Since 1895, The Elysian Café has served French bistro cuisine, brunch, and artisan cocktails to the city of Hoboken. Just down the street from where Frank Sinatra himself grew up, Elysian is known as the oldest operating bar in the Mile Square City. Now, after whispers of new ownership have made the rounds, Elysian head chef Travis Young confirms to Hoboken Girl he will be taking over the restaurant as of this Friday.
“I’m buying it and it’s going to happen this Friday,” Travis tells Hoboken Girl. “The ownership will change this Friday.”
It’s a seamless change of hand, from previous owner to head chef of the last seven years. Restaurant frequenters, Travis says, shouldn’t expect too much of a change, at least right away.
“A lot of regulars have asked me: Are you going to have a big grand opening day and announcement? We don’t really want to do that,” Travis explains. “We don’t want our regulars, our clientele, to think we’re changing their allegiance. It is just as much theirs as it is ours. We don’t want people to think that because that’s not what we’re doing.”
“The owner had always told me he would love to sell the restaurant,” Travis recalls. “I didn’t know how to do it or what was going to happen but you know, we talked about it. Then I got a phone call from another person who used to work here, named Tommy, and he said, ‘Steve Schneider heard you were maybe going to buy the restaurant and he’s interested.’ And that was it. Lightbulb went off.”
“I immediately got in touch with Tommy and then Steve and we talked. I told him yes, I want to do it, this is how much I need, and then we started working on it. That was a year ago this month. We connected and then I just put it all together, started researching investors, how much money we needed to do this, and made it all happen. It’s been a year-long project and we’re both really excited,” he adds.
“I’m currently the chef, have been for the past seven and a half years. [Steve] used to work here and then he went on to do a lot of other things,” Travis explains. “He has a lot of projects that he’s been involved in and he’s going to be head of the bar program here, my partner, and I’m the majority owner but you know, I do have other partners that have helped us out with this project.”
Keep reading our interview with Travis Young to find out what to expect from the new wave of ownership at Elysian!
HG: You’ve worked there for so many years and now you’re buying it. Obviously it has a special place in your heart. What do you think makes Elysian so special?
TY: It does have a lot of history. I would say it’s charm. It’s just such a charming place. It’s got a great location, the inside of the restaurant is absolutely beautiful, the staff that works here is always really good. I like to think I keep the food very consistent, very good. I like to change the menu seasonally. Our bar staff is really well-known around town. Some of them have been here almost a decade. It’s just a very charming place. It’s always warming when you come in, very welcoming, and we have a lot of history. We’re one of the oldest owned and operated bars in Hoboken and it’s just been a neighborhood place.
And we fully intend on keeping it that way. The old saying, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” really holds true here. It’s a matter of a little bit of a facelift, a little bit of a makeover, change the menu like I do normally, and just keep the vibe. Keep the good vibe that we have.
TY: We intend on keeping it the same. There’s some physical things there, a little bit of a makeover. A paint job. Just a paint job instead, you know, just cleaning things up a little bit.
But going forward, I’m working on really hard on bringing the live music back that we used to have on weekends. That has kind of died out over the last couple years and we used to have a really great following so I’m working on that. I have a band playing this weekend and most of October booked already. Friday and Saturday nights, we’re doing it. Hopefully I’ll have November booked soon, December booked, January booked. That’s a big thing I want to bring back.
We do beer tastings, wine tastings, and liquor tastings; we’re going to bring that back really hard. I worked with an older manager on that many years ago and we established a good following with that. So we’re going to go strong with that. We’re hopefully going to do more events.
Once we get settled as owners, and we get the ball rolling, we want to start looking towards doing more events. We hope that will bring newer people in, not just the neighborhood crowd that we get, which is great. We love our regulars, they’re just the best. That’s what we’re going to start with for now and see how it goes.
HG: How important is it to maintain that classic Elysian vibe?
TY: You hear bad things, you hear good things. You got to take the good with the bad. That’s what we’re going for, that’s what we want to keep: The feeling that you come in there, the people know who you are or remember what you had or remember what you didn’t like and try to make it better. A good experience. We’re trying to keep the good experiences going. That’s what we don’t want to lose, that feeling.
HG: How has the response been from the neighborhood crew?
TY: They all seem very excited. I know a lot of the residents. I’ve been here for the past seven years, I’m really good friends with them. Everyone seems really excited so we’re just trying to keep that excitement and live up to the expectations. Keep the vibe that we have. Keep the clientele that we have. As far as I know, everyone is excited.
HG: You mentioned changing the menu seasonally. Are there any sneak peeks you can give Hoboken Girl readers?
TY: I’m definitely going to have some menu changes this week. If everything goes well. There’s a lot on our plates right now. We’re trying to do what we can but we got to get the legal stuff out of the way. It’s really important that we make sure we get that done the right way, that we cross our t’s and dot all our i’s and nothing slips through the cracks. That’s the most important thing.
But I do have a menu that I’m going to roll out for the season and then we’ll fine-tune it in the weeks to follow. I like to do it every month and a half: sort of like the fall, then the winter, then the spring, and then the summer. There’s always that kind of in-between period in those seasons where certain things go out of stock just because they’re not available.
We’re definitely going to be doing that and then Steve’s going to be changing the cocktails, wine, as we get settled.
TY: The opportunity to do this, to give back to this community, to be able to do this, to be a part of the legacy. I mean, it feels like I’ve just been given a huge gift. It’s such a great place. I don’t know if I could have asked for a better spot in Hoboken to take over. I don’t feel like just an owner of a bar or restaurant, I feel like part of history in Hoboken. That’s what it feels like. It’s just such a great honor. I’m nervous, it’s a lot to live up to. I’m a little nervous but I’m mostly excited. That’s the best part, to be a part of that legacy.
You know what it is? It’s not just, it’s not just somebody bought the restaurant. For Elysian to do this for us, to give us this opportunity, is amazing. This does not happen in the restaurant business that often. Or really at all. You don’t hear about this. So for him to do something like that, we are so grateful he’s giving us this opportunity. This is what you hope for as a restaurant owner, that you get to pass it on to somebody like me and Steve, who work here, who care about this place, who love this place. You don’t just work someplace for seven or eight years and say, “Yeah, it’s okay.” I mean, I love this place. I put my heart and soul in this restaurant before I owned it so I’m just going to carry that energy forward and try to keep it going and maybe make it a little better than it was. We’re going to work as hard as we can do that.
HG: Should Hobokenities expect a grand re-opening or a celebration of some sort?
TY: The way we’re going to do it is by what I’m doing with you right now: talking to local publications, talking to the town, people that we know, letting them know it’s happening. Letting it go by word of mouth. People will figure it out. When people start seeing some of the things that are a little bit different or the things that came back that haven’t been done in a little while, when they start seeing more events, they’ll know that something has changed.
And maybe they’ll get it the right way, the way we want them to get it, not some sort of misconstrued idea that we’re revamping, redoing it all. That’s not really what we’re doing. We’re going to let it happen in a very natural way.
Are you an Elysian regular? Let us know in the comments if you’re excited for the new ownership!