Jason and I had been talking about this new place under renovation in the desolate industrial wasteland that is west side Jersey City, to what was once known as Harriet’s. This place was an old dive bar with a pool table in the middle of it and not much else. Dark bland colors and that old-timer feel really engulfed the place. Not much to see here, just a dingy old bar. Having some reservation about the trip, “Jason Squared” took a trip over to the place and encountered something altogether different – O’Abbey’s.
When you pass by the bar on the street, you can’t help but notice that this looks more like something you’d expect to see in trendy Hoboken or Newport areas. The wood-framed glass panel facade of this newly invigorated watering hole was a refreshing sight to say the least. Honestly, this place sticks out like a sore thumb. It looks a little too nice to be in this particular area, but maybe it’s the start of something. One could only wonder if it held as much awe-inspiring atmosphere inside as did the exterior. With only one way to find out, we walked right in and pulled up a chair at the bar. As we pulled our seats up, we were treated with a nice wall of bottles as a backdrop for the bar area, somewhat reminiscent of the Office in Morristown, but on a much smaller scale. We glanced at the draft selection and found 14 taps of brews ranging from your standard bar choices of Bud or Bud Light to more artisan, crafty beers, such as Magic Hat #9. The tap choices we found are listed below.
Our bartender Jack was an interesting fellow. Tough chin, Irish-looking guy (only appropriate when the place is named O’Abbey’s) with that look, sometimes referred to as the “thousand yard stare” but more appropriately, a cautious analytical glance, as is custom for these parts. Upon speaking with him, Jack came off as a fairly amiable guy. In some places, the bartender will pour your beer, take your money and walk away. Not this place. At the very least, Jack seemed interested in a bit of conversation and getting to know his newest patrons. Brownie points definitely earned there. Another friendly face from behind the bar, Maria, was quick to strike up a dialogue and kept my stay a pleasant one.
We decided it was time to start drinking what we had been staring at, and placed our orders with the barkeep. Most of the beers we had were good, although the Shiner seemed a little flat. I grew up on that stuff, and have poured many a keg of it. Perhaps the air pressure was a little off. Regardless, we both had one – I, because of my allegiance to Shiner over piss water light beer since my early college days; Jason, because he was interested in trying this out on draft.
The one downside we found to this new retreat was the price. That would really be our only bone of contention. Pints were five bucks a piece. For this part of town, that might be seen as a bit steep. It’s not unheard of when you’re in Newport, Hoboken or the Village. But in this area, with mostly blue-collar types and a city university housing broke college kids, this could be a gamble. However, price can also be a factor when weeding out unwanted clientele and for bringing in a nice patronage. After all, how many classy places do you expect to find when any poor fool off the street can walk in and grab a can of PBR or Natural Light or a 40 of Mickeys for a buck or two? Maybe that’s the angle for this place and its owners. It already looks better than everything around it. Certainly better than the old dive it has replaced. Maybe pumping life into the area is the idea, and if so, the higher price for draft beer can be justified.
In summation, for those who remember Harriet’s, this new spot is a crown jewel. Could it be the start of an area-wide aesthetic renaissance? Only time will tell. For now, take the extra buck or two you’ve been saving and go grab yourself a pint from the crew at O’Abbey’s and get a feel for the place. You never know how much you’ll like something until you actually give it a try. The same should be said here. You have your marching orders…
Bud Light Labatts Blue
Stella Artois Blue Moon
Yuengling Coors Light
Hoegaarden Sam Adams Winter Lager (seasonal)
Magic Hat #9 Spaten Oktoberfest
Shiner Bock Guinness