There are plenty of reasons to love living in Hoboken: The sense of community in our tightly-packed town, the long history of the city, the proximity and ease of access to Manhattan, and the constant churn of new and interesting bars and restaurants, shops, and other businesses. In other words, you’ll rarely get bored living in Hoboken, and if you don’t like your choices for dinner this week, just hang tight for a few days and almost certainly a new hot spot will open up presently.
It’s easy, therefore, to get fixated on the new, the exciting, the exotic. A new restaurant means adventure and mystery, at least for a while. But sometimes it’s a good idea to pull back and take a moment to appreciate what we already have. There’s a short list of classic places in town, bars and eateries that have been killing it for decades, places that every single resident knows and appreciates. So let’s take a break from breathlessly checking out the new places, and run down a short list of the classics that make the Hoboken experience what it is—and have for years now.
Long-time residents remember that this excellent (and pricey) steakhouse was once part of the Frankie & Johnnie’s local chain, which was originally established back in 1926. Back in 2008 a dispute between the owners resulted in the Hoboken location breaking away as an independent restaurant, necessitating a name change. It continues to be a rock-solid steakhouse, a great place for an adult cocktail, and a beautiful spot for dinner and drinks.
Everyone in Hoboken knows Leo’s and probably loves it. Established in 1939, it was run personally by Leo DiTerlizzi and his wife, making homestyle Italian food literally ripped from her recipe book. After the DiTerlizzis passed away in 2001, the place has remained in the extended family and has undergone a nice makeover, but Leo’s remains more or less the same place as ever, with hearty Italian food and a friendly atmosphere.
The Malibu has seen bribery, hangovers, and endless friendly conversations over breakfast, lunch, and dinner. A classic Jersey diner, everyone in Hoboken winds up at the Malibu at some point—take a moment to appreciate the place.
Maxwell’s gets its fair share of publicity, and when it changed hands a few years it was treated like a new business and got some fresh attention. The fact that it remains a solid music venue as well as a boisterous neighborhood bar and eatery is fantastic—every town could use a place like Maxwell’s where you can grab a beer, see a show for less than $10 some nights, and hang out with your neighbors.
Originally opened in the early 1900s, the building at 135 Washington Street burned down in 1989 and the Brass Rail was rebuilt under new ownership, but it retains an almost old-world charm and is known outside of Hoboken as one of the better restaurants in town. The bar is also pretty grand, and walking down Washington Street in the summer it’s always welcome to pass by the place with its doors open and happy people drinking and eating and talking.
If you’ve been in town long enough, you might remember when 1405 Grand Street was home to La Tartuferia, an Italian restaurant known for its truffles and northern Italian fare. Since 2006 it’s been Carpe Diem, a local bar that for a long time seemed to lack locals—but the recent upgrading of the “NoVia” neighborhood has changed all that. Eleven years may not seem like such a long time, but Carpe Diem has been quietly excellent the whole time and now seems like part of Hoboken’s fabric.
Face it: Texas Arizona is a local institution. Whether you head there every Thursday or avoid it like the plague, it’s one of those places that everyone knows. People use it as a landmark, direct out-of-towners there for food and ale, and we’d all be very sad if it closed down.
Founded in 1987, Baja remains one of the best Mexican food options in the area—and one of the best places to get a Margarita, or sample some excellent tequila. The bar area is small, but the delightful scent of fajitas will comfort you as you wait for a table—and Baja still has the best salsa in the world, bar none.
Precious is unassuming, the service is a bit brusque—but the food is great, the portions huge, the prices low, and the vegetarian options better than most. It seems like Precious has been on Washington Street since the dawn of time, and while there are other options in town for sushi and Chinese food, Precious deserves to be noted for its longevity.
Finally, the tiny, hard-to-get into bistro on Washington Street opened up in the late 1990s and has been serving up some of the best Italian food anywhere ever since. The space is, shall we say, intimate, and co-owner Sharon Yandoli is a hostess who’s good-natured, sometimes profane style is like being welcomed into someone’s house. If we lost Augustino’s, everyone here at HoLi would cry.
What did we miss? What classic bar or restaurant should we take a moment to thank our lucky stars for?