It's Tuesday night in Montclair, and down at Just Jake's on Park Street, tables are filling up for the weekly trivia game that takes place at 8:00 p.m. A chalkboard, displayed for all to see, holds the titles and rankings of trivia teams with names ranging from the lighthearted to the literary - "Sum-R-Fun" to "Jordan Baker."
At 8 p.m., trivia question reader Steve takes the microphone and begins the questions. There are six rounds of questions per night, each round having 10 questions. Questions range from pop culture to geography to cooking to science and math.
Large and small groups make up the tables. People have called ahead to reserve a table for their team, as seats fill up quickly. As Steve continues with the questions, some groups are quick to write down their answers. Others huddle together over answer sheets, scratching heads in concentration, erasing and trying out new answers.
April, manager of Just Jake's, says trivia night is a great night for patrons and staff alike. Her bar manager Shannon writes the trivia questions each week. No more than six people per team are allowed, and no cell phones are permitted during play. Team scores are tallied at the end of each night, and a team has to come back the next week to see where its score has landed it in the rankings.
One team has seen successful multiple times over. Steve Pohl, Yvette Li, and Sander Willems make up the team "Leffe Man." They have won the grand prize, $1,000, on five separate occasions. Clearly, this team is nothing to mess with. When asked for the secret that keeps leading them to victory, Pohl, a resident of Montclair, replies candidly: "I read. I'm like Sarah Palin. I can name all the sources I read." He also adds: "I am suburbia personified. My girlfriend lives on the same street as the Russian spies did." A sure recipe for trivia success.
Other groups gather as much for the camaraderie as the competition. One group takes up two tables. Two women at one table, Hannah and Pat of West Orange, both there with their husbands, express their loyalty to Tuesdays at Just Jake's: "We're regulars!" Says Hannah, gesturing toward the group of 20-somethings at the table next to her: "I had been coming with my kids, but now we made our own team, and we're beating my kids!" She continues: "This is our third cycle." Indeed, trivia night at Just Jake's runs in eight-week cycles, with six weeks off in between.
At the end of the night, the final team turns in its answer sheet, friends hanging around for a few more beers. "My only goal is for our team to maintain our status in ninth place," I overhear one woman say, a few tables away. And, she'll be back next week to find out.
Just Jake's trivia nights are in mid-cycle. Come out to see what all the fuss is about and try your hand at beating Leffe Man. Call ahead to reserve a table at 973-655-8987.