Dullboy

I’m not a huge Bob Dylan fan.  This is a totally conscious decision I’ve made that will allow me to never becoming the type of insufferable blowhard that strokes Bob just a little too much.  The dude at open-mic with the steampunk inspired dental equipment that allows him to torture you with a harmonica and a guitar simultaneously?  Yes, that’s the guy.  I’ll write off an entire artist’s long and acclaimed discography to avoid taking even one step down that guy’s path.  And despite all of this, I feel strongly that this piece should be scored to The Times They Are A Changin’.  

dylan guy

Just put it down, “Sue”

I’ll turn 32 this year, which means I’m totally not old, but I’m definitely older.  I’m typically not bothered by this; my grandfather stands by the idea that age is just a number and your best years are your 50’s – though he never learned the joys of bottomless brunch, streaming HD pornography, and the possibility that our world is a giant simulation. A grain of salt is clearly needed here.

To his point, I’ve got friends in their 40’s that are living more fulfilling and energetic lives than I am. I’ve got opioid addicted friends in their 20’s who haven’t seen the sun in weeks, and dead friends that didn’t make it out of their teens.  Age is just a number.

One byproduct of age is nostalgia, the intensity of which burns hotter with every passing year.  I find myself longing for things I took for granted.  Like most people, I probably view my past experiences through a lens too favorable to be accurate and I’m generally confused at times whether things are better or worse.

I went through this tedious introduction to try and give you the full backdrop to my current feelings about Dullboy.  I used to love it, now I like it, but mainly I’m sad for this thing that I loved that is gone.

If your first time going to Dullboy was in the last year or so then you may not fully understand what I’m getting at.  Let me set this up for you.

Dullboy opened in early 2015 on Grove St in a space that used to house the recently defunct Park & Sixth.  The old Park & Sixth was a proto-hipster bar with a loyal following (me included), so at the time it left pretty big shoes to fill.  This was the first move in a Rube Goldberg of failure for Park & Sixth and its affiliates, despite having the best wings in Jersey City –  no, its not Harry’s Daughter, it never was, and it is still not.

P&S moved into the spot that Luna (#HotTrash) now inhabits, but at that time housed The Merchant (great blue cheese Au Gratin, OK bar). This particular parcel of land must have been built atop the tomb of a tortured Lenape shaman because every place that opens here seems destined to fail.  Or maybe the culinary dimorphism between them and Razza is too great to overcome, causing each joint to collapse in on itself like a dying star.

When Dullboy took over 364 Grove everyone shit a brick.  It wasn’t the first cocktail bar in Jersey City, but it was the first good one.  Yeah, you could have gone to LITM, but they’re not reliable and the menu is tired. LITM is like Schrodinger’s Bar: it simultaneously sucks and does not suck.  I remember giggling the first time I sipped a Dullboy cocktail – a Tom Collins – because I’ve had this enragingly simple drink so many times before and it never tasted that good.  I think I had 6 more after that and strutted around the place with a perma-grin and full chub.

4532853252_22d27e8642_z.jpg

The place was cool. At any given time you could be surrounded by chill people in varying degrees of intoxication, with the playlist alternating between Steel Pulse and deep-cuts from Hell Hath No Fury. Upon entrance you were greeted by two big velvet curtains you had to push yourself through to enter.  Even just walking in the door was cool.

The decor was creative and messy, not too far from the current setup but less deliberate. The seating was laissez-faire at best. The old Park & Sixth sign was sloppily spray-painted over, but it still looked cool. There was a level of grime in the ambiance that reaffirmed the quality of the cocktail as if it was their way of telling you what they thought was important.

The cocktails were pretty much flawless and the bartenders were accommodating and fun, just so long as you weren’t too basic.  They were people you could generally build a rapport with and they helped expand your palate over time with new suggestions and experiments.  They gave a shit about the cocktail they were making you and if you made it to last call there was a pretty good chance that that you were going to stay behind the curtain for another few hours.   These were some of my best hours spent in a bar.

Like most nice things, we don’t know how to have them.  The coolness went a little too far, probably spurred on by the fact that I, and most people I know, paid for about half the drinks they ordered.  When you factor in that on a busy night you’d have two bartenders churning out an order of cocktails every 5 minutes or so the true cost of a drink starts to get clearer.  This should also not be a deterrent for any future free drinks anyone wants to send my way.  I’ll bring the perma-grin and full chub with me.

chub

The people who run Orale took over in 2017 and the vibe slowly changed.  The spray painted sign came down.  Tables with wait staff started to appear.  The food almost instantly got better, something you should really take note of.  You should go to Dullboy to eat food, not just to drink cocktails.  This is most accurate for their already good burger.  The current Dullboy burger is god-tier good.  I only really appreciated this as of last week when I got the opportunity to watch two friends eat the burger while I sulked with my decision to have a liquid dinner.  The only word to describe this spectacle would be erotic.

Anyway, all the things I loved about the old Dullboy seem to be under attack.

