Eating Our Way Through Hoboken

The Birthday brunch I’ve been waiting for!

Sunday, March 11

Last Sunday, we again ventured off of Washington St. to go to one of my favorite little restaurants in Hoboken, the Backyard Bistro on 7th and Jefferson St, for my birthday. I haven’t been there in about a year, but I have been craving their famous Vermonster breakfast sandwich (egg, cheese, bacon or sausage and home fries all on a sandwich made out of pretzel bread) so I figured it would make the perfect birthday present! I was originally afraid that they wouldn’t be able to accommodate a large party, but I was pleasantly surprised when I called earlier in the week to find out their reservation policy.  They told me that I needed to give them a call a few hours prior to see if they could hold the table. Upon calling, they reserved a table for 12 and a baby without a problem…almost unheard of for Hoboken. 

When we arrived, we were amazed by their renovations! They now have tables and real chairs and the place looks really nice! They used to have these run-down benches, which I wasn’t a huge fan of.  The tablecloths are super cute being red and white checkerboard. There were about 5 other tables besides ours, so it isn’t a huge place.  Even though there aren’t many tables, the service is not necessarily the swiftest, so don’t plan on being in and out that quickly.

Now, there are a ton of brunch places in Hoboken that all basically serve the exact same thing. However, the thing we love about Backyard Bistro is that their menu is huge and they really have a variety of unique options to accommodate everyone.  They have all kinds of funky sandwiches and salads, in addition to breakfast, burgers, pastas and other entrees. My sister and brother-in-law each got a lovely salad, while others ordered sandwiches and breakfast food. However, the specialty of the Backyard Bistro is that they offer all of their sandwiches on pretzel bread. Its fluffy, doughy and just delicious. Is there anybody out there that doesn’t love hot pretzels? So, we began our meal with an appetizer portion of pretzels stuffed with cheese served with a tasty whole grain honey mustard, which I probably could have eaten with a spoon.

For Ben’s main course, he got the Eden Sandwich, which included Lettuce, Tomato, Onion, Avocado, Provolone and Pesto Mayo all on Pretzel Bread, and he was able to add turkey to the sandwich. Of course, I got “The Vermonster,” with egg, cheese, home fries on pretzel bread.  You could have sausage and bacon on it, but I’m not a huge fan of meat.  Every last bite was amazing! We also ordered a side of the Crème Brule challah french toast to share, just because we were curious about it. 

What a great birthday brunch…It was totally worth the thousands of calories! We definitely recommend that you try this little hidden treasure in Hoboken.

Zack’s Oak Bar & Grill: So nice, we ate there twice…within 1 hour

March 18, 2012



Ben and the boys were playing basketball Sunday morning, so I met my friend for brunch and we chose Zack’s on 2nd and Willow. I’d never been there before, and I’m always in favor of new places. It is a nice place, with big glass windows that make the bar area bright and cheery. The place was busy with people watching March Madness. We were seated in a small little back dining room just off the bar.

The menu is a little small with really only 5 or 6 breakfast options and an additional 5 or 6 lunch options, in addition to the few specials. Nothing seemed overly exotic or unique, and included many of the regular staple choices that you would expect to find within your typical American Bar/Grill restaurant. The brunch menu is very reasonable, with most items costing between $8-12.

 I actually decided to order one of their specials; an egg white omelet with portabella mushrooms, spinach and mozzarella cheese. It came with an order of home fries, but I swapped them out for regular french fries. The omelet was a little watery, but the spinach appeared nice and fresh. All in all, it was OK and I was satisfied.

Just as we were finishing up, Ben called and said that his game was finished and that they were hungry so they would come downtown and we could meet up. Wouldn’t you know it; Ben’s friend suggested Zack’s as well, haha. So, we met up with them about 30 minutes later and sat down with them while they ate…at the same table! Ben ordered the Turkey Burger. It was a bit burned, but was still very flavorful and he was pleased. The one thing I will say is that the french fries are really, really good. Just the right amount of salt and not too chewy or too crispy…just right.

Overall, it was a nice choice and I’m glad we ate there. It seems like it would be a fun place to hang out and relax on Friday night with some friends and have a simple meal with a few drinks. Probably not worth eating there twice in one day on normal circumstances, but it’s fine.

