Top 5: September 2008 Archives

A friend of mine texted me on Sunday saying that Five Guys Burgers and Fries were opening up on Monday. I was excited, because aside from In and Out Burger, I think FGB&F make a damn good burger. I talked to another friend of mine later in the day, and they were unhappy that another chain restaurant was opening in Hoboken, and the Mom & Pop businesses were getting shoved aside for corporate America.

I have a simple philosophy about Hoboken retail businesses:

If they were better than the chain stores, then the chains wouldn't have to open.

Result? There's not a restaurant in town to get a good, consistent meal.

Now hold on.

"Good" and "consistent" are my key words.

There's lots of places I have been to in town that I had a great dinner. Then i'd go back again and be disappointed. Rarely have I found any restaurant in town where I really have enjoyed myself over and over again. There's a few places that are my favorites:

Before I get a bunch of comments - Court Street, Triple A's, The Madison, Amanda's, Cafe Elysian & Augustino's I think are good. Not great. But good.

But there's also a ton of mediocre restaurants in Hoboken, and to me - i'd rather have a good "chain" restaurant than some of the local average restaurants that we are saddled with.


You can knock the chains all you want, but they provide a consistently good meal. Here's my Top 5 casual dining chain restaurants (not fast food) that would destroy the competition in Hoboken, keeping in mind our demographics (young single people and middle aged married yuppie couples):

1. Chili's. I know. So Middle America, but hear me out. Chili's isn't fine dining, but it's consistently good, like I wrote. Baby Back Ribs? Fajitas? Burgers? Seafood? Steaks? Sandwiches? It's got something for everyone and make awesome frozen margaritas that would give Baja on 14th a serious challenge (I hate Baja's food, but do like their tequila selection and frozen drinks). Plunk a Chili's next to Baja and who would get more business? You know that Chili would put them out of business in a heartbeat.

2. Outback Steakhouse. Yes, there is one in Edgewater, which isn't really walkable and lots of Hobokenites don't have cars (and consider that Hobokenites think walking 10 blocks from uptown to downtown is "too far"). This isn't premium steak like Peter Luger or The Palm or The Strip House - but they make a consistently good steak and have other good grilled food on the menu. Everytime I walk into an Outback it is packed. Everytime I pass an Outback, I think about going back there.

3. Cheesecake Factory. Hate it all you want, but the place is jammed packed everytime I walk in for dinner and can you imagine a restaurant like this in Hoboken for the casual meal that people want? It would be gangbusters. Close down The Melting Pot Restaurant and open the Cheesecake Factory right there. Would be busy every night.

4. Buffalo Wild Wings or Hooters. Again, stick with what works in Hoboken - beer & bar food. Buffalo Wild Wings would take on the the reigning champions like Rogo's or Black Bear and humiliate them. Hooters, albeit a more risky choice in a town like Hoboken (I wonder what the Hoboken411 backlash would be like...), make some of the best wings in the business.

5. IHOP: Everyone was estatic with Turning Point (which, remember isn't some Mom & Pop restaurant). An 24 hour IHOP, in the right location, would be always busy. Someone go to Malibu Diner, buy them out and put an IHOP there & then open another IHOP downtown (somewhere near Zebu Forno). Tell me that the place wouldn't be packed on Saturday and Sunday for brunches. Tell me that the place wouldn't be packed from 2am - 4am after drinking hours. Tell me that for lunch it wouldn't do good business with the waterfront business crowd. Tell me that for dinner it wouldn't get a crowd. No chance. It would kill in this town.

Lots of people would also ask "Hey, where would you build these places? Hoboken has such bad commerical real estate, that chain restaurants cant even open here if they wanted to..."

First place i'd say is the new building they are putting up next to the W Hotel at 2nd and River. There's going to be enough space there to open any of the above mentioned restaurants.

The municipal parking garage was sold, and the new building there should have 8,000 square feet of retail space. Perfect location on Observer Highway that would draw people with the right kind of restaurant (depending if they can get a liquor license or not).

Don't forget about Metrostop. It's not the most desireable location, but there's lots of Hobokenites that are moving to the area of the Metrostop and they need places to eat, too. I'm sure the retail cost per square foot may be cheaper than the other locations.

If tomorrow I won $5 million, that's what I'd do with my money. I'd buy a franchise and open it in Hoboken. I know how the market would react to any of the five I listed and would rake in the profits.

Hoboken, if you haven't heard, is a windy town. Situated along the Hudson River, the howling winds crash into our town often when storm fronts move through the area, since we don't have any big buildings to shield our town.

Today, on an especially rainy fall day, I decided to write a list of things a Hobokenite should have on a wet, windy day in Hoboken, calculated from years of living here and my tried and true research:

1. Gust Buster Umbrella. Haven't heard of a "Gust Buster"? You aren't alone, because on my walk into work today I had the pleasure of watching everyone fight the wind and rain with their inside-out umbrellas. They are extremely well made, and can withstand winds of up to 55 miles per hour. They come in a variety of sizes. I bought the Metro model, for its compact size, it easily fits inside my messenger bag. It does have a small drawback with a small handle, which is hard to hold for those who have larger hands. Also, The Metro may be expensive to some, costing around $40, but it easily pays dividends compared to the sidewalk $5 umbrellas that break in windy weather. I roll my eyes when I walk down the street and see someone holding a forlorn umbrella, clearly on it's last legs and they too cheap to buy a real one.

2. Jack Spade Nylon Canvas Day Bag. I love this bag and I was happy to find out that I didn't have to question my heterosexuality while carrying it. Orginally I wanted to get a leather Indiana Jones kind of bag, but I couldn't find one I liked. I did see that Jack Spade made a great bag to carry my day-to-day items to the office: my gym clothes, my camera, my iPod Touch, magazines for the PATH and my Mangum Research Desert Eagle .50 AE handgun. Oh I keed, I keed - but if guns were legal to carry, that is what i'd have. But the bag is well made, with a rain proof lining, which keeps all my items nice and dry. It's large enough to carry what I need, but not too big and bulky. Also I think it's sharp looking and I can wear it with jeans or if i'm dressed up in my "business casual" work wear.

3. The North Face M Venture Jacket. Big fan of the jacket, because it's just a waterproof nylon shell with some extra features. The hood is great, especially on windy days. It has a few zippers that allow the jacket to "breathe" a bit better, allowing it to stay cool on damp days. Its easy to roll up, and stuff in my Jack Spade messenger bag when the sky clears up. It's great to wear into work, or to The Hunt, or to an Eagles game. I just and check the weather channel, layer appropiately, and leave my condo.

4. Wellington Boots. Known as "Wellies" I love these boots, and and really like the Men's Short Boots in black. Many girls in Hoboken opt for more fashionable, colorful boots, like those from J. Crew. I spied a girl walking to the PATH with yellow boots and her matching yellow umbrella - but was inside out while she was pulled by the wind down the street. There's a fine line between fashion and utility and she, sadly, was on the wrong side of that street. With all the flooded streets in downtown Hoboken, having boots like these are great on rainy or snowy days.

5. Single Malt Scotch. Nothing ends my rainy days better than a nice glass of scotch to warm my bones. I won't call myself a traditional scotch drinker, I mostly like the scotches from sherry casks (probably due to my love of Port wine), and I alternate buying either a 12 year old Glendronach, the 12 year old Sherry Cask Glemorangie or the Balvenie Double Wood. Yes, I drink all on the rocks (ok you purists, pipe down). All are available locally at Sparrow Wine and Liquor for around +/- $50 a bottle, or you can always buy scotch online and save some money, too.

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This page is a archive of entries in the Top 5 category from September 2008.

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