Sunday, November 4, 2007

Happy in Hoboken

I'm finishing up bar visits for New Jersey Breweries, the next guidebook, which I'm co-authoring with Mark Haynie. It's all for the book, of course, but one place I stopped yesterday was just so good, I had to share.

Helmers' Cafe (1036 Washington St., Hoboken) was second on my list for the day, and to tell the truth, I was running late because of rain and heavy traffic, and seriously thinking about skipping it. But once I saw the outside, I had to stop (even though parking was as bad as any place I've ever seen).

Good call. Helmers' has a great tap selection, split between craft and German imports. I had an Ettaler Kloster Dunkel (smooth, malty, with an edge of roastiness...God, I hope it's not just Sinamar...) that tasted so nice I decided to throw the schedule in the dumper (I skipped an Irish joint in Secaucus instead...do I really need to tell people about just another Irish pub?) and have lunch. I got a sauerbraten sandwich, which was tender and tangy, with fresh-cut fries that I had to restrain myself from finishing.

But Helmers' is more than just beer and food. A very nice selection of spirits sat on the classy backbar, and the bartender was smooth and professional. I was very happy to see a hand-operated juice press not just prominently displayed but being used regularly; there's just nothing like fresh juices in cocktails.

I don't know if I'll ever get back to Hoboken. Washington Street was a very neat strip, with gorgeous old architecture and tons of restaurants and shops, but it's just not on my usual routes at all. But if I do, Helmers' is on the shortest of lists for a return visit.

7 comments:

bill mc said...

Well, I guess it depends if its a GOOD Irish bar.

Been to a lot of "Irish" bars and ofttimes they're a disappointment.

This place in Hoboken sounds cool.

Derek said...

I know what you are saying about fresh squeezed juice in drinks. I live in Portland, OR for a few years, and it is the norm out there. You will always find a bowl of citrus fruits and a juice press on the bar. Same goes for Seattle, WA. It makes a huge difference.

Lew Bryson said...

Bill,
Okay, true. But...guys who like Irish bars have ways of finding them; ways that involve fey psychic ley-line stuff, the Dublin Telegram, things like that. Besides, Secaucus is getting pretty far from the A-B brewery, which was what I was collecting nearby bars for. Um...and I was late.

Stonch said...

How common is the practice of producing dunkels by simply adding Sinamar? Weyermann certainly produce lots of the stuff. When I wandered around their factory with Ron Patto back in late July, the yard was stacked high with containers of the stuff.

Lew Bryson said...

Stonch,
I was on a press junket tour of Bavarian breweries three years ago, and those red Sinamar jugs were (almost) everywhere. We talked to one brewmaster who claimed that five out of the Munich 'Big Six' made their dunkels that way. Hey, but it's all Reinheitsgebot, right? One of the things that led to Ron's famous quote on the R-gebot. Okay, it should be famous.

Dan said...

Hey Lew,

I'm glad you made a stop at Helmer's. I live right down the street on Washington (b/w 8th and 9th) and enjoy the beer and food there from time to time.

And you're lucky that you were actually able to eat there as there was a pretty large fire there about 2 years ago. They re-opened about 4-6 months ago and have been going strong. I'm glad you had a good time.

And yes, parking in Hoboken is horrible no matter where you try to park.

Lew Bryson said...

Dan,
I was glad too. Most of the people at the bar were talking about the fire, and it sounded like it worked out okay: they got a lot of renovating done, got things up to code. Expensive, I'm sure, but the results? Nice. You're lucky to have such a great place so close. Wish I did!