In Hoboken, Good Times Never Seemed so Good
Picture a modest storefront in one of New Jersey’s most bustling cities, where customers are greeted by retro outdoor furniture, where 2017 rewinds to 1970 and where the line cooks sing “Sweet Caroline” while charring a ribeye inside an oven the size of a Manhattan studio.
Welcome to Antique Bar & Bakery in Hoboken.
When filmmaker and Hoboken native Joe Castelo heard about the massive, 400-square-foot oven in this former 100-year-old bakery, he got in touch with New York City chef Paul Gerard. Brooklyn-born Gerard started working in restaurants at 13, and spent many years as a chef in New Orleans before returning to New York, where he worked at SoHo House and Exchange Alley. Castelo bought the building, and work began on a refreshed bar and bakery concept with a 1970s feel. The two partnered and opened the restaurant in February.
“It’s all about retaining memories and creating new ones,” says Chef Paul Gerard on why he and Castelo chose the vintage look. “Joe and I grew up in the ‘70s, so a lot of what we had in our homes was from the ‘60s and ‘70s—swag lights, old leather couches—we tapped into all the things we loved and remembered as kids.”
For the past century, the tremendous oven saw loaves of bread baked daily— never steak chicken or fish. But the last thing Castelo and Gerard wanted to do was gut a century-old institution. The oven would stay no matter what.
“At first the baker was like, ‘You can’t cook meat in that furnace, you’ll lose an arm,’” says Gerard. “He ate here and said I’m out of my mind, but it works.”
Today, the restaurant gets its bread from the former baker, who relocated his business to Jersey City.
The restaurant’s menu is food in its purest form—three-chord cooking, as Gerard calls it. After narrowing down the dish to its most important parts, Gerard always adds a little something more—lemon, herbs and salt to kick up the flavor”! want it all to be II [out of 10].” Gerard’s personal favorite menu item is the steak, but he also serves lasagna edges with burnt butter mushrooms, and mussels in green garlic butter.
Perhaps the best part of this rare atmosphere is watching the food as it is prepared in the entirely open kitchen.
“I hate the term ‘back of house.’ The kitchen is the heart of the house,” Gerard says. “If you go to a party at someone’s home, everyone hangs out in the kitchen; it’s the place to be. If you want cooks to impart love in the food, they need to be part of the party.”
While the oven is the centerpiece of the restaurant, the kitchen surrounding it draws eyes, too. Tables are placed right in front of the prep counters, so people can gaze at their made-to-order dishes before they’re fired up in the thousand-degree oven— all while sipping on craft cocktails.
The restaurant’s menu is designed to look like a screenplay, with a cocktail cast starring options such as the Johnny Friendly (bourbon, ginger, sage, lemon and agave) and the My Fate (Reposado tequila, burned blood orange, cucumber, lime, agave and anise), along with a few other craft choices. Antique serves drinks until 3am Thursday through Saturday.
Antique also has a bakery and café just beyond its front door, which opens at 7am every day and serves fresh bread along with café classics like cappuccinos and macchiatos.
“My philosophy is: ‘It needs more. ‘When I first saw this place, I knew it was [more].” —Julia Mullaney
ANTIQUE BAR & BAKERY
122 Willow Ave., Hoboken