On the Town   

 

 

 

March 15, 2005

Terrorist 'Tube' Steaks

 

By Dick Laresch

 

Boulevard Drinks at Journal Square in Jersey City has been around “forever” or at least as long as this reviewer’s memory.  It’s separated from Jersey City’s “World Famous” and recently renovated Loews Theater by a small alley, and also by the relocated-from-the-PATH-access-row across Kennedy Boulevard and equally “famous” Tube Bar. This new bar is not named the Tube Bar, its name is not known to this reviewer. Yet like the Tube Bar in its last days, it is the only bar at Journal Square, and therefore inherits by default the Tube Bar association. During the worst days of Journal Square, and they may still be counting, the Tube Bar stood as an iconic symbol of decay and rejuvenation, and there must always be a bar at Journal Square in memory of the Tube. Whenever it’s necessary to meet someone at that particular new bar next to Boulevard Drinks, all parties who will meet there call it the “Tube Bar” for convenience’s sake. 

 

The now-closed genuine Tube Bar is a review unto itself, and there’s likely plenty of web stuff on that magnificently transient and disreputable drinking spot. 

The Tube Bar in its bustling days (likely 40’s 50’s 60’s) was a way station for princes and paupers; well, the latter. What a character bar! You couldn’t have a bad time in the Tube even if (likely) you were down on your chances or down to your last crumbled single. But you never had a “good” time in the Tube either except it was a comfortable guilt-free place to drink excessively since the regular patrons made you, stone alcky that you may be, look like Teetotaler of the Decade.

There was never an iota of self-recrimination getting smashed in the Tube. For the alcoholic or other excessive drinker, such uninhibitedness and discordant sense of dignified drinking security is a woefully understated factor in tavern atmospherics. Everybody in the Tube regaled in the profound hopelessness of their drinking habits and piled on the rounds til their cash expired – and beyond. The cashed-out depended on the oft-indulged kindness of strangers who would magnanimously slap down a buck and change and send one to the penniless, stupored drunk. We’re all friends in this dank room, no airs please and there wasn’t any air either. Playing the benefactor as you drank way too much eased the creeping guilt of being a drunken puking boozer thyself – you’re a good guy buying that poor critter another drink, and have one thyself for being such a sport. Round ‘em up! And those rounds were cans of Schaefer and rotgut rye. Everyone was on equal if stumbling drunk footing, nobody paid attention to anyone else except as someone noticed a desperate, cashed-out drunk who you might benefact if you could. And you could always see your drinking self reflected in some or many of the Tube patrons, of high or low station though you or they be.

Boulevard Drinks

This review is about Boulevard Drinks and food and not about the Tube Bar and booze, so after you’ve plastered up at the Tube, if you have a few crumply onesies and a few jingles of change, you tumble down the little Tube alley and weave your way across Kennedy Boulevard to complete the assault on that temple of your soul you ignore as your mortal body.

Boulevard Drinks serves good quality grill-fried hot dogs available with the standard, non-yup toppings: chili, onions (raw and paprika-soaked), sauerkraut and mustard. Maybe green relish. No peanut butter or brie. It’s a dinky joint, maybe seven spinning backless stools at a counter, and a window where you can grab the dogs right from the sidewalk. The dogs are outstanding fat-and-salt eating and will, if you suffer refluxive or other digestive ailments, cause misery hours after your thoughtless yet pleasurable gobbling. 

Boulevard Drinks [Click on picture to enlarge]

Three to four is a decent number to scarf, above that no mercy on you but you can eat “several more” if you’re hungry. They are the hot dog equivalent of White Mana (another belly-destroying Jersey institution) burgers – the burger of choice for gastroenterologists across the globe. Boulevard Drinks serves hot dogs and soda (including nearly extinct “lime-rickeys”) and nothing else. Maybe in the morning, there is pastry under the glass on the counter stands – maybe – never been there in the morning. Mana serves more diner-style fare and not much of that, but curiously does not serve a dog (maybe they do, just have never seen anyone order one there). People just don’t associate Mana with hot dogs and it’s impossible to conceive; contrariwise, people associate dogs and only dogs with Boulevard Drinks, and the institution itself is riveted into your mind as a Journal Square landmark, along with the Loews Theater, the ONLY remaining Journal Square attractions from say as recently as the 80’s.

There used to be another stellar grill-fried dog joint on Central Avenue off Hutton Street in the Jersey City Heights; those so blessed will recall “Texas Hot Wieners,” with it’s smallish inviting red neon sign, hoo baby you saw that from blocks away and like another kind of dog – Pavlov’s - your hot dog lovin’ heart began racing and your stomach began churning. Texas Hot Wieners differed only from Boulevard Drinks in that there was no sidewalk window. There was though a window which looked right onto the grilling doggies, whereby you could view them as you walked in, with the dog-minder rolling them tither and fro, fro and tither as if he were daintily walking real scurrying mutts. Deadly and delicious fare you brought home in wax paper and brown bag and woofed in front of Tom Snyder’s Tomorrow show, or some late night, post-drinking background noise on the idiot tube. Awakening in the still darkness of early morning, grimly doing your mattress rotisserie, mimicking the desirous dog rolling earlier on the grill as you tumble around in bed tying to get comfortable suffering digestive reflux – “heartburn” before medical science renamed it and provided expensive pill cures. Trying to balance the desire to remain in bed with the necessity of arising and draining a glass of warm water and Baking Soda to put out the “Snoopy’s Revenge” fire blazing in your chest. Blame not the dog, blame the condiments. Okay, blame the dog too but arise – arise! - and put out that raging inferno from hell! Emit the volcanic belch of contentedness as the pure alkaline of the Baking Soda meets the pure acid of digesting unnamed dog bits and condiment spices, simultaneously releasing stubborn gas pockets and dousing the tormenting heartblaze like a swimming pool bursting on a campfire. And slumber soundly thereafter. There’s nothing like a gentle sleep after a hearty dose of “salts” to assuage the torment of food-induced chestfire. Lord forbid it’s a work day and you have to interrupt this wonderful state before full rest is achieved and the embers doused.

Boulevard Drinks retains its original pink and blue neon sign which brought hot diggety anticipation to so many dog-lusting patrons. The sign gives you a feeling of nostalgia as you visit Boulevard Drinks, a nice counterpoint to the inevitable digestive turbulence that will torment you as surely as the sunset that evening or sunrise next morning. But you’re a tough customer, you like your devil dogs, and you can take it. You want it, you know it, you enjoy the moment. The stand used to be owned in the long ago (60’s, 70’s 80’s(?)) by Greeks(?), perhaps(?), but is now owned by Middle Easterners. So just as you drink your Guinness and figure some of the money is going to the terrorists who comprise the IRA, you contemplate as you woof your dog, if your innocent hot dog money is going to fund gayrab terror, a silly thought that should not prevent you from furiously downing “three, four, or more” Boulevard Drink dogs. Money is fungible but the dogs, these griddlin’ good dogs are not.                                 

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I remember the dot dog joint on Central Ave just North of Hutton St. The Texas Hot Wieners were wonderful! Living in the Midwest there are few if any places that can come close to these great dogs. I'd like to know if anyone has come up with the recipe for these.

 

Paul Kurtis

St Paul, MN