.
I can love her, and her, and you, and you;
I can love any, so she be not true.

John Donne, "The Indifferent", (1572-1631)

The birds are chirping and the trees are blossoming. It was a beautiful spring Sunday in Hoboken, and I wore shorts for the first time this year, while looking for a restaurant to have brunch.

When it comes to breakfast, it easily is my most favorite meal of the day. So many fun choices, from eggs to pancakes to french toast to cereal to soup (yes, we ate soup for breakfast growing up). Many times when I have guests over (heh), I can whip up delicious breakfasts myself. But cooking for yourself is like doing many things alone - it just isn't as fun. So, what I have done many a weekend is try the various brunches in Hoboken at many different restaurants in proximity to my humble abode.

I haven't tried every place in town, but I have been to many. I have tried places like East LA, The Hoboken Gourmet Company, Liberty Bar and Restaurant, Amanda's, The Brass Rail, and Court Street. Yes, I know there are plenty of other places for me to try and I will attempt to visit them all in the next coming weeks and report back.

But my current favorite is....

Court Street.

Boy, oh boy. I don't know if you have been there, but i'm sure its not a very big secret, considering that the entire place is packed every weekend. Today when I arrived, the bar was fairly open, and the seating in the back was about 60% full. I asked the bartender if it was like this all the time, and she mentioned that "It is because of the nice weather, everyone is out doing things". That made sense, because even on my walk up to the bar I noticed that Stinky Sullivan's (yes, it will always be "Stinky's" to me) that the front area was full of people boozing it up in the sun.

This is my second visit to Court Street for brunch. I visit there about once a week, or so, for dinner, and love the wine lists (especially the choices of wine they have by the glass) and food. They simply hit three key points for my dining experience: Taste, Portions and Price. The food is always delicious on a consistent basis. The portions they serve aren't skimpy, and I always walk away full. The price is excellent, you get coffee, fruit, bread and your choice of an entree for one reasonable fixed price.

Of course I have other side considerations to when I dine. I don't forget about important key points like service or atmosphere. As much as service is important, I have found that if the food is delicatable, people are willing to put up with poor service for good food - like people who visit the "Soup Nazi" in New York. The same is true for a good atmosphere, like people who go to "The Madison" and stand outside in line for an hour in cold weather.

Fortunately, those considerations are moot at a restaurant like Court Street. The wait staff are aimable and chatty, and the atmosphere contains zero pretentiousness that other snooty establishments in town like to air.

I found out a tidbit of good news about Court Street this year. Turns out that every summer Court Street closes for brunch on the weekends. Turns out they are going to be open all summer long, Saturday and Sunday, for brunch. On a sweltering hot summer day would you rather be outside wilting in the heat or inside in a nice, cool, air conditioned restaurant eating? Hey, the choice is yours.

I'm not indifferent about it. I will be in Court Street on Sundays, i'm sure.


Oh, on an interesting side note the bartender said to me..."You look familiar... do you have a blog?"

"Yea,", I said sheepishly, ""

"I thought I recognized you, my coworker send me links to read."

I'm no Kevin McCormick, but it certainly is amusing when that happens.

Marma Day Spa

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Marma Day Spa
1122 Washington Street
Hoboken, NJ 07030

Spa Hours
Sunday 10am-4pm
Monday thru Friday 12pm-9pm
Saturday 9am-5pm

The longer I live in Hoboken, the more I realize that it is a much bigger town than I realize, with so many interesting businesses and restaurants. My latest foray was getting a massage at Marma Day Spa, located at 1122 Washington Street.

Marma was based on the principles of Ayurveda (pronounced eye-yer-vay-duh) is the art of healthy living developed in India. The word, from ancient Sanskirit literally means "Knowledge of Life". Such principles of Ayurveda includes the use of herbs, nutrition, panchakarma cleansing and acupressure massage which promote taking charge of your life and healing.

