Elysian Cafe in Hoboken

Elysian HobokenIn Hoboken, the roar of twenty-somethings can be mighty—on the hunt for booze and fun on Friday nights or crowding into cafes for eggs, sausage, and hazy memories on Saturday mornings. And Hoboken businesses listen and deliver, offering up late-night specials and mid-day deals for their target audience.

Where then, do the foodies escape to? Where does one go for a Saturday lunch of interesting menu choices, calm ambience, a place to chat?

They go to the Elysian Café—Hoboken’s oldest continually-running restaurant, and a rare oasis of mature dining amid Hoboken’s campus feel.

Elysian, on the corner of 10th and Washington—Hoboken’s main drag—evokes old-world Hoboken, with a deep cherry-wood bar, tall windows, and high ceilings that might have witnessed a backroom deal or two in their day. Still, it feels at once elegant hotel and Parisian café, and the tables that line the bar and dining room bask in afternoon light on quiet Saturday afternoons.

Don’t be too deceived about their vibe, though; after all, this is Hoboken. Young, bubbly wait staff hang out around the bar, stealing long glances at the games on flat screen TVs and going over last night’s festivities in loud whispers. It’s a laid back atmosphere: you need something, you catch anyone’s eye near the bar area and they’ll come running over.

If you happen to stroll by Elysian on a warm spring or fall afternoon, their sidewalk seating is a universe all its own, guarded from the bustling street by blooming planters and wrought-iron fences. Inside its bounds, you are dining on moules frites and sipping wine next to the Seine, a world away from any supposed “fratty feel” of weekend Hoboken.

From the kitchen, Elysian chefs offer up eclectic bistro fare with flare. Their pommes frites comes doused in garlic, butter, and Parmesan, an addictive combination that leaves you with a craving you’ll come back again and again to satisfy.

From the bar menu, their grilled pizza with tomato, basil, spinach, Gruyere and Parmesan comes piping hot, gooey, and Italian-style: fresh ingredients, sparsely sprinkled and baked crispy. It’s enough for two to split, but I wouldn’t recommend it.

Elysian spins the classic club sandwich into an interesting bite with house-cured gravlax, a specialty of raw salmon cured with salt and dill. It’s served up with a spread of dill mayo and avocado: a fresh, light lunch.

Amid French classics like croque monsieur and French onion soup with a bubbly cheese crust, the menu standout might just be the chorizo clams—a mix of grilled chorizo, garlic, leeks, and cilantro in clam sauce. It’s this unique mix of worldly flavors that gives Elysian claim to truly interesting food. This isn’t your grandmother’s French food, but it sure is tasty.

For a calm, refined Hoboken afternoon, grab a bar-side table in Elysian’s front room. Let the setting sun sink in, sip a Blue Moon, and munch on garlic fries and a crispy croque monsieur. You’ll forget where you are, and what may or may not have happened at Maxwell’s last night. And you’ll drift away to Paris for an hour, at least, before heading back out into the hungover din of Hoboken Saturdays.

Colleen Curry Regional Editor Hudson CountyColleen Curry is a Jersey Bites Regional Editor for Hudson County where she’s busy trying every restaurant in Hoboken.   She is also a hyperlocal web editor for the Asbury Park Press, exploring community news and citizen journalism in Freehold, New Jersey.