By Sally Deering
Like Sinatra, Maxwell’s Tavern is synonymous with Hoboken and goes back to the 1940s when the city was more working class and employees at the Maxwell House coffee plant would stop in for a brew and a bite. Although the bar looks very much like it did back in the day, General Manager Jay Donnelly says new changes came with the new owners back in March. You can now enter right on Washington Street (instead of using the side door on 11th) and there’s some beautiful art work throughout the bar area that flows all the way through to the back room where bands and other acts perform. The menu has changed, too.
The bar area, with Maxwell’s original bar, features high-top tables and chairs; intimate seating along the perimeter and a back room with four-tops facing a small stage.
Along with the bands and extensive beer and wine selection, Maxwell’s offers a menu that’s bar-friendly with an array of Starters, Salads, Burgers, Sandwiches, Thin Crust Pizzas, and Entrees. For Starters, Maxwell’s signature Classic French Onion Soup continues to be a menu highlight along with Buffalo Chicken Wings, Fried Calamari, Mom’s Italian Style Meatballs and Crab Cake Sliders ($7-$13). Thin Crust Pizzas, also a big draw, are served in several variations including White, Margherita, Chicken Pesto, Hoboken BBQ and Sausage Lasagna ($14-$15).
Burgers are Bleu, Black Bean, Turkey, and Traditional – all served with fries or chips ($11-$14). Sandwiches are the Grilled Chicken, Pulled Pork and Philly Cheesesteak ($11-$13). Entrees feature Shepherd’s Pie, Chicken Parmigiana, Vegetable Lasagna, Chicken Carbonara, Blackened Salmon, Grilled French Cut Pork Chop, and Grilled Angus Cowboy Steak ($16-$32).
Although there are several TVs in the bar area, Donnelly says the owners are trying to go back to Maxwell’s roots.
“We’re trying not to be too much of a sports bar,” Donnelly says. “Originally it was Maxwell’s Tavern. When Maxwell’s had the plant down the street, they worked three shifts and the workers would come here. We wanted to bring it back to a tavern with a good dining experience: good quality food at a reasonable price.”
Back in the day, Maxwell’s was known for serving comfort foods like meat loaf, fried chicken and chicken pot pies. These days, there are several signature dishes customers keep coming back for, Donnelly says, including the 14-ounce Premium Reserve pork chop entrée, the French onion soup, thin crust pizzas and Buffalo wings. There are daily specials, too.
Half-price Happy Hour happens Mon-Fri from 5-7 pm, and Sun, 6 pm till closing (bar area only). On Thursdays, the bar serves $5 Martinis; on Sundays, its 50 cent wings and $3 Miller Lites or PBR Drafts. Since the bar is just a block or so from Steven’s Institute of Technology, Maxwell’s offers SIT students 25% off their food orders with a school ID (drinks not included).
Art is everywhere at Maxwell’s with exhibitions curated by local artist Steven Vizena. The current exhibit is “Body Mind-Spirit” and Vizena says it explores “artists imaginings or aspects of experience that move beyond physical constraints.”
Artist Ibou Ndoye of Jersey City is one of several artists whose works can be seen on Maxwell’s walls. About his art, Ndoye says: “My message is social in the sense that it deals with the social and moral ethics of modern and traditional life. My inspirations come from the unseen, neglected, or discarded things from our social and daily life. The traditions of my homeland, Senegal, have a great impact on my work and storytelling through my art.”
Bands will always be a huge highlight at Maxwell’s. Performing Fri, Dec. 12 at 9:30 pm is the Eric R. Durham & Top Groove Band. (Admission $10). The back room where the bands perform can also be booked for private parties for up to 125 people.
“Today’s Maxwell’s respects both its music and neighborhood roots while layering in new thinking about what is fun, exceptional and unique to Hoboken in terms of food, drink, music, arts and atmosphere,” Donnelly says.
If you go:
1039 Washington St
Mon – Wed: 5 pm – midnight
Thurs & Fri: 5 pm – 2 am
Sat: 10 am –2 am
Sun: 10 am – midnight