These principles are not lost upon walking into Marma, where the front entrance has statues of Indian dieties, textbooks on the subject of spiritual healing and an atmosphere of comfort. The receptionist marked off my appointment, and led me into a back area of the spa, where they had individual lockers, and a changing room. I was given a robe and rubber slippers, where I removed my clothing and waited on a couch in a private area adorned with candles and a small faux waterfall.

In a short time I was introduced to Carla, who was a very friendly massage therapist, and she led me into one of the four therapy rooms. The rooms are small, with the sound of dripping water, soothing music and candlelight, all playing upon my different senses. The massage began with her washing and massaging my feet in a large stainless steel bowl. She first asked the purpose of the massage, and anything she should know about my health. I asked why, and explained to me about how Ayurvedic massage focused on hitting certain pressure points in the body and that depending on why I needed the massage, she would change the massage accordingly. I told her about my leg, and to take care around the knee area, but otherwise I just wanted to destress and relax.

After drying my feet we selected a liquid scent that she would use during the massage. There was a whole table with dark, tiny bottles on them each containing a different fragrance. I had her choose one for me, since I really was aloof about what scent was used. She chose orange mint, and then left the room to let me disrobe and get on the massage table, under the sheets.

After a few minutes she returned, and before she began she told me to let her know if she was using too much or too little pressure during the massage. She first started by having me breathe in the citrus oils from her hands three times, with deep breaths. She began the massage in earnest, and it was, quite simply, wonderful.

I could write about the finer points of the massage, but what is there to tell, really? It was relaxing and soothing, and when I walked out of the spa I felt like a million bucks. I walked home, and when I entered my home I realized for the first time, in a long time, that I completely forgot about my sore leg. My surgery was mid-January, and the whole walk home was at a brisk pace with little thought about my leg.

A few days after I called Laurie and chatted with her a bit about her salon and spa.

Owned by Laurie Michelson, also the owner of Hair Cult salon on 11th and Washington. Laurie told me she was a hairstylist in the entertainment industry including Carly Simon, Bon Jovi, Kip Winger, Sean Penn (while he filmed State of Grace). She needed a base of operations for her work, and Hair Cult was born 18 years ago.

She came up with the idea to open a spa after listening to feedback from her customers.

"At our spa we give head massages while we shampoo our clients hair, many told us they would love to have other spa services and Marma started because of that.", Laurie told me.

When she opened the salon she combined the elements of Ayurveda along with the products and mission statement from Aveda, creating an enviromental concept salon. The Aveda website quotes Horst M. Rechelbacher, the founder of Aveda, "Our mission at Aveda is to care for the world we live in, from the products we make to the ways in which we give back to society. At Aveda, we strive to set an example for enviromental leadership and responsibility, not just in the world of beauty, but around the world."

It seems to me that Laurie isn't just creating a business, but a way of life for her clients. If my massage at Marma was any indication, I can only imagine how wonderful the other spa services at the salon could be. The offer Spa therapy, skin care, manicure, pedicures and waxing. Prices and services are explained in detail on their website at Of course i'm about 6 years late getting to Marma, and hoping I can make up for lost time. If you haven't been here yet, maybe it is about time to make an appointment and see what you have been missing.

Bad Dog! Good Book: Marley & Me


I finished reading, "Marley & Me: Life and Love with the World's Worst Dog" by John Grogan, and it was a touching tale about the unrequited love and bond that a canine companion can bring to our life. Marley, a yellow Lab, was blockheaded in form and actions, barrelling through screen doors and dragging dining tables by his leash, while trying to fetch any piece of fabric, trash or food into his cavernous maw. Many families wouldn't put up with such an unruly hound, but the Grogans learned to love Marley and his boneheaded ways up until his passing after thirteen years. The book is an easy, witty and lighthearted look into the Grogan's life of the last thirteen years, from John's early years working in Florida, to his stint with Organic Gardening to his present job as a columnist at the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Any dog owner of past or present will instantly relate with this book, and it certainly is a GREAT read if you ever plan on adopting or buying a dog. Caveat emptor - Let the buyer beware.

