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How Onieal’s Continues Its Legacy of Good Food With a Side of Community

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For anyone new to Hoboken, Onieal’s, the gastropub at the corner of Church Square Park, seems to have a lowkey existence. It is not as well-known as its across-the-river outpost in New York City’s SoHo neighborhood, famous for its part in the television series Sex and the City as the backdrop of the hip Scout bar. Nor does it seek much attention on social media.

However, ask a local, and chances are that he or she will have something to say about Onieal’s stellar burgers or the multi-generation crowd. In fact, the restaurant, which has been serving the city of Hoboken since 1984, has amassed a sizeable local following among different generations of Hobokenites with its unpretentious food and family-like atmosphere.

onieals restaurant bar hoboken

{Photo credit: @oniealshoboken}

About Onieal’s

onieals restaurant bar hoboken

{Photo credit: @oniealshoboken}

The simple yet consistent food has won Onieal’s a faithful following over the years. “We are at a relatively offbeat location away from the main thoroughfare of Washington Street, and we don’t do a lot of marketing. So most people find us through word of mouth, from locals.” Francie told Hoboken Girl.

The routines at Onieal’s resonates with the rhythm of the very neighborhood it resides in. Lunch hours bring a constant stream of local workers and young parents with small children taking breaks between playtimes in the park across the street. At nights, the young, upbeat crowd keeps the music and dancing going on sometimes until the wee hours. On weekends, there is always a line when the restaurant opens midmorning for brunch. The atmosphere grows even more fun and cozy when the staff mix with regular customers later into the night.

Tight-Knit Community

onieals restaurant bar hoboken

{Photo credit: @oniealshoboken}

“I know at least sixty, seventy percent of the customers by their first names, and recognize even more by face,” Francie said. Having worked at Onieal’s for eleven years, she has seen many regular customers coming and going and has been a witness to significant moments in their lives.

Read More: Cafe Michelina: Hoboken’s Authentic {+ Welcoming} Italian Eatery

People propose and get married at the restaurant. Young children who were “literally babies” when they first came with their parents are entering junior high schools. “Old-school Hoboken” folks also keep coming back, bringing their children and grandchildren. 

The Menu

onieals restaurant bar hoboken

{Photo credit: @oniealshoboken}

{Almost} everyone who has eaten at Onieal’s would recommend getting their famous burgers. The uncomplicated, sturdy tavern-style burger is not heavily garnished, allowing the meat shines for itself. The thicker-than-average patty is plump and tender, with a crisp char that gives way to juice-oozing beef within. The cheese {if you choose to add it} thinly enrobes the patty, which renders extra umami to the juicy meat. 

In general, the menu is a combination of American classics with “hit recipes” vetted by customers over the years. Aside from burgers, other all-time favorites include a hunger-calming, richly flavored cajun chicken sandwich, as well as a creamy penne vodka embellished with zesty sun-dried tomato.

onieals restaurant bar hoboken

{Photo credit: @oniealshoboken}

In an interview with NJ.com after Onieal’s was awarded 2007-2008 Restaurateur of the Year by the New Jersey Restaurant Association, its owner, Chris Onieal, said one of the keys to the restaurant’s popularity was the use of “best, freshest ingredients, cooked to order for each customer.” Francie Brewer, Onieal’s current manager, also echoed this view, attributing the excellent food to quality ingredients “from the best purveyors,” as well as “a lot of taste testing” when recipes are developed. 

Adjusting to COVID-19

onieals restaurant bar hoboken

{Photo credit: @oniealshoboken}

The pandemic, which kept Onieal’s shut down for months, is not the first crisis the restaurant has been through. Eight years ago, when Hurricane Sandy hit, Onieal’s was one of the first businesses in town to open after the storm. Francie remembered coming back to work trudging water in knee-high boots. The power was off, so the staff lit up candles and offered customers bottles of wine or “anything that was not destroyed.”

See More: lI Tavolo di Palmisano: Cooking Up Family Recipes in Hoboken

This time, uncertainties still loom after reopening, as the pandemic wages into the colder season. There are heat lamps and expanded outdoor seating, but Francie said the gist of the team’s response is to be “very vigilant” in maintaining social distance. “We won’t stack people on top of each other, just to make an extra few bucks.”

Whatever the future has in store, the family vibe and community spirit at Onieal’s will still hold strong. “People can come back ten years later and see the same bartender at the old spot,” Francie tells Hoboken Girl. the key to Onieal’s resilience and popularity is to be a place where people can “always come in and have a good bite.”

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Written by:

Yiwei was born and raised in China. She has lived extensively in Beijing and Hong Kong, before finally settling down in New York. She moved to Hoboken after a few years in Westchester and immediately felt at home here. Two years ago, she left her job at an investment bank to travel the world and explore her interests, and has since then taken on a few freelancing gigs in career coaching, college admission consulting, and writing. When she is not wandering wildly in the streets of Europe, Asia, or Latin America, she can be found sipping an espresso in one of Hoboken's coffee shops or trying out restaurants in Hoboken and Jersey City area.