For such a new restaurant, Little Town Social already has something of a storied history. The bar, located on First Street between Park and Garden in Hoboken, NJ, is owned by Chris and Albie Manzo, who are known both for their other NJ restaurants and for their appearance on The Real Housewives of New Jersey.
Little Town Social opened this May after the Manzos closed their Sinatra Drive spot, Little Town NJ. Little Town NJ is now The Ainsworth–also owned by the Manzos–and Little Town Social took over from the Village Pour House.
Since I moved in July, I’ve walked by LTS about 200 times. Each time, I’ve noted their sign, which reads, “LITTLE TOWN SOCIAL CLASSIC COCKTAILS AND LOCAL FARE,” and have thought to myself that this bar is probably the perfect spot for me.
Finally, after months of passing by, I went in for happy hour drinks to catch up with an old friend. The space is huge and the walls are almost entirely brick, with some tile. There are two bars, separated only by a wall, but bartenders can walk freely from one to the other without stepping out from behind the bar.
We walked in on the west side of the bar and headed towards the far end, passed a guy going to town on LTS’ “social hour” $1 oyster special. Once seated, we were handed menus and informed that LTS also had a few cocktail specials not listed. I haven’t been many places where cocktails get a daily, revolving-door treatment in the same way that food items do, so I was impressed off the bat. On this particular day, it was a Bee’s Knees: a classic, prohibition-era cocktail that typically combines gin, lemon juice, and honey simple syrup.
The bartender who served us is one of the most knowledgeable and friendliest bartenders I’ve come in contact with to date. She immediately informed us that their specialty cocktails include honey and honey syrup made in house, meaning that the honey is as fresh as can be. Of course, this is what was used in their Bee’s Knees.
The excitement around the honey couldn’t be ignored, so I ordered their version of a Sazerac, which includes honey syrup. With no absinthe left in house to use for the rinse, the bartender asked if I’d like her to use anise in its absence. I didn’t mind, and the drink was still delicious. With the anise and honey, Little Town Social’s Sazerac is a nice, sweet cousin to the favored New Orleans cocktail.
Following this, I had a brief conversation with the bartender about the kinds of cocktails I like, and we discussed the Old Fashioned. Those who read Thirsty Thursday regularly likely know that the OF is my favorite, and I expressed this to her as well. She said she makes a mean one, and I accepted the offer. I did, however, request rye over the Maker’s Mark they use at LTS. I don’t love bourbon Old Fashioneds and Maker’s Mark is by no means my favorite bourbon.
I watched her make the drink and I noted that her recipe is similar to mine. She uses both Angostura bitters and orange bitters, but she muddles the cherry and orange wedge. After reading extensively about Old Fashioneds and trying tons of variations, I’ve come to the conclusion that I prefer the cocktail to focus much more on the whiskey and bitters rather than the fruit meant to mask the whiskey. So, her OF was a bit sweet for me, but still delicious. I’d drink it again.
My first trip to Little Town Social was a great experience and I’d certainly do it over. In fact, I intend to return tonight for more cocktails and to hopefully chat more with the staff. This time I might go for the oysters, but Little Town Social also boasts a full menu.
All in all, this bar is a great addition to the Hoboken scene. It sets itself apart from the countless Irish bars in the vicinity (my favorite so far is McSwiggan’s), but it isn’t overly pretentious either.