“Gregulars” is the new term buzzing about Hoboken this weekend as Gregory’s Coffee opened its first location on Downtown River Street in mile square city on Friday, January 15.
With two others in Jersey City, this marks the company’s third location in the Garden State, and its 33rd overall since first opening in Manhattan back in 2006. And, to answer any lingering questions, yes, Gregory is a real person and he does in fact look like the company logo (glasses and a full head of hair).
The shop itself is undoubtedly one of the most aesthetically pleasing cafe’s in the Hoboken area. Large windows spanning two sides of the building (along 1st and River), greenery (both real and artificial) throughout, and a nice contrast in colors, with ample indoor seating. In addition, the prime location is only steps away from Pier A Park on the waterfront. Stay and sip or take it to go.
Rather than dive into the the history of Gregory’s (I’ll save the in-person interview for a later date) let’s explore what Gregory’s coffee is and learn the difference between it and, let’s say, Starbucks. Because in order to appreciate a good cup o’Joe, or in this case, cup o’Gregory, it’s helpful to know what the coffee is as much as we enjoy how the coffee tastes.
Gregory’s coffee is third wave coffee. But to understand what that means, let’s take a look at the history of each of the four waves.
1800s— Wave one is a basic cup of coffee. It answers the question: “why” coffee? And the answer is that coffee is a basic commodity. Think of the first wave of coffee in terms of big brands like Folgers and Maxwell House, the ones we take home and make part of our morning routine. Fun fact: A Maxwell House Coffee Plant once occupied the space between 10th – 12th and Hudson Streets in Hoboken and, at the time (1939) it was the largest coffee plant in the world. It closed in 1992.
1970s— Many years later, wave two began when Starbuck’s arrived to reshape “what” coffee is. Coffee is social and it’s luxurious. Beyond the basic bean, Starbucks introduced artificial flavoring to make it fancy, like a Frappuccino. Thus, coffee became about mainstreaming the experience for the every day consumer, beyond the confines of the home. Further, it allowed coffee drinkers to customize their cup.
1999— The term third wave coffee was coined in 1999 when the focus shifted away from the “what” coffee was and into the “who” and “where” coffee came from. There became a greater focus on the quality of the coffee itself, who was growing it, and enhancing the natural notes of the bean. Vanilla flavor wasn’t an add in, it was part of the bean’s origins. The conversation transitioned from what was in the cup to where it hit on a flavor profile. This is where Gregory’s Coffee lands.
Now— Today, we’re in the fourth wave with a focus on the “how” coffee is made. As science makes its way into the brewing process, there’s a lens on sustainability and global impact.
Think of a coffee wave the same way you’d view a clothing brand– from basic to high fashion. It’s about individual taste. So, the next time you’re ready to ride the third wave may I suggest a cup o’Gregory?
Dining out, or ordering in, has become second nature in modern day society. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that in 2018 44% of all food spending was done away from home, with an annual average of $3,459, and Statista predicts online ordering will steadily increase at a rate of 4.3% through 2024. But do we actually appreciate the food that is served to us, or are we just picking items off a menu?
After reading William Sitwell’s,The Restaurant: A 2,000-Year History of Dining Out, I developed a hungering for French food. Aside from being in France over a decade ago, I don’t recall ever seeking out the cuisine, I merely stumbled into those sorts of restaurants by happenstance. But after several chapters describing France’s influence on modern day dining, I soon found myself Googling the top rated bistros in my area. Voila, Bistro La Source in Jersey City, 4.3 stars. Reservation for two confirmed.
Inspired by my recent page turner, I dined like a French woman. Then, once home, I dove into the history of what I tasted. In doing so, my experience became a journey of the palate.
My first dish was the French onion soup au gratin. It was noticeably less salty than most I’ve had in the past and so delicious that I eventually picked up the bowl to drink the remaining broth. Apparently, I was drinking what most French households consider to be a hangover cure. Yes, French onion soup is the preferred meal after a night of excess drinking. But how did the soup originate?
According to Culture Trip, there are two theories. The first, King Louis XV (who reigned 1715 – 1774) was hungry one afternoon but could only find onions, butter, and champagne in his kitchen. He then decided to mix them all together in a pot (I imagine today those ingredients would instead be placed in a drinking glass with onion as the garnish). The second theory is that the Duke of Lorraine was on his way to visit his daughter Queen Marie (King Louis XV’s wife) when he stopped into a hotel and tasted a soup by a chef named Nicolas Appert. The duke enjoyed Appert’s soup so much that he watched the chef prepare it, copied the recipe, and brought it to the King and Queen at the Palace of Versailles. No matter how you swallow it, both theories lead back to King Louis XV.