95 restaurants down…

Zack’s Oak Bar & Grill: So nice, we ate there twice…within 1 hour

March 18, 2012

Ben and the boys were playing basketball Sunday morning, so I met my friend for brunch and we chose Zack’s on 2nd and Willow. I’d never been there before, and I’m always in favor of new places. It is a nice place, with big glass windows that make the bar area bright and cheery. The place was busy with people watching March Madness. We were seated in a small little back dining room just off the bar.

The menu is a little small with really only 5 or 6 breakfast options and an additional 5 or 6 lunch options, in addition to the few specials. Nothing seemed overly exotic or unique, and included many of the regular staple choices that you would expect to find within your typical American Bar/Grill restaurant. The brunch menu is very reasonable, with most items costing between $8-12.

 I actually decided to order one of their specials; an egg white omelet with portabella mushrooms, spinach and mozzarella cheese. It came with an order of home fries, but I swapped them out for regular french fries. The omelet was a little watery, but the spinach appeared nice and fresh. All in all, it was OK and I was satisfied.

Just as we were finishing up, Ben called and said that his game was finished and that they were hungry so they would come downtown and we could meet up. Wouldn’t you know it; Ben’s friend suggested Zack’s as well, haha. So, we met up with them about 30 minutes later and sat down with them while they ate…at the same table! Ben ordered the Turkey Burger. It was a bit burned, but was still very flavorful and he was pleased. The one thing I will say is that the french fries are really, really good. Just the right amount of salt and not too chewy or too crispy…just right.

Overall, it was a nice choice and I’m glad we ate there. It seems like it would be a fun place to hang out and relax on Friday night with some friends and have a simple meal with a few drinks. Probably not worth eating there twice in one day on normal circumstances, but it’s fine.

95 restaurants down…

Pita Grill is great…if you like small portions & tasteless food

March 11, 2012

We were in the mood for Mediterranean food, so we figured we’d give Pita Grill a try. We’ve had it before, but we usually order from It’s Greek to Me. However, we had a gift certificate to Seamless Web and unfortunately It’s Greek to Me is not a member (WHY???) So, we gave Pita Grill another shot but we immediately regretted this decision.

We ordered spinach pie with cheese for an appetizer, and Jamie ordered a regular Falafel, while I ordered my usual Lamb Gyro. First of all, delivery took close to an hour (when they said 20-30 minutes)…a bad omen.

The Spinach pie was soggy and luke-warm, totally unfulfilling. The falafel was nothing to speak glowingly about either. It was rather tasteless, and they included the spicy tahini sauce when Jamie specifically requested  non spicy tahini. But hey, that’s an easy mistake.

My gyro has a disaster. The pita pocket was small, and fell apart almost instantly. It too had very little flavor and was eaten in 5 minutes. The Gyro from It’s Greek to Me is tasty and enormous and I almost always have leftovers…but not this time. As I write this, I am totally hungry and will probably drown my sorrows in Jamie’s delicious peanut-butter bars (orders upon request).

Save your money, go to It’s Greek to Me.

Casual Thai: We just love this place!
March 3, 2012
This is one of our favorite restaurants in Hoboken and we’ve been there several times, but this was the first time since we started our blog so we figured we’d officially write it up.
If you’re into Thai food, Casual Thai on Washington Street between 10th and 11th is the best you can get in Hoboken. It has everything that you would want in a restaurant; delicious food, friendly and accommodating service, and is very affordable. Like many Hoboken restaurants, it’s a BYOB so the bill is always less than you are used to. There are a few liquor stores right nearby, including the one right next door that has a naughty yet adorable Golden Retriever who eats gloves and umbrellas, so you can pick up some wine for the meal. We also love their eccentric musical soundtrack which ranges from the “Macarena,” to “Tequila” to a version of “I will Survive” in Spanish.
We’ve actually had 2 birthday parties there in the past year. We love it because we can basically take over the place and it’s just so damn good and so damn cheap. Each time, we’ve had roughly 15 people. It’s small, but they always let us make reservations; something that most restaurants usually are reluctant to do for large parties for some reason (I guess they just HATE guaranteed business with a really large bill). Our friends are loud and jovial, but they never give us a problem. Each time, we’ve stayed there for close to 3 hours and never asked us to leave even though we were sort of just loitering. Also, the BYOB factor always keeps the bill low. I think for the last party we went through 4 or 5 bottles or wine and 2 bottles of Grey Goose, and at the end of the night the entire bill for 15 people including tip was $300…$20 a person (although that was partially subsidized by the $50 of winning scratch off tickets from the liquor store next door) You can’t get a better night out than that!
But, back to Saturday night…
We ordered our usual appetizer, the Kanom Jeep (essentially steamed dumplings). It comes with four and they are pretty big, so one per person is probably enough. There were three of us, so we decided to order three entrees and share them. As usual, we ordered a Pad Thai (I wonder what % of Americans don’t order Pad Thai from Thai restaurants). It was solid, no better or worse than usual. However, tonight we tried two new dishes. The first was a Chilean Seabass in a sweet & sour sauce. This was simply amazing; the Seabass literally dissolves in your mouth. We also ordered one of their specials; the Mango Crispy Duck (photo above). Another really great choice! The combination of the meat and what was probably the freshest and softest mango we’ve ever had resulted in a really interesting taste. It was just so flavourful. Honestly, mango combined with anything is a recipe for success.
We ate until we were full and still had plenty of leftovers, easily enough for dinner another night. Again, the entire bill (3 entrees and an appetizer, tax and tip)…$65. Amazing! They usually finish with a few orange slices, but this time we had two delicious pieces of cantaloupe. Like the mango, it was just so fresh!
There’s no other way to say it…We just love this place!

