Come Crawl With Me: Exploring Hoboken’s Bar Scene

Downtown Hoboken is known for its vibrant bar scene. Our reporter learns why.

Illustration by Ryan O'Rourke

The NJ Transit train from Bloomfield pulls into Hoboken Terminal at 5:30. It’s Thursday afternoon rush hour and commuters are pouring in from Manhattan. Some hurry to suburban-bound trains. Others filter into the Hoboken streets. My companion and I are on a mission of our own: To explore Hoboken’s vaunted bar scene.

5:38:  The first stop on our bar crawl is Cooper’s Union (104 Hudson Street), a four-block walk from the terminal. It’s inviting and dimly lit, with an industrial feel. There are two bars; at this early hour the rear bar is empty. We take a seat in the front room where the laid-back crowd is slowly building—mostly twenty-something professionals grabbing an after-work drink with friends. Our waiter recommends a creamsicle: vanilla vodka and orange juice. I fear its sweetness, but the drink turns out to be just right, and tempers the heat of the buffalo chicken dip.

7:09:  We walk two blocks to Washington Street, Hoboken’s main drag. Our destination is the Brass Rail (135 Washington Street), a 100-year-old watering hole that has been beautifully restored, with brass accents, dark paneling and a graceful wooden staircase to the second-floor dining room. The patrons here are a little older than at Cooper’s Union. The bar is packed, so we take a table along the wall and study the drinks list. There’s a special on mojitos; we order a round.

7:57:  Back out on Washington Street and the crowd is picking up. The block between 2nd and 3rd streets is lively. We duck into Black Bear Bar & Grill (205 Washington Street), a two-story sports bar with a frat-house vibe. Upstairs it’s loud and crowded, so we find seats downstairs at the bar. Fifteen TV screens are clustered overhead; the bottom six display a single, giant image. Thursday-night specials include “bomb shots” for $7. I consider a Jagerbomb, but opt for vodka and soda. I don’t want to peak too early.

8:47:  It’s just a few doors down to 1-Republik (221 Washington Street), the huge—and I mean huge—dance bar that’s the heart of Hoboken’s weekend party scene. This place thinks big: the menu, the beer list, the array of screens (40, I’m told). Tonight, the jams are blaring from the speakers, but there’s no designated area to dance. Instead, the young crowd gathers around the center bar to take advantage of Thursday night’s special: half-price signature cocktails. It’s time to go all in: I order an extra dirty martini.

9:30:  There are plenty of places in Hoboken to continue crawling but my companion and I are ready to wind down. We walk (in somewhat wobbly fashion) toward the chilly Hudson River and our final destination—the Wicked Wolf Tavern (120 Sinatra Drive), a bright and airy spot with tall windows looking out on the water. It’s pleasantly subdued. I take a seat and order a Blue Moon. From the bar, I take in the view of sparkly midtown Manhattan. I make a mental note to return in warmer weather for a drink on the sidewalk patio.

10:14: We walk back to the terminal and miss the train to Bloomfield by 10 minutes. Hello Uber? Are you there, Uber?

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