Another popular dish (though, not so popular in NYC anymore) is foie gras, fattened duck or goose liver. Some may find it appalling to consume, both for taste and ethical reasons (a great detailed explanation from Series Eats in 2010). However, it’s interesting to know that, as the Wall Street Journal reports, foie gras has quite an in-depth history. Fattening geese dates back to the Egyptians in 2498-2345 BC. Centuries later, the Romans followed suit. Then, eventually, it became a part of Jewish culture. And when Jews migrated to Germany and France in 1100 so did their method of fattening geese. Like the Egyptians, Romans, and Jews before me, I spread the homemade pate of duck liver and foie gras on my toast. It could have been a single meal in itself— if one ever chooses to fill up on pate alone— but instead made for a satisfying appetizer to share.
If you’ve never had escargot before, but are curious to try it, the escargots de Bourgogne au pastis, shallot, garlic and parsley butter is a smooth, simple transition into the delectable world of snails at Bistro La Source. Grossed out at the idea? Don’t be. Humans have been savoring snails for nearly 30,000 years, according to Smithsonian Magazine.
Arriving at the main course, beef short rib Bourguignon is a classic French dish that was ideal for splitting between two. It swam in a palatable deep red wine sauce, alongside mushrooms, onions, carrots, and potatoes. It comes from Burgundy (Bourgogne in French), a region recognized for its wine and Charolais cattle, hence the mix of beef and wine. It turns out, Bourguignon was originally prepared for peasants back in the Middle Ages. At the time, the dish took two days to cook. It wasn’t until 1903 that chef Auguste Escoffier wrote down a recipe and brought it to the likes of city diners and thus creating the swifter recipe of today.
Concluding the meal was a Creme Brûlée. Interestingly enough, the modern day version of creme brûlée comes from NYC, although the first recipe with the name dates back to 1691 by chef Francois Massialot in Versailles. Saveur writes that Sirio Maccioni, owner of Le Cirque, came across creme catalana in Spain in the 1980s. He returned desiring a similar dish for his Le Cirque menu and that’s when pastry chef, Dieter Schorner, mixed the ingredients into the now recognizable fluted casserole and created a thinner sugar shell.
In between mouthfuls I sipped on the spiked hot cider, strong enough to warm the insides on a cold night, followed by a drink I had never heard of before—a Vieux Carré. The Vieux Carré is another stateside creation from 1938 in New Orleans. Walter Bergeron was head bartender at the Carousel Bar when he mixed together rye whiskey, sweet vermouth, cognac, Bénédictine liqueur, bitters, topped it off with a Maraschino cherry, and thus invented the “French Quarter” drink.
My meal was enjoyed in a heated bubble in Jersey City, without the romanticized French backdrop, but for those two plus hours I traveled through a culinary history of the world. It might take a bit more time to understand the origins of various ethnic recipes, but I’m one restaurant closer to savoring like Sitwell.
There’s something to be said about calling a place home. Is it where the heart is? Is it where our family is? Or is it simply where we go to sleep at night? For one restaurant in Hoboken, it’s all of this and something more. Home is about community. And they’ve spent 52 years feeding theirs.
The mile square city of Hoboken brings to mind many things— baseball, ol’ blue eyes, and, to those who grew up in the area, Benny’s. Bari Drishti and his wife, Sophia, opened the local restaurant, Benny Tudino’s, in 1968 at 622 Washington Street, where it has remained ever since. The following year, 1969, they welcomed their first son, Eddie Drishti, and in 1971 their second son, Arbend Drishti, was born. The location is beyond business. This is a place of family.
“We’ve been here and we grew up here. We lived on the first floor above the restaurant. This is our community. Everyone knows us. People even look at me and just say, ‘Benny’s son?’,” Arbend Drishti said. Bari ‘Benny” Drishti passed away in 2015, three years shy of the milestone 50th anniversary of the cornerstone eatery he created. But his legacy, and recipes, live on. “It’s a honor to continue on. We’re here. It might not be my fathers face, but they know us [my brother and I]. It’s the same. And people appreciate it.”
The Drishti’s credit the restaurant’s success to one thing— consistency. The same location, the same family, and the exact same ingredients. It’s a walk down memory lane. The building’s interior is a true old-school style pizzeria— booths in front, tables in the back; photos of families old and new on the walls; images with notable celebrities; columns, drapes and oversized mirrors; and the smell of classic, New York style pizza. While other establishments change hands, expand to other locations, or shut down entirely Benny’s acts as a time capsule of a pizzeria style reminisce of yesteryear.