Casual Thai: We just love this place!

March 3, 2012

This is one of our favorite restaurants in Hoboken and we’ve been there several times, but this was the first time since we started our blog so we figured we’d officially write it up.

If you’re into Thai food, Casual Thai on Washington Street between 10th and 11th is the best you can get in Hoboken. It has everything that you would want in a restaurant; delicious food, friendly and accommodating service, and is very affordable. Like many Hoboken restaurants, it’s a BYOB so the bill is always less than you are used to. There are a few liquor stores right nearby, including the one right next door that has a naughty yet adorable Golden Retriever who eats gloves and umbrellas, so you can pick up some wine for the meal. We also love their eccentric musical soundtrack which ranges from the “Macarena,” to “Tequila” to a version of “I will Survive” in Spanish.

We’ve actually had 2 birthday parties there in the past year. We love it because we can basically take over the place and it’s just so damn good and so damn cheap. Each time, we’ve had roughly 15 people. It’s small, but they always let us make reservations; something that most restaurants usually are reluctant to do for large parties for some reason (I guess they just HATE guaranteed business with a really large bill). Our friends are loud and jovial, but they never give us a problem. Each time, we’ve stayed there for close to 3 hours and never asked us to leave even though we were sort of just loitering. Also, the BYOB factor always keeps the bill low. I think for the last party we went through 4 or 5 bottles or wine and 2 bottles of Grey Goose, and at the end of the night the entire bill for 15 people including tip was $300…$20 a person (although that was partially subsidized by the $50 of winning scratch off tickets from the liquor store next door) You can’t get a better night out than that!

But, back to Saturday night…

We ordered our usual appetizer, the Kanom Jeep (essentially steamed dumplings). It comes with four and they are pretty big, so one per person is probably enough. There were three of us, so we decided to order three entrees and share them. As usual, we ordered a Pad Thai (I wonder what % of Americans don’t order Pad Thai from Thai restaurants). It was solid, no better or worse than usual. However, tonight we tried two new dishes. The first was a Chilean Seabass in a sweet & sour sauce. This was simply amazing; the Seabass literally dissolves in your mouth. We also ordered one of their specials; the Mango Crispy Duck (photo above). Another really great choice! The combination of the meat and what was probably the freshest and softest mango we’ve ever had resulted in a really interesting taste. It was just so flavourful. Honestly, mango combined with anything is a recipe for success.

We ate until we were full and still had plenty of leftovers, easily enough for dinner another night. Again, the entire bill (3 entrees and an appetizer, tax and tip)…$65. Amazing! They usually finish with a few orange slices, but this time we had two delicious pieces of cantaloupe. Like the mango, it was just so fresh!

There’s no other way to say it…We just love this place!

Arthur’s Tavern: You Got Cheap!

March 3, 2012

Today is St. Patrick’s Day in Hoboken (much to the Mayor’s dismay), and for the last three years we have always celebrated at Arthur’s Tavern on the corner Washington Street and 3rd…well, no more!

It was sad when there were rumors of the Hoboken landmark closing as recently as a year ago, but we heard that somebody bought it and saved it. We’ve now been there twice since then, and it has become clear that the new management is looking to maximize his profit. While that’s certainly his right, we certainly don’t have to go there anymore either.

