Good pubs, Good Beer, Good People

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Hoboken and The Boot Boss

Today's Hoboken is a vibrant city with a host of positives. It has quality pubs and restaurants. It has elegant brownstones, reminiscent of a bygone era. It has Stevens Institute of Technology, which may have the prettiest campus with the best view in the country. It has Carlo's Bakery, and a mile-long line of people waiting to get into it. It bustles with young, upwardly-mobile professionals, many of them stunningly handsome or beautiful, depending upon your perspective.
Not bad for a plot of land purchased by Colonel John Stevens for about $100,000 in today's money.
Today, that amount might buy you an apartment with a view of Manhattan. For a year.

Or it could help you pay for parking--and parking tickets, which seems to be a major source of funding for the city government. The city is friendly in many ways, but not to cars or their drivers. The roads are old, narrow and uneven. Take Ninth St. up to the Stevens Campus for proof.

Parking anywhere is at such a premium that many Hobokenites (?) shun cars altogether, opting for two wheels, two feet or mass transit. Hence, the city describes itself as "a densely-populated pedestrian-friendly urban oasis" which is another way of saying, "Leave your car elsewhere." The city says that walking is easy around this "mile-square" city, but it is decidedly not pedestrian-friendly during the type of heat wave we are currently experiencing. 

To make matters worse, there are no meters per se, especially on the main drag of Washington St. There are these skinny little inconspicuous towers that will ingest your money if you know where to go to feed them. That's if they are working properly, like the one at the legendary Pilsener Haus that wasn't.

At one famous pub, The Tilted Kilt, for example, there is no parking lot and patrons must use the street. No one will tell them that parking on the left side of Jackson St. is verboten and only for residents, while parking on the right side might be ok for four hours, depending upon the  mood of the parking patrol.
And while The Cake Boss may be a real nice guy, his counterpart, The Boot Boss, is not and will slap a boot on your tire and pinch your wallet faster than you can say Frank Sinatra.

The comely lasses at the Tilted Kilt strongly advise using the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail Route which stops, conveniently, right in front of the Kilt.
Which, by the way, is a great pub to visit. Nicely laid out with a spacious, yet somehow intimate, feel, the pub runs a special on Tuesdays at 5 PM called "Half-Off Everything." Hence, yours truly enjoyed a big juicy, perfectly done-to-order burger, a mound of fries and an excellent Goose Island Pale for a grand total of $8.44.

Manager Jose Mejia has nurtured The Kilt since its birth two years ago, and is very proud of its progress. But he, too, laments the parking situation, and with good reason. This place would pack out regularly with ample nearby--and free--parking. Mejia just opened The Kilt's Patio Service yesterday in a large sunsplashed area.

Another unique Hoboken place that warrants a pub-lover's attention is  called Elysian Cafe. There's some history here as a meadow called Elysian Fields was a popular recreation spot two hundred years ago. Elysian Cafe can now make the same claim. It's the oldest continually operating bar in Hoboken--although it hasn't always been just a bar. The interior was completely restored by current owners Eugene and Joyce Flinn.

If you're a baroque fan, this place is your heaven. But it's not so fru-fru that you will be asked to leave if you don't dance a minuet. The bar is stocked with some exceptional beers (like Carton and Kane offerings) and staffed by friendly barkeeps like Josh and Dave, and the floor, by classically pretty waitresses.

Eyeing the beer menu, I noticed Elysian Immortal IPA (Seattle, WA), and other than name similarity, it had no direct link to the bistro. But I gave it a try. It was a beautifully balanced beer with a light, silky mouthfeel, and the hops did not steal the show. The spicy floral finish did that. Clearly, this baby warrants an IPA lover's attention. Paired with a very unique Grilled Cheese Sandwich (new to the menu) and some perfectly done Pommes Frites, this IPA is worth your time. If you're lucky, you'll find a place to park on Washington St. or 10th St.

Of course, no trip to Hoboken is complete without a visit to The Pilsener Haus. There's not a bad beer in the Haus, the food is authentic (especially the brats) and decor-wise, you'll think you've been transported to 1940's Austria. Yesterday's beer special was Hacker-Pschorr Maibock at $6 the half-liter. I paired it with some very good weisswurst, and I would have stayed for more, but I had had a disagreement with one of those skinny little inconspicuous parking towers.
It's supposed to spit out a receipt that you put on your dashboard for the Boot Boss to see, but after taking $4.00 from my credit card for four hours of parking, it refused to spit out any receipt. I decided to chance it and stay to enjoy my dinner, but the Boot of Damocles was hanging over my head, making it a less-than-optimal experience. Thankfully, any experience at The Pilsener Haus is at least a good one.

Bottom line is that Hoboken is a neat place to visit.
But you shouldn't have to be like the guy who went out and bought a car because he finally found a parking space.

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