If you live in Hoboken, you mark the passage of time via street fairs and religious festivals. We have the Irish Fetsival in March, the Arts & Music Festival in the late Spring, the Saint Ann’s Festival in the middle of Summer, the Arts & Crafts Festival in Fall. You know the drill: The streets are closed, the booths are set up, the sausages and crabcake sandwiches are served, and people spend a sweaty time walking sampling wares.
It’s sensible to imagine that Hoboken has the whole festival thing down pat—and we do. But Jersey City has street fairs, too, and based on the recent “All About Downtown Street Fair” held on Newark Avenue near the Grove Street PATH station, it’s fair to say that Jersey City might have Hoboken beat when it comes to street fairs.
Beer & Whiskey for The Win
In many ways all street fairs are alike, of course: You walk through a crowd of people, booths on either side, and you eat street food and fondle jewelry and other things for sale, pause to listen to some music, and then go home feeling hypertensive and slightly broke. It’s great fun.
Jersey City’s All About Downtown Street Fair has a few things going for it that Hoboken doesn’t, starting with the beer and spirits. Put simply, there was plenty of both on sale right there on the street. No sequestered beer garden, just restaurants with beer on tap and even cocktails or shots of whiskey on offer. For a town that is swimming in bars, Hoboken’s street fairs might as well be held in a dry county—there’s not a beer to be had unless you leave the street fair.
Jersey City’s been garnering a reputation as a superior spot for foodies, and it’s true. Hoboken has some fantastic restaurants, but for sheer variety Jersey City is winning, hands down, and that was on full display at the All About Downtown Street Fair. In Hoboken you’ll pass plenty of similar places: The sausage and peppers, of course, the gyro spots, the crepe stations. And it’s all good stuff. But in Jersey City’s street fair there was an amazing variety of food in addition to those street fair staples, it’s impossible to ignore the advantage that our neighbor city has in this department.
As a side note, I’m partial to crabcake sandwiches, and the crabcake sandwich offered in JC was hands-down the best I’ve ever had.
Something else JC did better at this street fair: The music. Hoboken always has the two-stages set up, which is great for the headliners but not so great for the smaller bands that get to play to no one, and it’s not ideal for the crowd because you can’t hear the music well when you’re in the middle of shopping for T-shirts.
At the All About Downtown Street Fair, they had little stages and areas set up all over the place, each with a different kind of music being played. You could pause to enjoy something, then move on to the next thing, and you were never far away from someone playing some great music.
Now, don’t get me wrong: Hoboken for the win, every time. But you gotta be honest. The one aspect of street fairs that Hoboken wins at right now is that the street is wider and thus crowding is less of an issue, especially when the fairs are held uptown. Otherwise, Jersey City is beating us. We need to reconsider our street fair approach, and I’m not just saying that because my personal dream is to walk around with a beer and a crabcake sandwich doing shots of whiskey every block. Or maybe I am, but that doesn’t mean I’m wrong about this.
What do you think? Have you been to both, and is one better than the other? Let HoLi know!