Hoboken has long been a destination for immigrants, especially from Ireland and Italy, and the cultures of both are still visible in restaurants and bars around town. Still, few places can boast the authenticity of Willie McBride’s, which was opened by Sean Hession and his wife Maura in 1996, a decade after they came to Hoboken from County Mayo, Ireland.
Yes, there’s plenty of Guinness. And yes, there’s finished woodwork. But you can find those things in almost every so-called Irish pub in New Jersey. Few boast Willie’s fireplace-infused cozy atmosphere, its deliciously authentic menu (“The Irish breakfast isn’t for the faint hearted”) or its interior decor, a mash of two decades of memorabilia brought to Hoboken by the Hessions during various trips home.
“We’ve really tried to give the place an authentic atmosphere with some great defining features,” said Hession last week. “We have a wonderful regular clientele, a wonderful staff, it’s a friendly place.”
“The Irish breakfast isn’t for the faint hearted.” -- Sean Hession
“If it wasn’t for stuff like that, things we do differently to make the experience a bit better, we’d be just another bar in town,” said Hession. “Those are the types of things that make us special.”
Bangers, mash, and a dream
Before he owned Willie’s, Hession was in construction. He brought the trade over from Ireland and began flipping buildings in Hoboken, making a profit on each. In the mid-nineties, he heard about the building that’s now his bar, and bought it after seeing its potential. Hession knew he had to offer some of what Hobokenites demand in a good pub (there are 32 televisions in the pub, including three big screens), but he also wanted to make it feel like home.
The menu is a good place to start. In addition to your standard American bar food, Willie’s offers patrons a chance to grab some bangers and mash, a traditional dish in Ireland and England made of mashed potatoes and sausages. And of course, the Irish breakfast, a whopping plate of eggs, bacon, sausage, beans, grilled tomatoes, and pudding (of the black and white varieties).
Then, there’s the layout. At first glance, it looks standard, but upon further inspection you’ll notice a special scheme -- the tables, chairs and booths are set up in such a way that even if the bar is packed, it isn’t difficult to find a space for some quiet, relaxing conversation. In an age where overbearing music can dominate a bar scene, Willie’s keeps the music live and allows its patrons a chance to relax.
Willie McBride’s back room is available to rent for almost any event, but the bar also caters. For more information, call (201) 610-1522 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit www.williemcbrides.com.
Dean DeChiaro may be reached at email@example.com