LIKE AN EPISODE of The Twilight Zone, a walk down Hoboken’s main drag of bars is familiar but off-putting.There is a charming city vibe, but you can tell things are just a little bit off. Salons excitedly advertise “up-dos,” the Elks club (est. 1888) showcases no irony in its Caribbean Night celebration and signs warn of a $2,000 fine for unruly house parties.With the brownstones and young folks walking the street, it feels New York—but Brooklyn this ain’t. If you’re bar hopping here, you have entered the Jersey Zone.
When checking the scene, we decided to start someplace familiar.The Chandelier Room at the W Hotel Hoboken (225 River St., at 2nd St., 201-253-2400) is the closest thing to a New York-style lounge that the city has to offer.The space is dimly lit and swank, with remarkable views of the New York skyline. Hair gel was at a minimum, and not a fist pumper was to be found. Real Housewives of New Jersey’s Danielle was even there, in all of her Botoxed glory. Although it would be easy to lounge away the evening sipping cocktails at this spot, I was there to head deep into the bowels of Hoboken at night. And those bowels were located in the blockand-a-half surrounding the PATH Station.
Although it was only 6:30, the party had already started. “Anthony, pull yourself together!” a bargoer shouted at her companion, who slurred a response back to her.
Another group of guys walked down the block toting 12-packs of Bud Light. One claimed that he’d have to pay a visit to “Mr. Naptime” before the night’s festivities began.
We rode out happy hour at The Shannon (106 1st St., at Washington St., 201-656- 9820), an easygoing Irish pub only a block away from the station. It became more and more crowded as each train arrived with commuters done with their day in the city. The patrons were mostly male, and the talk was mostly of women.When they weren’t planning for the night’s attempt at love, they took part in a bar-wide trivia game projected on one of the flat screen TVs.Those getting the correct answers would shout a hearty “boo-yah!”The high fives were abundant.
I heard about this special breed of male from Hoboken bartender Carolyn Cardinuto. She pointed out that they frequent bars like the immensely popular Green Rock (70 Hudson St., at Hudson Pl., 201-386-5600). “They’re a hybrid of Guido and yuppie. Guys that aren’t too pretty, but put a lot of effort in.They all like girls with high boobs.” A spot check of the Rock confirmed Cardinuto’s assertion.
Many girls competed for the attention of these earring-sporting gentlemen, and their boobs were indeed prominently placed.
In fact, the space was full of those on the prowl. Billy Joel streamed over the speakers as those on the dance floor bumped and grinded. A male patron confirmed that Hoboken is a great place to be if you’re a guy looking for romance. “The scene is very competitive, which makes girls very easy.” Pete Koepff agreed with this sentiment.When asked to describe the women of Hoboken, he offered one word: “promiscuous.” A flirty energy definitely coursed through the crowd as they danced and shouted the lyrics to the piano man’s “Big Shot.”
There are a few options for those not interested in this Jersey courting ritual. A cover band called Daddy Pop played to a crowd at Whiskey Bar (125 Washington St., betw. 1st & 2nd Sts., 201-963-3400) down the block, and a bunch of John Waters look-a-likes congregated outside of gay bar The Cage (32 Newark St., at River St., 201-216-1766).
We decided on something more familiar to end our night, binge drinking $8 pitchers at the pubby Scotland Yard (72 Hudson St., at Hudson Pl., 201-222-9273). At this cozy downstairs spot, things were more subdued. An old man sat in the corner exclaiming the merits of Ishmael—“you know, that book with the monkey”—to all who would listen.
The staff described their spot as “Hoboken’s drain,” being that it caught the revelers who overflowed from the city’s more popular haunts.The crowds head here looking for one last chance at love, or for a final brew before the end of the night. All bars in Hoboken lock their doors at 2 a.m., but are allowed to serve until 3, so there is a bit of a rush to land somewhere in the wee hours.
A few groups played spirited games of beer pong in the back room, while a trio of girls stared into their BlackBerrys and cursed the guys who weren’t calling them back. As bartender Eddie poured a round of shots (and one for himself), he summed up the drinking scene in the Jersey Zone: “Hoboken nightlife? It’s just a shit show. Like, every night.”
We know it’s scary, but sometimes it’s necessary.