Daycation Destination: Hoboken
Hoboken's come a long way from "On the Waterfront" but underneath all that new construction lies the heart of the old girl.
This week we're taking a trip to Hoboken--the hometown of Frank Sinatra, The (old) Clam Broth House, On The Waterfront and Stevens Institute of Technology.
Despite the fact that the old girl has undergone some reconstructive surgery in the last 25 years with all the new construction and rehabilitation, beneath it all beats the same old heart with the same old soul.
For those of you who came of age in the late '70's and '80's you'll remember well the charm in the decay of the vacant warehouses and empty lots. Most of all, you'll remember well how easy it used to be to park your car. A lot easier than it is now. Most of all, when you see all the rehabilitation, you'll kick yourself for laughing at the suggestion of investing $70,000 in a riverview four-story five bedroom brownstone.
Speaking of the river view, it's amazing we don't spend more time in Hoboken. On a steamy summer evening it's as if Manhattan is floating like a mirage before you. This time of year there always seems to be something going on down at the waterfront. All you have to do is walk by the river and you'll find Shakespeare being performed, a live band, or a lone musician playing the blues.
Maxwell's is the place to discover new bands and be surprised by famous musicians who show up unannouced to perform on the intimate stage. Maxwell's was originally a tavern that catered to the Maxwell House factory workers that was transformed into a restaurant by its new owners in 1978. Bands asked the new owners if they could use the back area to rehearse and play a few gigs, eventually turning Maxwell's into a popular venue for new bands.
Maxwell's is located at 1039 Washington Street, Hoboken.
And if it's food you're looking for, there are so many great places to eat, drink and get your merry on.
One of our new-found favorite places is off the beaten path of Hoboken--the Biergarten on West 14th Street, Hoboken's last hurrah of untouched real estate. Its full name is the Pilsener Haus & Biergarten If you didn't know where the Biergarten was you would walk right by it, but once found can never go unnoticed again. There is no screaming sign signaling its existence, just a black iron gate that looks as if factory workers are going to come running through.
The Biergarten is, as you can imagine by its name, very much an "authentic Austro-Hungarian beer garden" offering over 20 premium imported German drafts, 50 European and American craft beers by the bottle, and a traditional biergarten menu in a warm, old-time ambience--with long family-style pine tables and benches where you get the opportunity to sit and talk to people you've never met before.
The Biergarten also has a nice selection of wines if beer is not your style.
And there's a ginormous grill where you can order almost every kind of freshly made sausage imaginable--kielbasa, bratwurst, weisswurst (Bavarian veal sausage) and more. Also, they offer all types of frankfurters, that are not your regular hot dogs. The Biergarten also has an extensive menu with apps that includes steamed bier mussels (highly recommended), wood plank steak tartare (another favorite), and an outstanding accompaniment with beer--Bavarian soft pretzel served with liptauer cheese & house-made mustard.
The Biergarten wouldn't be trully Austrian if it didn't include the traditional wiener schnitzel on its dinner menu. There's also sauerbraten, hungarian beef goulash and käsespätzle (homemade spätzle w/ cheese, caramelized onions & bacon, served w/ cucumber salad). There's also a kids menu.
If you'd rather drink and dine outdoors and enjoy the summer evening, there's a biergarten at the biergarten. The Biergarten is a great place to take friends for a really fun and casual experience. We guarantee that coming here will make for a memorable night.
The Pilsner Haus and Biergarten is located at 1422 Grand Street, on the corner of 14th Street.
Also located on 14th Street is Puerto Spain, owned, in part, by Fort Lee's own Benny Cubeiro. Cubeiro, also a former volunteer Fort Lee firefighter out of Hook & Ladder 3, has been dishing up authentic Spanish cuisine on lower 14th Street for the last 20 years.
Puerto Spain is a relative of Meson Madrid in Palisades Park and Segovia in Moonachie. Traditional spanish cuisine delivered in huge family style portions, Puerto Spain's signature dishes are paella valenciana, mariscada Puerto Spain and veal extremena. Live lobsters are also available and made to order.
You can't dine at Puerto Spain without ordering their infamous sangria. There's something in their sangria that just can't be replicated anywhere else. It's the perfect balance of fresh fruit and fermentation. We've celebrated many births that can be traced back to a pitcher or two of Puerto Spain's sangria.
Puerto Spain is located at 116 14th Street, Hoboken.
A fun place to take the kids for burgers and fries is Johnny Rockets on Washington Street. Yes, there's a Johnny Rockets in the Garden State Plaza, but the one in Hoboken feels like you really have stepped off the sidewalk and tripped back into the '50's.
And, every booth has a working table top juke box. The kids, having no idea what a juke box is (the original i-pod, we tell them) have a ball plugging nickels in and hearing all the old songs.
And although Johnny Rockets is a chain, they do serve up great burgers, fries and milkshakes. It's not the place to go if you're counting calories, so leave those worries and just enjoy the caloric comfort that can only be found in fries smothered in cheese and bacon. A chocolate milkshake chaser will make you forget any problems you have.
Johnny Rockets is located at 134 Washington Street, Hoboken.
Hoboken is also home to many authentic Italian delis, the kind you find on Arthur Avenue. To find them just drive the streets any Saturday between noon and 2pm and look for the double parked cars. You'll know you've found one when you see a group of big Italian boys eating their heros in a haunched position so the vinegar and oil doesn't drip onto their shirts and hits the sidewalk instead.
Lisa's Deli on 8th Street is a particular favorite among those original Hobokeners who have moved north to Bergen County, but still lunch in the old neighborhood al fresco (leaning against their freshly waxed cars) at Lisa's almost every Saturday afternoon.
Washington Street is the main artery of Hoboken and home to many little interesting shops. Aside from the countless restaurants, Washington Street is lined with unique pet stores, independent clothing stores and shops that offer a taste of the artistic flair that has come to define Hoboken.
To walk off all those calories, visit Frank Sinatra Park. A beautiful river front park, Sinatra Park offers play areas, skating rinks, fishing, rookeries, kayaking, an amphitheater and a waterfront walk. There's also plenty of open space if you want to bring the family down there for a picnic to enjoy the view.
So next time you're wondering where to spend the day, or night, point the car south and head to Hoboken.