There were so many reasons why we used to love going to Arthur’s on St. Patty’s day; the enormous 32 oz beer mugs, no cover charge, and the fact that it is 3 floors and simply huge, so you can almost always get in without a wait.

This year, a group of 12 of us went to Arthur’s again, but left very disappointed. No more beer mugs this year, just crappy plastic 12 oz cups. When I asked why, the bartender simply said, “New Management.” It used to cost $8 for a 32 oz mug of Blue Moon. However, this crappy 12 oz cup (without an orange slice) cost $8.50. Two girls then came up to a bar and ordered shots of vodka. The bartender pulled out tiny plastic shot glasses, not much bigger than a thimble; $10/shot. A bottle of Bud Light; $8. We managed to find a table and a few of us ordered vodka-tonics. The first round came back and it was clear that it wasn’t much more than a combination of water and tonic, perhaps with a splash of vodka…maybe. We couldn’t taste any vodka, so we sent it back. Clearly, they were in full price gauging mode. Oh, and I forgot to mention the $10 cover charge that they were charging people when we left.

Maybe this is par for the course in Hoboken on St Patty’s day, and clearly it made no difference because the place was still packed, but it was just disappointing to see from Arthur’s. This just ultimately confirmed what we sensed when we went there for dinner a few months ago. We thought something might be up when they stopped serving unlimited coleslaw with our steak. I remember asking why, and again heard, “New management.” It’s clearly a trend that even the wait-staff notices.

We really liked Arthur’s and always felt nostalgic when eating there. It felt like a neighborhood staple that you could always rely on and made you smile (I love the ugly red-checker table-cloths).

But no longer…you got cheap, and it shows!

The Cuban Restaurant: Another solid Cuban option in Hoboken
February 16, 2012
 
We ventured out on a rainy Friday night to try The Cuban Restaurant (that’s the actual name, we’re not describing a random Cuban restaurant) after purchasing a deal on Living Social (aren’t those the best) that included $50 worth of food and two glasses of wine for only $25. The Cuban Restaurant is new, located where Nine used to be.

We arrived and checked our coats in the handicap elevator to get into the restaurant (pretty weird, right?) and were escorted to our table by the bar area.  At first glance, the place looks pretty small with only 7 or 8 tables across from the bar. However, there is a big back room that would probably be pretty neat for a party. The atmosphere was trendy, yet also romantic.

I started with the house chardonnay, which I was pleasantly surprised by.  Ben had a glass of the house red wine (he’s had better).  They were a little stingy with the bread and only gave us two pieces of bread, although they were full of taste.  I suppose we could have asked for more, but didn’t want to fill up on it.

We shared the CHICHARRONES DE CAMARONES, which is a crispy rock shrimp, as an appetizer. I really love rock shrimp and usually order it anyplace I see it, and it definitely met my high standards. It was sweet and delicious; definitely recommend it. Naturally, we were so sad once it was gone, but then our main courses arrived.  Ben had the CHURRASCO, which is skirt steak.  His entree was huge. It literally filled the entire skillet and was folded over because it was so big. It was smothered in a delicious chimichurri sauce. Ben couldn’t even he finish it, which is a huge surprise because he never has leftovers. However, that wasn’t a bad thing either because it made for a great Steak and Eggs combo next morning for breakfast.
I ordered the PAELLA VALENCIANA, which came with shrimp, scallops, mussels, clams, chorizo, and chicken, served in an iron skillet.  This paella was like nothing I’ve ever had before, there seemed to be an asian-like taste to the paella.  It was delicious, but the portion was a little small, especially for Paella.  I know this because unlike Ben, I always have leftovers, but this time I actually finished it.

We finished our meal with an order of TRES LECHES DE CANELA, which is a Spiced vanilla bean three milks cake.  It was incredible! It melted in our mouths!
All and all, we were really satisfied and will definitely be back, even if we don’t have another living social deal - well worth the cost! 
95 restaurants down…
 

Fortuitous Brunch Mikie Squared
February 26, 2012

We took a walk down Washington Street (where else) this morning looking for brunch. What told us to stop at Mikie Squared on Washington Street, we don’t know…probably one of those sandwich boards (you see, they work!)

We poked our heads inside and saw that the place was hopping, so we sat down. Ben settled on the “Delectable French Toast” while I went for the Mikie’s Egg White Omelet, but with the cheddar cheese instead of Jack cheese.

