by Christopher Halleron
I happen to be Roman Catholic. Throughout the course of everyday life, it’s safe to say that I’m not always the most pious person. I’m not the worst, but I could probably do a bit better.
With that in mind, I like to hedge my bets every Lent by honoring the Catholic tradition of abstaining from meat on Fridays.
That might sound like a bit of challenge—but when you live in a foodie’s paradise like Hudson County, New Jersey, it’s so easy it should be a sin unto itself…
This week, I stopped into Alfalfa, to get a better look at what sprouted up in the former Schnackenberg’s space at 1110 Washington Street.
Obviously there was a lot of emotion when the celebrated Luncheonette went dark at the end of January. And while some folks may have wilted at the idea of a salad shop supplanting their favorite doughnut shop, there’s a lot more to this place than meets the eye…
First and foremost, the store is run in part by lifelong Hoboken residents Ben and Dan Sobsey along with Andrew Arrospide, also of Hoboken, and fellow partner Dan Londono. If the Sobsey name rings a bell, it’s because their father Mike ran the revered Sobsey’s Market on Bloomfield Street for decades, until retiring in 2017.
“I always appreciated food because of Sobseys,” said Dan Sobsey. “I like knowing where it came from and knowing it was hand-selected, and a lot of that philosophy remains true to what we do here at Alfalfa—making sure we have the best products, knowing our suppliers and vendors, and making sure we put our best foot forward.”
The concept for Alfalfa began as a tent at local farmers’ markets, then worked into the pop-up shop in evenings at Schnackenberg’s. Their success in those ventures led Dan and his partners to believe in their vision and build a warm atmosphere where people can spend time together and eat good food.
“We want the quality of service and customer experience inside the store to match our premium food options,” says Andrew Arrospide. “Creating this unique experience based atmosphere will hopefully resonate with the residents of Hoboken.”
“Every salad we make starts with kale, romaine and butter lettuce—called the Alfalfa Mix,” says Dan. “What we’ve learned is that larger salad places have mesclun, arugala, spinach and other greens, but our customers defer right to the mix and the feedback has been great. They can add their own toppings, or go to our signature menu.”
That signature menu includes classics like Italian, Greek or Seasonal—as well as specialties like the Laguna, West Coast or Dear Darla.
“Almost everything on the menu has a story behind it—something we’ve seen in our travels that we wanted to incorporate here.”
Oh… and we should probably mention—that menu also includes SCHNACKENBERG’S DOUGHNUTS.
“We ended up working with the same baker,” says Dan. “You’d be surprised—salads and doughnuts go well. A lot of people buy a doughnut with the salad. It’s something we didn’t anticipate to see taking off, but people really enjoy the savory plus sweet aspect.”
“Everything we do – from serving a locally roasted fair trade coffee and selecting the highest quality produce for our salads, to experimenting with Southern California inspired breakfast burritos and creative doughnuts – is done with the goal of providing our guests with a premium experience,” says Alfalfa’s website. “We hope you enjoy the few minutes or hours you spend with us at Alfalfa sipping a cold-brew or sharing huckleberry donuts with good company.”
I’m not going to sugar coat it—losing Schnackenberg’s was a tough one to swallow.
Nevertheless, it was reassuring to see that, although a community favorite has been transformed, it’s still genuinely representative of OUR community. And while the corporate chains circle like sharks in the water, a truly local business is making a strong move—perhaps one day following the Blimpie’s and Carlo’s model themselves, and bringing that unique Hoboken flavor to the rest of the world.
In the meantime, we can still stop into 1110 Washington Street, #EatLocal, and enjoy it.
Stay tuned for another “Lent for Lunch” excursion next week—being the good Catholic boy I am…
Christopher M. Halleron is the Publisher/Editor of hMAG.
As a columnist and journalist, he has covered various aspects of life here in the ‘greater Hoboken area’ and beyond for the past two decades.
His opinions are his own.