Sushi and Me: Review of Maru Sushi


I, myself, was not in a family of sushi lovers. I used to be one of those people who would laugh at the raw fish eaters and part of my ignorance was because I was never properly introduced to sushi.

My first experience with sushi was in Ocean City, NJ, on the boardwalk at some hole in the wall establishment run by people who were as Asian as me. It was terrible, I hated it and it just reaffirmed my hatred of raw fish for many years. In 1999, my brother and his wife moved to New York, in an apartment on Duane Street in SoHo. They, being the quintessential yuppies, loved sushi and decided to formally get me interested in it - by taking me to a proper sushi bar.


They decided on Tomoe, on Thompson. If you haven't been to Tomoe, well it certainly ranks up there with one of the better sushi bars in the city. What it lacks in decor and size it certainly makes up for in fish quality and deliciousness. It began with much trepidation, but my fears were soon allayed and I was hooked (no pun intended).

Fast forward seven years and i'm now in Hoboken, where I eat sushi at least once a week. My trips to Tomoe are few and far between, and I find myself trying various establishments in Hoboken over the years for my sushi fix. In recent memory, our town has seen an explosive growth of sushi or Japanese restaurants: Sushi Lounge, Sushi House, Robongi, and Illuzion to name a few.

Before the sushi purists read the rest, I will save us all time. Don't email me and or add comments about how Hoboken sushi can't compare to New York. Yes, I know this. New York rules. But for Hoboken, and my standards, the quality of the fish I have discovered has been pleasantly surprising..

Up until lately, I would usually dine at Sushi Lounge every Wednesday, at the bar around 7pm. I would sit down and order the same thing every week - a bottle of Sapporo, an order of edamame & a sushi deluxe (Sushi Lounge calls it the "Sushi Rock"). When I eat sushi, I add only a small bit of soy sauce (with wasabi mixed in) to the edge of the sushi. Pet Peeve Alert: I really hate people who DUNK the entire piece of fish into their bowl and saturate the entire thing. Why not just drink the soy sauce, people?

Anyhow, that was my routine for a few weeks. I liked being able to sit at a bar, order sushi and have a drink. My only thing that I didn't like about Sushi Lounge is that the Sapporo was $7 for a 16 ounce bottle. Sure, I understand the whole cost/drink ratio of bars and restaurants, but $7? The beer was ice cold, and I loved that, but paying over $20 for my food and 1/3 of that was for 1 drink - it would always annoy me when I got the bill. But I would pay my 20% and still would walk away satisfied.

If I didn't want to sit down for sushi, I would normally order from Robongi. When Robongi first opened, I hated it. I would constantly find scales in my fish, and whoever the head chef was, didn't do a good job. But, as of the last year, Robongi has been delicious and the scale problem disappeared. This is the place that I would order takeout, and enjoy eating at my apartment.

Yesterday some people were talking about sushi on Hobokenchat, and we talked about our interests in sushi. It was Wednesday and I was jonesing for some raw fish, but didn't want to walk in the rain (I forgot my umbrella) to Sushi Lounge.

Instead, I went home and thought I would try Illuzion for the first time. I went to the 7th and Park liquor store and bought a 6 bottle pack of Sapporo, for $8.50. $8.50! I stopped by the dry cleaner to get my clothes at Sarah Cleaners. The girl who works there (is it Sarah? Or is Sarah the owner and she doesn't work the place?) is Korean and extremely nice. She has the most adorable Yorkie named Asia, that I love to play with each time I go in there.

I was holding my six pack and she said, "It has been a long day I need a drink too!" I replied, "Yea why don't you come back to my place and I will give you a cup of Furey..."

I kid! I kid!

No, I mentioned how I was going to order sushi and the first thing she said was, "Maru!" and gestured towards Washington Street.