“People like going back in time. It’s a moment from their lives that they can revisit,” Arbend said of the patrons that return. Sometimes customers drive for hours, and sometimes it’s a reunion after a decade of being away.
The restaurant is a return to innocence for those who grew up in Hoboken. Days of bringing their kids or grandkids for a meal, high school students dropping by for a slice, first dates over a pie in one of the booths. Many even remember hearing Bari’s singing voice as it echoed throughout the restaurant.
“He would sit at the table and sing. At the house, he would sing. He sang because he loved it, he was a passionate person. He even had his own CD,” Arbend mentioned, pointing to the CD framed on the wall.
As the years roll on, Benny’s is about revisiting moments as much as it is about creating new ones. The kids of the past are all grown up and now they bring their own families to pass on a nostalgic tradition— going back to Benny’s.
“One time, a guy dropped in. He just got in from Florida and this was the first place he stopped. Anytime someone gets into town this is always the first place they stop by,” Eddie recalled. “My father used to say, ‘If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it.’ We kept the food the same, and people keep coming back.”
Benny’s was made famous by their signature menu item– larger than life slices. The 32 inch pie was conceptualized by their uncle John who came to work for them in the 80s. It’s a slice so identifiable, in fact, that the restaurant’s catchphrase, “Home of the Largest Slice” was patented by Sophia. And the flavor is equally as memorable. No frills, nothing trendy, just a good, back to the basics, cheese pizza.
But the story behind Benny Tudino’s truly breaks the stereotype on what quality pizza should be, or where it should come from.
Bari Drishti was born of a Calabrese mother and an Albanian father. He immigrated to the United States from Albania in the 1960s and began working for Mama Leone’s in New York City. There, Bari learned the inner workings of an Italian kitchen. He loved Italian food and the sense of closeness it brought to his own mother’s cooking. He wanted to open up a place of his own but there was one hiccup. No one could pronounce his Albanian name. So, he went by his Italian nickname, Benny.
Soon thereafter, Bari left Mama Leone’s, made his way across the Hudson and decided on Tudino’s Bakery in Hoboken, at 622 Washington Street, to be the location of his restaurant. But he knew that in order to break the stereotype of quality Italian food, and keep up appearances, he had to blend in to be successful. And so, to pay homage to the bakery before him, Bari named his restaurant Benny Tudino’s. The Italian sounding name gave his restaurant a fighting chance to succeed, or at the very least prove itself. However, he never denied his Armenian roots.
When the doors first opened, to save money, Sophia worked behind the counter and Bari paid the high school kids in pizza, who then raved about it to their friends. Word spread quickly.
“As a kid, I remember a guy was eating a slice of pizza in front and it was a total mess. The cheese was everywhere, on his clothes, oil dripping. I told my father and all he said was, ‘That’s the best advertisement there is’. And he was right,” Arbend remembered. “My father had good business sense. But it was more than that, he was a very generous man.”
Eddie added, “We thank God for what we have, but it’s also good to give back.”
The brothers recalled the days of their father giving away slices to those who couldn’t afford to eat, vowing that no one should go hungry. Today, they carry on their fathers memory by serving their community both in the restaurant and outside of it. Both serve on the Hoboken Police Department; Eddie is a Lieutenant and Arbend a Sergeant. And the restaurant itself donates food to the hospitals, shelter, high school, or really anyone that needs a meal.
“Our own staff kick us out for giving away too much business,” Arbend laughed. “We always say ‘it’s on us’. We can’t help it. We just like to feed people.”
As COVID-19 takes a toll on all small businesses, make your way back to Benny’s and order directly from their website or, better yet, stop by in person and grab a slice of community.
The Hoboken Business Alliance (HBA) encourages you to stamp those passports, around Hoboken that is, with it’s visit-to-win passport program to support local restaurants and retailers in the mile square.
The “Shop and Dine Passport Programs” kicked off Friday, October 23 as an incentive to support local business. But it’s grabbed the attention of both locals and visitors alike with its “gotta catch em all” spirit. Fortunately, if you haven’t joined in yet there’s still time.
“Supporting the local business community and providing safe ways for residents and visitors to shop, dine, and explore Hoboken has been a priority since we launched earlier this year. The Food Crawl and Sidewalk Sales are a great way to continue the energy to support local this fall following our summer campaigns and programs,” said Gregory Dell’Aquila, President of the Hoboken Business Alliance, which was created by the Office of the Mayor and City Council as a commitment to support the local Hoboken community by stimulating business.
