A Super Bowl-Goer’s Real Guide To Downtown Jersey City (And Beyond) By Jeremy Jacobsen & Cheryl Lin
Super Bowl XLVIII will feature a Groundhog’s Day clash between the Broncos and the Seahawks in the open-aired icebox that Metlife Stadium is sure to be come February 2nd. However, some people may not realize that if Joe Buck and Troy Aikman were to unearth the small furry rodent at halftime to predict whether winter will drag on for six more weeks, its shadow would fall in New Jersey, not New York. To repeat, the Super Bowl this year is located in New Jersey! Not only is the game itself being played in East Rutherford, the players for both teams will be staying in New Jersey too – in Jersey City, NJ to be exact. In addition to being the state’s second largest municipality, Jersey City is the place we (the authors) are proud to call home. So, for those who might be following the teams into town and looking to do some exploring, here is a basic sketch of what our area of the city (Downtown) has to offer its guests. One caveat though: this article is only a starting point. There truly is not enough space on this post to feature, or even mention, all the places worth visiting in Downtown, let alone the rest of the city.
City of Food
Both the New York Post and the Daily News have touted Jersey City as the hottest new foodie destination, a rival to Brooklyn in both food quality and proximity to Manhattan. Given Jersey City’s history as the home of many different immigrant communities, our section of the city alone boasts over twenty different cuisines within a one-mile radius of the Grove Street PATH. These include all-American comfort food, Mexican food, French cuisine, and to Indo-Pakistani buffets, just to name a few.
American & Gourmet Fare
Thirty Acres – One of the most publicized restaurants in Jersey City, its co-owner and executive chef, Kevin Pemoulie, from the famed Momofuku Noodle Bar in New York, brings his expertise across the river. The restaurant has been so successful that his wife and co-owner, Alex Pemoulie, was recently named one of Forbes magazine’s 30 under 30 in Food & Wine. Thirty Acres is best known for its fresh and innovative menu, which changes weekly, and features locally sourced ingredients and seafood, at reasonable New Jersey prices. Left Bank Burger Bar – One of the newest establishments to join the city’s food scene, this Jersey City-centric restaurant is a throwback to a 1950s burger joint, with a modern twist. Its menu includes burgers with creative fixings, (such as the “Bankrupt” featuring government cheese, and the “14B,” which is topped with fried mac and cheese and bacon), as well as milkshakes (alcohol optional), and a selection of craft beers. The Brownstone Diner and Pancake Factory – Many New Jerseyans argue over whether the Brownstone is truly a “diner” because it is not open twenty-four hours a day. Nonetheless, the portions are huge and the menu offers multiple pages of every kind of pancake imaginable. Tip: for the fastest service and minimal wait time, get there before 9 AM; the place gets packed as the morning progresses. Park & Sixth Restaurant & Bar (and Park & Sixth Gastropub) – Although no longer located at the restaurant’s eponymous intersection in Hoboken, Park & Sixth brings comfort food to a new level. The décor is kitschy, with a nod to classic billboards, and reminiscent of a college dorm. We recommend the mac and cheese and the Brussels sprout hash. The recently opened Gastropub has a similar vibe but a more “grown up” feel.
Around the World in Jersey City
Taqueria Downtown – Taqueria’s menu features the restaurant’s “Diez Mandamientos” or Ten Commandments, which are representative of the restaurant’s no-nonsense service but great, authentic Mexican food. As you sit down to enjoy your tacos, you will be treated by the restaurant’s décor and music selections, both of which alternate between traditional Mexican and 1980’s L.A. glam. Union Republic – Another newcomer to the Jersey City food scene, Union Republic is best described as a café-grocer-ramen joint. We recommend the ramen noodles, which unlike the college dorm-room staple, are bathed in a rich broth, topped with locally sourced ingredients, such as a soft-cooked egg, pork belly, or veggies. Not into ramen? The menu also features sandwiches during its lunch service and entrees, such as roast chicken and seared steak for dinner. Grand Sichuan – The fact that most of the patrons are Chinese speaks to this restaurant’s authenticity. The menu features traditional Sichuan dishes, such as Chong Qing spicy chicken as well as Chinese-American options. The pork soup dumplings and beef noodle soup are two of our personal favorites. “Little India” – Just one PATH stop away at Journal Square is Jersey City’s Indian neighborhood, home to several of the state’s (and possibly the country’s) best Indian restaurants and markets. Located on Newark Avenue between JFK Boulevard and Tonnelle Ave, this colorful, bustling strip is a great place to visit if you love Indian food, or if you do not eat meat (in fact, some of the restaurants are exclusively vegetarian.)