Ah, yes, Maru. The red headed stepchild of Hoboken sushi. Before the recent influx of japanese restaurants, Maru has always been the quiet favorite amongst the established Hoboken resident. I never really went there because i'm your typical Gen X - we like the trendy looking places over the non-trendy. Sushi Lounge was, well, cool. Flat screen TV's and black glossy bar with a great soundsystem playing house music. I was drawn into that place like a fly on sugar.

Maru was stodgy and old. Like the defunct Tamura II - it just didn't visually appeal to me. So I never went to that restaurant. In the last year or so, I noticed that they actually renovated their interior, and it wasn't on the same level as Sushi Lounge, it looked much nicer inside.

Once Sarah (?) mentioned Maru, I decided to give them a try again.

I did go to Maru once before. The first time I tried Maru I was passing by the restaurant one night and dedided to try it. I saw an absolutely gorgeous girl sitting in the window, who was waiting for sushi and talking on a cell phone. I wanted her - and I wanted sushi, so I went in to order. Sadly the cell phone girl was engrossed in her conversation and I didn't get to chat her up. My second strike was that this night that one of their chefs called out sick. I literally sat there for 30 minutes for a takeout order of a sushi deluxe. I wasn't happy on both counts and I really wasn't impressed with my sushi order.

But I usually give restaurants a second chance. I learned in my days of restaurant reviews for Hobokeni - that you really shouldn't go to a restaurant once and try to write a review. Businesses are like people - they can have good nights or bad nights.

I went home, iced down the Sapporo and ordered from Maru over the phone. My order was delivered 30 minutes later, and i'm trying to think the best way to describe this...

It was absolutely fucking God damn ridiculously delicious.

Yes, I just took the Lord's name in vain. I'm sorry, it had to be done.

Holy shit (there I go again), what the fuck just happened? This was dee-lic-ious (that's three syllables people). I was in 7th Heaven with that takeout order, drinking my $1.50 Sapporo and watching TV while tapping my feet and wolfing down the fish.

Farewell, Robongi! I loved ya, babe, but I have a new takeout lover in my life.

If you haven't tried Maru, well, make sure you try it soon:
Hours - (Please confirm) Mon-Thu 11:30am-3pm, 5pm-10:30pm, Fri 11:30am-3pm, 5pm-11pm, Sat 12noon-11pm, Sun 12noon-10pm
Address - 219 Washington St
Telephone - (201) 798-3311

Free Advice: Never order fish on a Monday. I always get sushi on a Wednesday, Thursday or Friday for good reason - that is usually when you have the best chances to get FRESH fish.

Wogie's Cheesesteaks

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A visitor to my site saw my review about Carl's Philly Cheesesteaks, and emailed me about a place called Wogie's:


I read your blog today for the first time. I made it my new book mark
for a daily read. I am a huge fan of Dalessandro's myself, I make a
trip there every time I go home. Have you ever tried Woogie's on
Greenwich Ave for cheeseteaks? Its owned buy a guy in Philadelphia
and I heard the cheesesteaks are awesome.

I got to email chatting with my new friend, and she turns out to be a Philly Eagles fan and fellow cheesesteak enthusiast. I promised her that I would follow up on her suggestion. It only took me a month, but I finally got to Wogie's.

Located on the corner of Charles St & Greenwich Ave, it is an easy walk from the 9th street PATH train station. Just make a right exit from the station, cross the street to Greenwich, and make another right walking two blocks north to Charles. Wogie's is on the west side of the street - you can't miss its red awning with "Wogie's" on it. For you non-Hobokenites you can take the A, C, E, B, D, F, V to W. 4th St.; 1 to Christopher St.-Sheridan Sq.

They are open Sun-Thu, 11:30am-2am, Fri-Sat, 11:30am-3am. If you are in the West Village on the weekend, here is a late night stop for you.