The best cocktail for my money is The Scout.  I’ve referenced this cocktail in my previous rant about Corgi, but I feel like this warrants a little more love.  The Scout is made of Bourbon, Giffard Muroise & Vanilla, and Cynar.  If you don’t know what half of this shit is then join the club.  Cynar is an amaro made with artichokes.  Giffard Vanilla is a sweet liquor made from two types of vanilla beans. Giffard Murosie is a French Tayberry liquor.  A Tayberry is a bramble crossed between a European Blackberry and a red Raspberry.  A bramble is the genus of plants that contains sweet berries that grow like weeds and is in the rose family.  The berries are the sweet fleshy luggage for several omega-3 and 6 rich seeds.  They are also technically not berries, but aggregates of druplets.  A druplet is a mini stone fruit, like a peach or plum, and is a fancy way of describing a shelled seed covered in delicious fruit.  And you just got tricked into learning about botany.

Back to The Scout. You know when you were a child and saw people drink whiskey in movies?  You were too young to know the taste of whiskey but placed it somewhere between the smell of your uncles booze breath and the taste of Raspberry Iced Tea? This is The Scout.  This cocktail is nostalgia in a glass.  Its a refreshing and fruity bourbon cocktail that helps you realize all that a drink can be.

And now its gone.

 

Photo by Joe Dantone Photography. Visit www.joedantone.com

The Scout. Photo by Joe Dantone

The deep garnet cocktail I used to love came out muted and pale, similar to a jar of clay in both appearance and taste. The balance was out of whack, too strong on the bourbon and lemon.  Instead of a blackberry prominently showcased atop the glass it was tossed into the mix.  It was the less vibrant version of its former self.

In general the transition from cool bar to normie bar is one that I reflexively pull away from.  Despite the benefits – gainful employment for me and better food for Dullboy – it makes me very cognizant of my own journey into being a older, boring version of my former self. If this can apply to a glass of booze, how can it NOT apply to a person?  In an effort to make Dullboy grow up and get a real job it crushed the thing inside it that made it special.  The character is gone, the vibe is gone.  It’s just another boring cocktail bar.  I’m not saying we don’t need Dullboy or that you should stop patronizing it.  I fully intend on getting drinks there, but will probably think to go to The Archer or Cellar 335 before them.   It’s just sad to see them burn so bright and then burn out.

Nice Things Rating:

OERFRTJEOTJFQTY1ODU4M0NDNkM6ZDMxZDYzZTNjNmU0YjBkMmI0YWViNWM5MjY2ZTlmYjE6Ojo6OjA=

I created Nice Things because I want us to have nice things. So if you enjoyed what you read, share it with your friends.  You can follow me on Instagram @NiceThingsJC

6 thoughts on “Dullboy

  1. I sent this post to my friend and told her “this is basically how I ALSO feel about Dullboy now”. She agrees. You nailed it.

    Like

  2. No “Shining” References?? Come on, was waiting to hear your thoughts on the Flick and any parallels (if any). Even without it, enjoyed the read.

    Like

  3. I’m absolutely with you on bad voodoo with that particular area. Merchant was pretty blegh bar wise, I vaguely remember the food being pretty good the handful I ate there.

    Anyway this throwback and change of tone(growing up and all) elements in this post got me thinking of when White Star on Brunswick(I didn’t really go to the one on Warren that often and vaguely remember what it used to look like) shifted gears a few times and ended up ultimately taking the easy way out with a more conventional, over done to death, sit-down-y restaurant style, trying to appeal to a different sort of demographic as time went by. Because why not, more stuff to throw in the bland soup of paint by numbers bar and grills in the immediate area, the new transplants won’t know any better because a $20 burger must mean it’s instantly the best.

    A lot of newer people don’t know it used to sorta not but kind of was a dive bar for a while and was a pretty damn good alternative outside the usuals, I’d say it’s sorta off beaten path location sorta preserved it. The $3-4 beer specials and $5-6 meal specials you could get were legit as hell, just an all around proper satisfying joint to get a bite and drink on the cheap. It’s kind of funny seeing newer reviews for it where people go on about “oh I don’t understand why previous reviewers called this place a dive?”.

    And then they did the dumb idea of just adding a bunch of TVs trying to do a quasi sports bar thing because idk, more families moved to Hamilton Park and young dads in polos and snapbacks wanted to watch golf?

    The whole place in it’s last incarnation(it’s been a little bit since I’ve gone) felt like it was stuck in purgatory where there were still faint traces of residual dive trappings holding through in the form of some of the bar staff’s personality and not treating it like a restaurant with that level of attentiveness, and also the place having the hardest time coming to terms that their committed reinventions brought about new clientele/locals who absolutely despised anything related to a dive bar , reviews can show the reoccurring complaints. Honestly I get adaptation for basic survival and all but I genuinely wouldn’t be surprised

    Lastly and I’m sure someone thinks I’m just being an asshole contrarian, but some of their burgers taste about just the same as they did when they were a hell of a lot cheaper and are mostly just dolled up with a spread or few extra seasonings. You could do way worse and I wouldn’t call it bad, but some people are a bit generous with the hype.

    It’s harmless, and maybe just all the revitalization got me down and I miss how it’s sorta slim pickings for divey haunts, especially when Rolon’s gave up the ghost.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s