So Many Restaurants, So Little Space
Since we could go on and on about all of the tasty eateries in Jersey City, here’s a listing of just a few more of the many noteworthy establishments:
- Orale Mexican Kitchen – Mexican restaurant and bar with an extensive tequila selection
- Sava Polish Diner – home-style Polish food
- New Thanh Hoai – Vietnamese
- Sawadee – Thai
- Ibby’s Falafel – Middle Eastern
- Gypsy Grill – Middle Eastern
- Madame Claude Cafe – French bistro, reservations strongly recommended, BYOB
- Razza – Italian with a focus on locally sourced ingredients
- VB3 – Italian-American sports lounge
- Two Boots – novelty Cajun-style pizza
- Roman Nose – classic Italian food
- La Conguita – Cuban (go for breakfast and order a café con leche)
- Kraverie – Korean fusion (Think Korean BBQ in tacos and crepes)
- Lighthorse Tavern – upscale American
- Edward’s Steakhouse – high-end American steakhouse
- Torico Ice Cream – classic homemade ice cream
- Gia Gelato – artisanal gelato and coffee shop
- Cookies & Crepes – needs no explanation
- Cocoa Bakery – cupcakes and other baked goods
Grab a Drink & Chill
Jersey City’s longstanding nickname is “Chilltown.” For the most part this is an accurate moniker, meaning that if you are looking for velvet ropes, booming bass and $15 mixed drinks, you are probably best served crossing the Hudson River. That said, there is plenty of night-life for those who prefer a different type of scene. If you like talking and laughing with friends (new and old) over great drinks, with solid food options, in a variety of locations whether they be eclectic/trendy spaces or comfortable townie dives, downtown JC is a great place to be.
Looking for places unique to the area? Here are a couple of Jersey City staples for starters:
Barcade – Picture a 1980’s arcade, complete with fully functional vintage video games for a quarter and alternative music playing. Now couple that with an outstanding rotation of craft beers and a hip crowd of 20 and 30-somethings, who are equally likely to have come from Brooklyn, Manhattan, or right around the corner. Lucky 7’s – Dive bar by day, local scene by night, this artsy-grungy punk rock bar features an eclectic jukebox, perhaps the best in Jersey City. Like to play darts while drinking PBR, shots or a good stiff mixed drink at a very reasonable price? This place is probably for you. Depending on the night there may be a live D.J. or a band.
To continue the tour, here are few more spots with outstanding beer selections:
Zeppelin Hall* – This is a real-deal beer garden, complete with long wooden picnic tables with benches, an extensive selection of quality (and strong) beer, German or otherwise, and sometimes a live polka band. It’s a very well-known destination throughout northern New Jersey and a fantastic place to bring a large group. HopsScotch – The name says it all. This gastro-pub rightly prides itself on a large menu of high-quality craft beers and an unmatched selection of scotch. It’s not exactly a sports bar, but it does have some of those trappings too, including plenty of TV’s, a dartboard, and good Buffalo wings. Iron Monkey – This pub is a favorite happy hour stop for the business crowd in the financial district (Exchange Place). Its tap boasts plenty of micro-brews, coupled with some great imports. In the summer, it also showcases one of the best, if not the best, roof-decks in Jersey City.
If wine or mixed drinks are more your style:
LITM –Expect excellent mixed drinks in a semi-minimalist space, a complete dining experience, and eye-catching original art from a rotating selection of local artists. This cocktail bar is right on the main strip of Newark Avenue, less than a block from Grove Street PATH, and its happy hour includes $4 mini-martinis. Porto – This bar/eatery has a good selection of wines, and a comfortable lounge vibe. The space is open and there are a variety of places to sit ranging from restaurant-style tables for Portuguese dining, to funky eclectic sofa-type seating, to a trendy looking marble bar.
Let’s throw in a standard pub or two for good measure:
White Star &White Star II – Located at opposite ends of downtown, you can visit either of its two locations for a comfy vibe, great pub food, and a nice mix of beers, mostly micro-brews with some standard domestic choices. Both locations have several TV’s and friendly staff willing to put on a game at your request. 9th & Coles – This cozy neighborhood bar with friendly owners offers solid comfort food and does a very good job with service. We highly recommend trying their creative specialty cocktails.
And, of course, we need a few places with big screen TV’s to watch the game:
VB3 – Located in Newport, this is actually a celebrity chef’s restaurant, but we included it in this category because of the large number of enormous TV’s in the dining room, all of which were tuned to theBroncos-Patriots gamelast week. The staff (decked out in team jerseys) served us a top-notch mix of Italian and American fare. There was a good wine selection too. Brightside Tavern – This American pub serves domestic beer and some micro-brews. The bar is ringed by TV’s including a couple of big screens. It also draws a surprisingly diverse set of fans during football season. You are nearly as likely to be sitting next to a Packers, Eagles, Panthers, or even aBucs fan as you are to a Jets or Giants fan. It’s usually a pretty fun time. * Zeppelin Hall (listed above) also has large screen TV’s and plenty of room.