I got there on a Monday night, and the place was pretty dead - but I used to bartend on Monday nights and they aren't a very active night. There were a few outside tables, but inside was empty. I plopped down at the bar, and noticed that they had $3 drafts of Yuengling (along with Rolling Rock, Bud Lt)! They also had Victory on tap , and if you read my Hop Devil review - Victory is the same brewer of Hop Devil. Of course I noticed this after I ordered my captain and coke. Damn!

The bartenders there were more interested in sitting outside with some friends, so I only occasionally saw them. The waitress was also very quiet. I sat and watched Monday Night Football, while I waited about 15 minutes for my pizza cheesesteak to arrive.

I will use the following words to stress how good this cheesesteak was: tasty, good, fingerlickin good, goodtasting, savory, savorous, palatable, toothsome, gusty [Scots], gustable [old], sapid, delicious, delightful, delectable, exquisite; delicate, dainty; juicy, succulent, luscious, ambrosial, nectarous, scrumptious and yummy.

It was all this. Why?

The meat was tender and juicy, chopped correctly in a Philly manner and invoking a mouthwatering flavor that I haven't had for a long time. Yes, Carl's and Philly's (in Hoboken) are very good. I like them both, I am not knocking either. But Wogie's was delicious.

It was a greasy steak. No, this isn't a sirloin - this was a greasy mess that was everything that a steak should be.

They had a roll which is by far the best roll I have found in New York. It had a semi-crisp exterior (not hard, but hard enough not to go soggy on you in a minute) and a soft interior. As soon as I sunk my teeth into this monster I was in cheesesteak heaven.

The provolone cheese was UNDER the meat, so it melted nicely. The sauce was DEE-LISH-OUS. It tasted like a pizza sauce, not a canned marinara sauce. I doubt it was a freshly chopped tomato spread, but I loved the sauce. Plus I ordered some onions on it and I think I ate the entire thing in 8 bites.

One downfall of Wogies is the french fry situation. You can order a steak, but you don't get anything with it. You can order fries, and they give you a MONSTER basket of fries that there is no chance one person (like me) can eat. They certainly should have a smaller order for people. But the string fries were tasty enough.

The cheesesteak was $6.75, and the fries were $3. I ordered 1 captain and coke along with it and my bill was $17! Grrrr.

But, certainly another establishment to add to my list of places to get my cheesesteak fix. I'm willing to try other places, just send me an email if you think you know of one.

Fresh Direct Comes To Hoboken

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Fresh Direct, the online market which specializes in fresh, organic products announced last 082305a.jpgweek that they were delivering to Hoboken residents. From their website, you can browse the various departments from fruits, vegetables, meat, seafood, cheese, deli goods, dairy, breads, pastries, full meals, household goods, beverages or even frozen foods. Once you fill up your shopping cart - FreshDirect will arrange delivery to your door, for a $4.99 delivery charge - during the weekdays or weekends, at a specific 2 hour window you specify. FreshDirect claims that their food is fresher than a supermarket because they get their food directly from the source, circumventing the layers of distributors and middlemen that others use. They prepare the food at their own facilities - from roasting green coffee beans, aging their own beef or baking their own breads. There are no retail locations for FreshDirect - which allows them to keep their costs down and even less expensive than your local supermarkets.

Hype? Reality? Somewhere in-between?

So I decided to 082305b.jpgdiscover this on my own, and ordered up from FreshDirect last week, on a Wednesday. I went on the website, registered, and first found out that first time users of their site get a $20 coupon towards any fresh food. I ordered up filet mignon, ground veal, chicken breasts, tuna steak, vegetables, pasta, canned goods and some paper products, along with a whole wheat baguette. My focus was to order foods that I would use over the next week to prepare dinners at home. Normally, I stop at the Kings at 333 River St or the A&P on 6th street on my walk home to buy the ingredients for my dinners.

The ease of use on the website was incredible. 082305c.jpgI was floored at the pictures and information that FreshDirect provides. It was like using - but just ordering up your favorite foods. I also found that I ordered more than I expected. I kept searching on various items, like Prosciutto, real Prosciutto di Parma Ham. They had that from Citterio or Leoncini, for example.

