Hoboken residents Warren and Michelle Greenberg found themselves frequenting the same establishments night after night - Black Bear, Mile Square, Spa Diner, Arthur's Tavern - so they decided to put a little variety into their eating patterns.
Rather than simply diversifying their dining choices, however, last June the Greenbergs - or more specifically, Warren Greenberg - came up with "The Hoboken Restaurant & Bar Challenge 2000," a self-inflicted assignment to visit 100 bars and restaurants in the mile-square-city before the end of the year.
"Twenty years down the road, when someone asks me about a restaurant in Hoboken, I want to be able to say I've been there," Warren Greenberg said last week, while enjoying an after-work Miller Lite at Texas Arizona, one of his favorite Hoboken haunts. "I don't want to miss out on anything. I want to be able to say that I've been to every place in Hoboken." With single-minded determination, Warren ambled through the streets of Hoboken earlier this year jotting down each restaurant and bar he passed along the way. Of course, there are simpler ways to compile an inventory of establishments - the yellow pages or the Reporter's restaurant listings - but Warren briskly dismissed these methods.
"I'm a perfectionist," he said. "The only way to do it right is to do it yourself."
After two hours, Warren counted 140 bars and restaurants in Hoboken. For the sake of time and design, he condensed his list to 100 stinations. As of last week, the Greenbergs had been to 53 establishments.
As Warren Greenberg pulled a "Hoboken Restaurant & Bar Challenge 2000" spreadsheet from his suit pocket last week, one got the sense that as a child he probably created a detailed database for his Matchbox car collection and built elaborate forts with his Lincoln Logs.
"My wife thinks I'm crazy," he said, presenting two sheets of paper listing 100 establishments in alphabetical order by their "type of food:" bar drinks, bar food, burgers, Cajun, chicken, Chinese, Continental, Cuban, diners, hot dogs, Irish pubs, Italian, lunch, Mexican, pizza, seafood, Southwestern, Spanish, steaks and tapas. Spots the Greenbergs had already sampled had been rated on a scale from one to five (one being inedible and five being delicious) and shaded in gray.
While the spreadsheet suggests a certain amount of precision, the Greenbergs' actual assessment is not scientific. Taking atmosphere, prices, food, clientele and service into consideration, they use their intuition to judge the venues. And, like most couples, they don't always agree.
"I'm in sales," explained Warren, who is an area manager for a telecommunications company. "And so if my wife wants to give something a three and I want to give it a four I'll say, 'sell it to me.' Most of the time she'll just be like, 'Whatever you say.' But sometimes she gets a strong feeling and so I'll give it to her."
Warren said his challenge has introduced him to a few new places like the Italian eatery Gaslight, which earned a four, as did 16 other restaurants and bars including Johnny Rocket's, Boston Market, Favia Lite and East LA. But scanning the spreadsheet, one notices a pattern. All of the bars and restaurants bestowed with a five were the spots the Greenbergs frequented before they began their challenge: Black Bear, Mile Square, Spa Diner and Arthur's Tavern.
"A lot of places might have gotten a high rating because of the history behind them," Warren said without contrition. "Unfortunately, with the new places, a first impression lasts a life time."