Other Things to Do While You Are Here
Check out the Waterfront:
Liberty State Park & Super Bowl Kickoff Party– Liberty State Park will play host to the Super Bowl Kickoff Spectacular on Monday, January 27 which will feature the Macy’s fireworks display, and performances by the Goo Goo Dolls, The Fray and Daughtry. While you’re there, take a stroll through New Jersey’s largest urban park and jumping-off point for visitors to the Statue of Liberty or Ellis Island. You’ll be treated to spectacular views of not only those two points of interest, but also the lower Manhattan skyline. Star Spotting – Jersey City welcomed the Seahawks and Broncos to Downtown on Sunday, January 26th , and the city will serve as home-base for both NFL teams for the entire week leading up to the Super Bowl. Players will likely be in and out doing press conferences and events. If you in the vicinity of either the Westin or the Hyatt, there’s a chance you might spot them coming and going. Hudson Riverfront Walkway – Running through multiple towns on the Hudson River’s west bank, this walkway meanders through Jersey City’s “gold coast” and runs past both the Newport and Exchange Place PATH stations. At Exchange Place, you can see a 9-11 memorial made of steel girders taken from the original World Trade Center. The views of the Manhattan skyline are phenomenal here too. Bring your camera.
Enjoy Jersey City’s burgeoning independent art scene:
Mana Contemporary – This gallery is a combination of art management, storage, and creative space converted from a 1920’s factory in the Marion section of Jersey City. Currently showing: Photorealism : Revisited, an exhibit featuring art from the Louis K. Meisel Galleries and Eileen S. Kaminskiy Foundation Collections. Artists include Charles Bell, Richard Estes, Audrey Flack, Tom Blackwell, Ron Kleemann and Robert Bechtle. Full List of Upcoming Events. Art House Productions – This artists’ collective features a diverse and independent group of poets, fine artists, musicians and other creative individuals. Art House organizes and sponsors various performing and visual arts events throughout Jersey City. On Thursday, January 30th, Art House presents music acts Drum and a Tantrum and Diygfy at Two Boots Pizzeria on 133 Newark Ave (near the Grove Street PATH.)
Visit some cool places to shop:
Iris Records – This is an old school used record store with a large and diverse selection of vinyl, in addition to used CDs, and other music-related collectables. Tip: Only open limited hours — Thursday-Sunday. Another Man’s Treasure – Visit this vintage store featuring men’s and women’s clothes, jewelry, accessories, and classic vinyl. E. Tittlemouse – Stop by this self-described thrift boutique with a selection of men’s and women’s clothing, artwork, and antique home goods.
(Tips and notes on transportation)
Jersey City is Walkable & Drivable
As long as you have a rudimentary understanding of how to read a map or use a GPS or smart phone, Downtown Jersey City is easy to navigate on foot or by car. In the event that you are one of those rare people that could get lost inside a plastic bag, most residents and/or proprietors of the numerous small businesses in the Downtown district are able and willing to point visitors in the right direction when asked. If you are driving, you’ll be pleased to note that Jersey City has less traffic than its neighbors (Hoboken and New York) and it’s easier to find parking here too. Plus, there is a full compliment of public transit options available.
There are Trains
Three (3) of the NY/NJ PATH train stops are located in downtown (Exchange Place, Newport, and Grove Street.) These are underground and sheltered. There is also one in Journal Square. Seven (7) stops on New Jersey’s Hudson-Bergen light rail are also in downtown (Jersey Ave, Marin Blvd, Essex Street, Exchange Place, Harborside Financial Center, Harsimus Cove and Newport). The light rail runs to other parts of the city as well, such as Jersey City Heights, Bergen LaFayette, etc. Both trains cost just over two dollars ($2) for a one-way trip, give or take some change, and run quite frequently (PATH is 24-hours.) Tip If you opt for the light rail, please be aware that tickets need to be validated with a timestamp before you ride. (The ticket machines at each light rail stop have a mechanism to do this.) This is not the case with PATH trains, which have a turnstile system instead.
Plenty of Taxis
It’s also pretty easy to get a cab. There is a cab queue located directly in the center of Downtown (right near Grove Street PATH) and it will likely be under $10 to get just about anywhere we’ve mentioned. (Be sure to ask price up front and/or have them run meter, same as you would if visiting New York.) There is another cab queue locate in front of the Journal Square PATH train. As with any major city, there are also on-call cab companies that will pick you up.
Buses Exist Too
Buses run through various stops downtown, to other parts of Jersey City and beyond. There are both the standard long NJ Transit buses and the short boxy white jitney buses available.
ABOUT THE AUTHORS
|Jeremy Jacobsen is the Director of Membership for Jersey City Ties, a young professionals’ community service & social networking organization and Vice President of Membership for Harsimus Cove Association, a local neighborhood association. By day, he negotiates contracts for the pharmaceutical industry. Follow @JCTies on Twitter and Like them on Facebook|
|Cheryl Lin writes a food blog, Food Judicata. Professionally, she assists immigrants with a variety of immigration issues, including and deferred actions for childhood arrivals and removal proceedings. She is fluent or conversational in three languages (English, Spanish and Taiwanese.) Like Food Juicata on Facebook and Follow on Pinterest|
|Both are attorneys who live in Jersey City, New Jersey.|