Also what was unexpected was the various qualities of meats that are available. Most supermarkets get "USDA Choice" meats. If you are unfamiliar with the meat grading system, USDA Choice grade beef is tender, juicy and good flavor - but is second in rank to USDA Prime. USDA Prime is normally only available to hotels and restaurants. I don't think any A&P would ever carry USDA Prime. Places like Peter Lugers, Old Homestead and Sparks would only serve USDA Prime to their customers. Premium beef does carry a premium price, and is more expensive. I ordered up two USDA Prime filet mignons, and had them vacuum sealed for freshness. All meat orders on FreshDirect 082305d.jpghave rubs and marinades available with your purchase. Chicken is available in different forms, from money saving bulk packs or individual orders. Available antibiotic free or grade A chicken, if you prefer.

Simply put - this website caters to everyone. Are you a discerning cook that wants very specific kind of cheeses? Are you simply trying to get some quick meals ready for the week? Are you hoping to find specialty foods? FreshDirect blew me away.

I made arrangements to have the order delivered between 11am to 1pm on Saturday, since I was busy on Thursday and Friday. The FreshDirect truck and delivery person appeared at 12:20pm and delivered 3 boxes and 1 frozen bag. It was brought to my door, I signed the delivery paper and brought the goods inside.

After you open the boxes, you first notice the attention to detail that FreshDirect takes with their packaging. Each box was seperated by the type of goods: 082305e.jpgOne box was boxed & canned items. One box was meats and vegetables, which was still cold from the refrigerated truck. The frozen bag was the frozen bread I ordered. Every meat was seperately wrapped in a styrofoam container, with plastic and then wrapped in another plastic bag. Each meat had a label inside, identifying the product, along with care instructions.

Monday night I grilled up a tuna steak, using the blackened rub from FreshDirect. Tuesday night I made meatballs using the ground veal. Tonight I plan on searing the filet mignons. The food has been delicious, and I am extremely satisfied with what they offer.

My total bill was around $100. I paid a premium, for example, on the filet mignons. I was curious. Was Fresh Direct ripping me off? I took my bill and walked over to the Kings on 333 River Street and decided to compare prices.

Carl's Philly Cheesesteaks

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Last week I was reading New York Metro, and they had an article on "Best Cheesesteaks in New York", which is an oxymoron, since it's like saying "Best Italian Ices in Iraq" -080905c.JPG just not gonna happen.

Interestingly enough - I was pleasantly surprised with Carl's Philly Cheesesteaks. I scurried down to 34th and 3rd from my office in midtown during lunch of last week (took the 6 train to 32nd and Park) and walked in to a nondescript deli. At first I was thinking "This place sucks" - then thought of 080905b.JPGmy favorite cheesesteaks at Dalessandro's in Roxborough or Pat's and Geno's - they aren't anything special.

Suffice to say - I really like Carl's. It is much better than our own Philly's Cheesesteaks in Hoboken (sorry guys) and totally worth a trip if you work in New York City on the East side. They deliver, too - but I was just outside their delivery range. Plus they have a second store at 79 Chambers St. downtown.

The staff at midtown were very friendly and accomodating. I didn't have to spell out what I needed for my provolone pizza steak with onions. I figured that I was already damning my diet so I did order cheese fries and a coke. Also don't expect to sit down and enjoy your steak - Carl's has 2 tables and 6 seats. I was expecting it to be larger, but it really is just a hole-in-the-wall shop.080905a.JPG

You know what else? Carl's is fairly priced. My Pizza cheesesteak was $6.25! Along with cheese fries and a coke and my total was around $10.

I wouldn't recommend eating here every week like you did if you lived around South Jersey/Philly - but if you have that cheesesteak itch and you are in New York - hands down try Carl's Philly Cheesesteaks.

Get one, and post a comment. Take the Carl's Challenge.

For the record, nothing beats a Philly steak - but this place sure comes close to making me happy.

