Why You Seriously Need to Be Eating and Drinking in Jersey City
Forget all your preconceived notions about the Garden State (well, most of them) and hear us out for a second: there’s a lot going on in Jersey City. In recent years, JC has neared Brooklyn/Queens level of "cool," offering countless great restaurants, bars, and more. Whether you’re strolling through Downtown, Paulus Hook, Hamilton Park, or hiking up to The Heights (if you’re willing to travel that far), there are plenty of ways to have a great night out in JC, even if you're someone who previously swore against the entire state.
To prove it, we’ve rounded up the best places to eat and drink, all of which are more than enough reason to venture over the Hudson...
People in Jersey City tend to be averse to Hoboken for a number of reasons -- the always crowded bar scene, the general bro-y atmosphere of the tiny city among them. But Bwè Kafe is the only exception. It originated on Washington St in Hoboken and recently opened a second location in the Newport area of Jersey City. Translated to "drink coffee" in Haitian Creole, Bwè isn't just the kind of place you grab a cup and go; it's the neighborhood hangout you'll always want to revisit... even if it's not in your neighborhood. The people are nice, the coffee is strong, and that Japanese cold brew is the energy injection you never knew you needed.
Lauded by many as a prime cocktail bar, this Hamilton Park spot (with a second location in Paulus Hook) is known for its interesting craft cocktails made with house-made syrups, and a rotating selection of unique tap beers -- but it’s really all about the burgers, particularly the Journal Square: a Pat La Frieda patty topped with a fried egg, American cheese, black forest ham, and chipotle mayo on a Balthazar bun.
If you grew up in Jersey, there's always been a neighborhood bagel place serving up "the best" breakfast sandwiches in the area. Wonder Bagels is that spot for Jersey City. It's your standard bagel joint, with a number of locations spread throughout the city. In the morning hours of Saturday and Sunday, there's always a line around the corner at the Downtown location. But don't worry, it'll move quickly, and you'll soon be munching on one of the best Taylor ham, egg, and cheese sandwiches the city has to offer. (Yes, we said Taylor ham. This is North Jersey.)
If you think all barbershops are the same -- way too bright inside and always filled with dudes talking about last night’s game -- then you need to go to Virile. In addition to one of the best haircuts in all of Jersey City, Virile is really an experience: stepping into this place feels as if you’ve gone back in time to an era when barbering was considered cool and a real artform. Most of the barbers here are dressed to the nines, and they’ll always offer coffee, water, a beer, a scotch, or a whiskey -- included in the price. There's another location in Waldwick, NJ, but you'd have to hop in a car to get there...
When crafting a vision for Marco & Pepe, owner Ralph Rodriguez hoped to create a spot that would pay respect to spending some quality time with friends, drinking with loved ones, and getting some enjoyment out of life. What came was a place that delivers exactly that: you can't help but enjoy yourself when you're at Marco & Pepe. The food is phenomenal, the drinks are strong, and that mayo dip that comes with the fries is pretty unmatchable. Bring any New Yorker in and they'll immediately fall in love with the intentionally raw decor, something reminiscent of an industrial chic SoHo restaurant. Honestly, it's not easy to make a Manhattanite admit they had fun in Jersey, but this place sure as hell does it.
Point blank: Battello is classy as shit. It’s right on the water just next to the Newport Yacht Club and Marina and offers some seriously picturesque views of New York City. It’s an ideal spot for brunch or lunch on the water (did we mention the view?), and is probably one of the most romantic spots for dinner in all of Jersey City. Executive Chef Ryan DePersio came to Battello after wowing the residents of Montclair. With him, he brought his progressive, modern Italian style of cooking, and the residents of JC have been thanking him ever since.
The Archer opened just before the new year came and quickly established itself as a local favorite. The place itself is undeniably gorgeous inside, with owners Jesse Weeks and Kent Baker creating an urban-meets-rural setting, and the cocktail menu is rather inventive as well: the New Brunswick, a Jersey City favorite, contains Scotch, lemon, maple, and orange bitters. There's also some taxidermy on the walls, which totally works -- and no, it's not from the game meat offered on the menu.
Satis is great for a number of reasons: the European decor will make you forget you're in Jersey, the food is creative (and pretty), and its location is beautifully mapped out. The bar sits on the corner of Washington and Sussex St in Paulus Hook, making way for a great opportunity to sit outside on a nice day. The restaurant coins itself as a “salumeria and european-style cafe,” and it’s not wrong -- walking in basically feels as if you’re transported to a small restaurant in Europe. Whether you’re coming for brunch, lunch, or dinner -- or even for a drink at the lower level bar that feels like something out of Midnight in Paris -- there’s always something to enjoy at Satis (like the shredded beef & yukon gold potato hash topped with two fried eggs).
There's brick oven pizza and then there's pizza parlor pizza. Helen's is the latter. Right on Newark Ave, this pizza joint is pretty much exactly what you'd expect for a typical pizza place: it's bright, the booths are uncomfortable, and its cleanliness leaves a little to be desired. But really, none of that matters once you bite into that slice. Whether we’re talking the cheese or the sauce, it’s just that. damn. good. One thing: if you ask for a pie well done, don't expect it to come well done... because they won't listen. But you'll still continue to order from them.
There’s a lot to say about this Hamilton Park ice cream spot, but we'll go with this: you can make your own ice cream sandwiches using any of the homemade flavors and any of the homemade cookies. This place also offers some treats outside of ice cream, particularly homemade cookies, macarons, chocolates, and cakes. But above them all, the ice cream is the real draw. (Especially when you take some vanilla ice cream and stick it between two ginger molasses cookies.)
While it’s tempting to call VIP Diner up in Journal Square the best one around because The Sopranos was shot there, The Brownstone takes the cake for one reason: the pancake wraps. It’s exactly what you’re thinking: an entire breakfast meal wrapped in a way-too-oversized pancake. And believe us, you haven't seen anything until you've seen a New Jerseyan house some scrambled eggs, pork sausage, potatoes, and American cheese wrapped in goddamn pancake.
This Downtown bar's walls are laden with old typewriters and books, making it a great place to bring an admirer of historic literature. It's also a nightly hangout that has a heavy speakeasy-esque vibe to it, thanks to the dim lights, the '20s-style couches, and the way-too-small-for-all-this-food cocktail tables. The drinks are named after female literary icons (The Miranda, The Scout, The Betty Jo) and the food, while not so creatively-named, is both affordable and dead-on delightful. Grab a bar steak and fries for just $19, as opposed to the easy $30 you'd pay at a place just a couple of blocks away.
This small Italian joint on Newark Ave just off Grove St has some pretty great food all around, but the pizza alone makes it a must-try spot in Jersey City. Let's tackle the obvious first: the "small" pizza is anything but. If you're looking to split a pie with whoever you're with, get this size. Next, the crust: Roman Nose makes all of its dough (and mozzarella) by hand, and it shows with every bite. Finally, the toppings: it's not the biggest pizza menu, but it's undoubtedly delicious, whether we're talking the basic margherita, a slice of the homemade pesto pie, or the Salsiccia, which houses fennel-pork sausage, broccoli rabe, mozzarella, and Parmigiano
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Kyle Dowling is a Cities Editor at Thrillist who can more than likely be seen at one of the above places on the weekends. Follow him on Twitter.