Next, we did what we love most…People watch, and this was a great crowd. Next to us was the typical Hoboken “Bro” crowd, most likely Stevens students wearing sweatpants, recounting tales from the night before while keeping the good times rolling with man-mosas, a mimosa made with Blue Moon. To the left was a couple of parents with newborn babies dancing on the table. It was a very diverse crowd.

We were in a good mood, until we realized that it had been 30 minutes since we ordered and had nothing in front of us. At about that time, 3 plates of food appeared almost out of nowhere, but were placed on the table next to us. A man and his young boy sat down. The boy had a giant plate of chicken fingers next to him and was as happy as one could be.

We asked our waitress if our food was coming out soon, and received the usual “it’s coming right out” response. However, 15 minutes later after the “bros” to the right of us were finishing up their meal while we still didn’t have ours, I could see that Ben was on the verge of transforming into angry Green Hulk mode as he flagged the waitress down and again asked where our food was. Again, “it should be right out, the kitchen is backed up.”

The man next to us said that we shouldn’t pay for the food, and Ben agreed and said that he’ll try to arrange some sort of reparation. The little boy then looked up from his chicken fingers and said, “It’s ok, he’s the owner, you don’t have to pay.”

Alas, we were sitting next to the original Mikie, with his son Mikie across from him. It was like the time in Forrest Gump when they were on the bench and Forrest tells the man that he in fact owns Bubba Gump Shrimp. What a revelation!

In any event, Mikie could not have been nicer. He apologized and said that they meal was on him and went into the kitchen to find out what was going on. The food came out a few minutes later and was delicious. The French Toast was topped with fresh strawberries and bananas; not that compote nonsense. My omelet was also great and fresh. As usual, Ben finished his french toast and then polished off my omelet.

In addition to scoring a free breakfast, it was at this point that we decided to create our blog to chronicle our journey through Hoboken’s restaurants…very fortuitous indeed.

Needless to say, this is the way the service industry should be run. Mikie gets it, and instead of making an enemy, he now made a friend and inspired a blog.

Thank you Mikie Squared for a polite and respectful service, a delicious breakfast, and giving us the boost we needed to join the blogging world. Definitely hit up Mikie Squared in Hoboken on Washington and 6th.

94 restaurants down…

Dozzino’s - Hipster pizza done right!

February 24, 2012

Let us first start out by saying that we don’t really know the official definition of what a Hipster is, but if there ever was a Hipster Pizzeria joint, this must be it…and that’s not necessarily a bad thing…

We went out this past Friday with another couple and since we had never been to Dozzino’s, we figured it was a great chance to cross this off our list. Part of the reason that we didn’t know of Dozzino’s is because we rarely venture west of Washington Street, although we have started to do so more and more as we’ve pretty much conquered most of our side of the town.

In any event, this place reminded us of Brooklyn with the kind of distressed look and limited formal decoration. Our only other experience with Brooklyn was a New Year’s Eve house party a bunch of years ago that a friend suggested. The place had no furniture, white walls, cement floors and cardboard signs hung up around the apartment labeling the rooms. As the guy dressed up in a sport coat and tie on New Years Eve, I stuck out like a corporate soar thumb in a sea full of hipster. I think there was a lesbian lovers quarrel that night as well, but that event is responsible for my general fear of hipsters. Anyway, I digress…

It’s a BYOB, so we brought our own beer, and I even got to use my recently purchased flask for the first time. They don’t have ice at this place (kind of hipster?) so I drank my bourbon neat, and got drunk a little faster as a result (again, not a bad thing).

The pizzas are personal size and really thin crust, so we ordered four of them; La Pizza (basically plain) Spinach, Diavola (tomato, red pepper and calabrese salami) and the special “Uncle Leo,” which is a special pizza inspired by our friends’ friend that is essentially the Bianco, but with garlic cloves. 

The Pizza was great, and we ate every slice. The Diavola was pretty hot by my standards, but I enjoyed it nonetheless and is a good choice for those who prefer a little kick. Afterwards, we were in a good mood so we ordered some dessert. We shared a giant Blondie brownie with ice-cream and crostini topped with a nutella & mascarpone mixture…delicious.

After dinner we stayed for a while longer until they needed the table for another party…always a good sign when there is another seating at 10:00pm.

The total bill for four people was like $65…pretty awesome, and another reason why BYOBs are great!

Hipster Pizza done right!

93 restaurants down…