Grolsch Lager

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The name, rolls off the tongue with a strong Dutch accent just as much as the beer stays true to its ethnic heritage. First brewed in the seventeenth century by Peter Cuyper of Grolle (present day Groenlo) who developed the brew in 1615. By 1677, he was the Master Brewer, 080805.JPGin charge of all the other brewers in Grolle. He mastered his own method of brewing and his own style of beer, which to this day is the same recipe passed down from generation to generation.

I have heard of Grolsch before, but never tried one - but it is a lager, and I decided to take the plunge. It is very crisp and refreshing, it has a faint hoppy taste that you get from drinking other Holland imports, but not as strong as a Hieneken's.

Unlike the Hop Devil, this beer packs a normal punch of 5% alcohol by volume.

I kept these beers all to myself this time, Jon decided to wimp out and buy his favorite Hoegaarden white beer.

My verdict? I think Grolsch is good, but I still would like a Yuengling Lager over it. If you like that Dutch/German hoppy flavored beer - I think you will like Grolsch. If you are more of a malty person - like Yuengling or Newcastle, you may not enjoy it as much.

But hey, give it a try - always fun to try something new, right?

Beer: Hop Devil

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One of the cool things about travelling all over the world is trying new things. I have tasted dishes made from Kangaroo, Emu and Camel in Australia. I have tried homemade wine and grappa from my family in Italy. I sampled beers during the Oktoberfest festival in Munich.

Sometimes, you forget that life is about trying new things. I'm as a guilty as the next guy when it comes to my habitual problem of living life like a horse wearing blinders. I trod along the well worn path of the life that lay before me - the life of a middle aged working professional. The 45 hour-a-week guy, who watches the weeks pass and has glimmers of excitement and hope every Friday at 6pm - for something interesting may happen. Sometimes, you just have the little things that make life an adventure.

Last weekend, I sat on the couch drinking a Coors Light, which was left over from a party the night before. To me, a Coors Light is your most basic beer, and I don't mind it or really savor it. 071705.JPGMuch like I really don't savor a cold glass of milk or orange juice. It's milk. It's OJ. It's Coors Light.

Whatever. It meets the basic criteria of what I want - satisfy a thirst for a particular craving. Dairy. Juice. Beer.

Drinking that Coors Light I turned to Jon.

"Hey man, I hope you don't mind me drinkin' this. You had a 12 pack in the cooler...", I began.

Jon smiled and waved his hand in a quick, dismissing gesture, "I hate Coors Light, drink it all you want."

"There's nothing like a cold beer on a hot summer evening.", I sighed.

"Come on, it's a Coors Light. We should get some good beer!", he said.

"What, like a PBR?", I joked.

"Anything is better than Coors.", he stressed.

"I remember once, when I travelled through Australia, each region would have a bitter, a beer, which were much better than what we had up here. I remember Victoria Bitter, VB - loved that stuff...", I recalled.

"All right...let's try some of that action!", he said, snapping his fingers and pointing at me.

"I don't think they have that up here. But let me walk over to Garden Wine and Liquor on the corner of 7th and Park and see what that liquor store has. The guy who runs it is pretty cool and always has a good wine for me to try...", I remarked.

I walked over to the liquor store on 7th and Park. I have been going in there long enough that the guy knows me - I know him - but I still never remember his God damn name.

"Hey man! Do you have a beer list?", I asked.

The owner says, "Oh, no. What you see in the cooler is what I have...what are you lookin' for?"

"I want somethin' different. Nothing crazy, like beer made with prune juice or added caffeine. Just a good, tasty American beer to try.", I reply.

"I got some guys who are real beer connoisseurs, they make me get some of these beers.", he says gesturing to a variety of six-packs in the glass cooler, "Here is's called HopDevil! Supposed to be made with some real good hops, and has a strong, remarkable taste to it."

"Sounds good, i'll try it.", I tell him.

I paid $9 for the six-pack, and went home, to try out the new ale with Jon.

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