With the recent closing of Porter Collins on 15th Street, discussion has turned to the viability of the so-called NoVi (for North of Viaduct) area of Hoboken in terms of nightlife. If Chef Pino can’t make a beautifully renovated, classy place like that work, then surely any hope of a vibrant, exciting NoVi is doomed, right? Except, of course, for all the other spots that are doing just fine in that area. The best example is a place I found myself in recently (during it’s Oktoberfest celebration by accident), Pilsener Haus Biergarten.
NoVi No Problem
The Pilsener Haus has been doing its thing on 15th Street for a long time now, and shows no signs of slowing down. My wife and I had a craving for beer and pretzels on a Friday night, and when you have a craving for beer and pretzels on a Friday night in Hoboken you head to the Pilsener Haus. The outside seating was packed when we got there, so we headed into the large interior dining area. If you’ve been there you know that the seating is family-style—just grab a bench at a long table (or sit at the bar, which we’ve done to great success) and wait for a server to show up. I’m usually not a fan of family-style group seating like that (because everyone but me is a weirdo, natch) but the vibe at Pilsener Haus makes it okay.
The Pilsener Haus does have live music most nights, and that night was no exception, with a band pumping out some traditional German drinking songs as well as covers of modern hits. Basically, drinking at the Pilsener Haus is exactly the experience you want when you go to a biergarten: It’s like being at a low-key party with a bunch of cool people. The music isn’t overwhelming, and if the place is loud it’s all of you being loud together.
If you’re a beer lover, the Pilsener Haus is great for two reasons. One is the thoughtful beer selection, which is heavy on the German/Belgian-style beers (naturally) but has plenty to offer for any palate. Two is the fact that it’s one of those places you can get a liter of beer in an enormous glass. I love that not because I want to absorb all the beer and be rolled home (although … maybe?) but because I hate having to order a fresh drink just when my meal comes. It’s basic, but it’s who I am and I’m standing behind it. So the combination of a great beer selection and huge beers is kind of my jam. Plus, they have a short but well-considered wine list, and the bartenders can handle any cocktail request you sling at them.
The food is also fantastic. One aspect of Pilsener Haus I love is the grill option. Cash-only, it’s relatively cheap, offering up grilled sausages and brats along with sauerkraut and fries. If you just need a nosh to keep yourself going as you work your way through liters of beer, it’s a deliciously cheap option. The regular menu is a little pricier, but it’s hands-down delicious. Will the Wiener Schnitzel make you forget Helmer’s once existed? Probably not, but it comes close. Other standouts are the aforementioned pretzel (amazing), the Sautéed Calamari and Sausage (spicier than you think and fantastic), the Potato Pancakes, the Fish & Chips (yes, really), and the Chicken Paprikash.
This is comfort food done at an extremely high level. The added bonus is feeling like you belong to a community when you go there—so go there soon, and see that NoVi has nothing to worry about.