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’.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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