Jersey City has come a long way in the past few years. New restaurants, a bustling art scene, and dozens of new high-rises have all helped invigorate the city. However, the one thing downtown has always lacked was a good cocktail bar. For perfectly-concocted libations, I’ve always defaulted to my favorites in New York — B-Flat, Flatiron Lounge, and Clover Club. But like I said, times are changing in Jersey City and we now have our very first cocktail bar with a speakeasy ambiance and sophisticated cocktail menu.
Located on Grove between First and Bay Streets, Dullboy is downtown’s first grown-up cocktail bar. The bar’s name comes from Jack Nicholson’s infamous line in The Shining, “all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” However, there’s nothing “dull” about Dullboy. From its excellent music selection (Rye, The Doors, Tame Impala) to its awesome decor, Dullboy is taking Jersey City’s nightlife to a new sophisticated level.
The first thing you’ll notice about Dullboy is its awesome decor. The dim-lit bar has a study-like feel thanks to a back wall that’s lined with dozens of paperback books. Opposite that wall you’ll find vintage Remington typewriters securely hanging from exposed brick. The bar isn’t particularly big, but there’s enough room for tables, sofas, and barstools.
Dullboy’s menu includes classic cocktails (gimlets, martinis, sazeracs), house specials (The Roxy, The Miranda, The Holly), and daily libations which change based on the week’s ingredient list. There’s also a small selection of beers and an even smaller selection of wine. Like most respectable cocktail bars, drinks are on the small side and they run from $11 to $14. Pricey for downtown, but absolutely worth it. All of the drinks I’ve had at Dullboy to date have been excellent — from my perfectly-crafted sazerac to my sweet-yet-tart vodka gimlet.
Dullboy also has a food menu with easily shareable plates like oysters, crispy duck fat potatoes, BLT tacos, bone marrow burgers, and spicy tuna tartare. My one gripe about the menu — it’s not very vegetarian friendly. It’s a minor complaint, but if you have food allergies or if you’re not big on meat, you’re pretty much limited to the beet salad. More troublesome is Dullboy’s wine list, which is extremely limited. The times I’ve been they’ve only offered two reds and two whites. I understand it’s a cocktail bar, but even the best cocktail bars in New York boast a substantial wine list.
Placing food orders is also a little weird. Food can only be ordered via a pen/paper menu, whereas drinks must be ordered at the bar. It’s simple enough, but if you’re at a table and want another round, you can’t order it from the wait staff. You have to walk up to the bar. At the end of the night, it’s unclear if your tip is going to the bartender or the wait staff. Or if you should be tipping both. (I’d hate to think I’m tipping one and not the other). I’ve also found that while everyone is very laid back and helpful, some mixologists are friendlier than others. For me, the friendlier the bartender, the more likely I am to stay, ask for recommendations, and spend more money.
To be fair, Dullboy is still very young. The bar just opened up this past April. However, despite being the new kid on the block, Dullboy has single-handedly trumped every bar in the entire downtown neighborhood. And if that doesn’t get you to visit, the excellent cocktails should.
Dullboy | 364 Grove Street (btwn First & Bay) | www.dullboybar.com