The Sidewalk Sales end this Sunday, November 1 but with Halloween weekend it’s the perfect way to continue that Booken spirit. Can’t spend the extra money right now? No need. Part of HBA’s effort includes business awareness, although any small purchase is appreciated to show support. Visit any any of the 27 participating retailers and collect a stamp, no purchase necessary. Once five or more stamps are collected you can turn in your completed collection for a chance to grab one of 12 gift card prizes.
Dell’Aquila continued, “Many people are missing their normal routines or trips they’re not able to take. With so many wonderful eateries and shops in the Mile Square, locals and visitors can always discover new places to enjoy and explore.”
As you collect stamps, with or without a purchase, this is a great opportunity to learn about local retailers you might’ve otherwise missed and keep them in mind for upcoming holiday shopping.
But all that [window] shopping is bound to build up an appetite. Dig into the Food Crawl at any of the 52 restaurants and eateries offering special $10 deals, or any regularly priced menu item, through November 6. The best part is, you can sit and stay or take it to go! Have five or more stamps on your passport? You could win any of the 25 gift card prizes.
“Hoboken has always been about community and the businesses are what keep our town thriving. That’s why we’re excited to give back and offer everyone even more reasons to shop and dine locally here in Hoboken,” Dell’Aquila said.
Are you ready to #GoBoken ? Visit www.hobokenalliance.com to view all participating businesses. You can download your passport directly online or pick one up in person at any business listed.
Sidewalk Sale winners will be announced by November 13 with two grand prize winners and 10 second-place winners, with a gift certificate to the retailer of their choice. Food Crawl winners will be contacted by November 25, and each will receive a $100 gift certificate to the eatery of their choice.
When I was a child, my father would take me driving along the Gold Coast of Long Island to gather leaves on many a crisp, fall afternoon. We’d get out of the car at random leaf clusters along the road in Roslyn, Glen Cove, the Brookvilles, and picked the brightest colors in full form. He had one of those self-adhesive scrapbooks. We lined their pages, year after year, with foliage in yellows, oranges, reds, auburns, even the occasional tint of blue.
Once we were finished, he’d make a turn off Northern Boulevard, drive down Hegemans Lane, and pull into Youngs Farm. It was customary to have a treat. A slice of pie or some fudge were my favorites. These memories made up my childhood and stood out because, out of all the places he could have taken me, he took me to this small farm stand.
The Youngs family has been on Long Island since the founding days and the farm itself began long before the Village of Old Brookville was incorporated in 1929. The story begins in 1893 when John Youngs married Ida Hegeman, thus Youngs Farm on Hegemans Lane. It is now five generations running.
Tim Dooley, a manager at Youngs Farm, has been involved for eight years. He runs the business with his wife, Remsen, and mother-in-law, Paula Youngs Weir, owner of the farm. Originally, the farm only sold local milk. Now, it sells around 50 different crops across 10 acres, with five acres being seasonal cover crops.
“I think the common thread between generations is the pride that each person takes in the quality of the products we are selling and also the pride of thriving on this land in this location. Each generation seems very different and no one has been required to be a part of it. However, I think there is an intrinsic reward from making something that brings people some joy and comfort while also making a living,” Dooley said.
Some of the most productive crops are berries, carrots, beets, lettuces, string beans, peppers, eggplant, cucumbers, summer and fall squash, flowers, and herbs. Tomatoes are the farm’s best seller, with an increase in lettuce sales every year. Each crop is sustainably farmed, a signature the family signs on the NOFA-NY Farmer’s Pledge each season. In essence, the family promises to farm organic without going through any certification process.
The fields are rotated each season, there’s an on-site compost, and the farm opts for using a spader instead of plow, which reduces tillage depth. Each technique improves soil quality and contributes to environmentally conscious behavior.
The small building stands amid lush greenery, with the iconic Gold Coast mansions in the distance. It has a commercial kitchen and bakery on-site, putting out soups, quiches, pot pies, cookies, breads, muffins, biscuits, scones, pies, and cakes.
“We would like to offer customers even more than we grow ourselves. We will also continue to strive to increase the quality and consistency of all the products we hope helps us grow through word of mouth,” Dooley concluded. Beyond edible delights, Youngs offers gifts and housewares.
The future of Youngs Farm looks fruitful, with aims to expand vegetable production into year-round offerings and increase varieties of current produce.
Youngs Farm is located at 91 Hegemans Lane in Old Brookville.