Jersey City. A bustling hot spot. A place for foodies, families, artists, and entrepreneurs alike. A passionate community with urban perks and a small-town feel. With a newly-renovated reputation, JC, just an 8-minute PATH ride from Manhattan, has really become a new destination. You know with nicknames like "Chilltown" and the "6th Borough," we're doing something right. After signing on for our 3rd year here, with no plans for moving elsewhere in sight, I have completely fallen head over heels for this new city of mine. One of my biggest mottos to live by is "Work Hard, Play Hard," and while I work in Chelsea during the week, with a pretty set work and fitness schedule, one of my very favorite things to do on weekends (and the occasional weeknight!) is explore this incredibly diverse and energetic city of ours. With new places opening up every day, there is truly something here for everyone, and we adore sharing the JC love with friends and family. With that, I bring you an ongoing guide of some of the best things to do in Jersey City, for visitors and locals alike, from restaurants to festivals to parks, and more. Get out there and explore!!!
If your friend: is an NYC local and you want to show them the greatness, diversity, and uniqueness this side of the Hudson. Also, maybe they are into a late-night dance party.
Go to: Talde
This uber-hip, lively spot focusing on a Pan-Asian menu is the second of three Taldes; the original is in Brooklyn, and the third is in Miami Beach. Chef Dale Talde (of Top Chef fame) and his partners have transformed the bones of a former police station into a very special restaurant/bar; while the Asian-American menu is super unique with fresh takes on traditional Asian fare (Yuzu Guac? Pretzel Pork and Chive Dumplings? Breakfast Ramen with buttered toast broth?!), the beautifully-designed modern bar has a somewhat-secret space downstairs: enter the door behind the bar that tells you "this is not an exit," and you are on your way to Miss Wong's, home of many a late-night dance party on my part. The basement-level space hosts DJ battles as well as comedy nights throughout the week, along with various other events. Also, a tip: that ramen I mentioned above? No matter how hungry you think you are, you will NOT finish it by yourself. Take it from me. This place serves family-style plates, and they mean it! Of course, there's nothing wrong with leftovers…
If your friend: is looking for a low-key brunch spot, or a relaxing nightcap that isn't too late.
Go to: Marco & Pepe
Being one of the closest restaurants to our home, it has become kind of our go-to brunch place. The Huevos Racheros with chorizo is super good, and always, ALWAYS! Get a side of Portuguese Muffin. It comes with a little side of jam and butter, but the dense muffin with its grill lines has enough flavor on its own. This was actually the first place I got a drink in Jersey City when I first moved here (wine and a jalapeno margarita, to be exact), and we have brought friends and family here countless times since. Although they close at 11pm on Saturdays, sometimes it is just the place for a little nightcap of some Bulleit bourbon when you don't want to commit to the energy and crowds that the Newark-area Downtown spots are affiliated with, but still want to get out of the house for a bit.
If your friend: is a fan of Southern hospitality, gorgeous surroundings, and wants to move to Charleston.
Go to: Mathew's Food and Drink
…..okay, I may or may not be talking about myself, here. After falling in love with Charleston this past summer (I plan on making a weekend trip there every year, now!), Mathew's was a very welcome addition to the variety of restaurants JC has to offer. While the portions may not be southern-style, the sleek and bright white surroundings with pops of charm including pineapples (they are a huge icon in the South), rustic tables and chairs, somewhat compartmentalized house-like atmosphere (more like you are dining in an old mansion, not an urban open-air loft), mix-n-match plates, white beadboard ceilings, and wallpapered sections give off that quintessential Southern charm. Get the Clams and Chorizo. Not for the clams. Or the chorizo. But for the lobster broth. THE LOBSTER BROTH. And get an extra side of sourdough to soak up allll that extra goodness. This is definitely the place to go to indulge. The Corn Fritters that sit upon a spread of pimento cheese were another star of the show, although I do kiiind of wish that it was a Charleston-sized portion of pimento cheese. Customers really dig the incredibly photogenic, edible glitter-topped 80's Glam cocktail (it is ALL over Instagram), but I preferred the Cool Rummings and Mat-hattan, myself. Can't wait to go back here, again and again. This place exudes charm and uniqueness.
If your friend: loves a laid-back vibe in a cool space, and is looking for ciders, sour beers, or wine all on tap. Oh, and maybe they really love sausage.
Go to: Würstbar
With various wines, ciders, and beers on tap, along with a nice selection of whisky, this is a great spot for grabbing a quick bite and a drink (or three). Those who are into ciders will love this place, as they have the largest local selection I have seen anywhere. Their fries and poutine (and various dipping sauces) are amazing, and they have daily specials to switch it up. Also, they have pretty much any type of sausage you can imagine (hence the "wurst" in the name). My favorite so far has been one of their Signature Sausages - the Rancho Grande, which is chorizo (are you sensing a theme in this article?) and avocado and pickled goodness all rolled into one. Their sausages are served on these amazing Hawaiian sweet rolls...I'm dying to try their take on a grilled cheese, which is an occasional special that essentially looks like a sweet roll, pressed panini-style, and stuffed with cheese and bacon, with a side of tomato soup. It's one of those places that just feels super cozy, and while it is always full of patrons, there's always a spot at the bar or the rustic picnic tables for you, and the atmosphere is just laid-back enough that you can always hear your conversation...something that can't be said for a lot of the bars along Newark that get crazy-packed. One of my favorite new spots in JC.
If your friend: loves craft beer, dogs, and an atmosphere that is the epitome of Chilltown. They may or may not eat Gluten-Free.
Go to: Departed Soles
If you are looking for an awesome local brewery that is super laid-back and approachable, Departed Soles is your spot. Not only do the flights come on chalkboarded skateboards, but you can also bring your pup along and order Seamless right to the brewery. Everything is brewed and canned right on-the-site, and owner Brian and the rest of the DS crew (along with shop dog Bogan) are super friendly, helpful, and passionate about their craft and their city. They host various events and tastings, and you will find them popping up in lots of local restaurants and bars. They have a rotating tap list, depending on what is currently in-season, with a few 100% gluten-free options. My personal favorite is the Deuces double IPA (which is definitely NOT gluten-free), so if you are a hop-head like me, definitely snag that anytime you see it on draft or canned! Oh, and if you are craving something of non-alcoholic nature, Bucket & Bay, maker of craft gelato, is just outside the door!
Stay tuned for another installment of If Your Friend next month! Let us know if you have any requests….there is a place in JC for everyone!
Written by Sam Cooper
Sam is a toy designer, illustrator, and graphic designer by day, and a fitness enthusiast and wanna-be chef by night. A NJ native, she has lived in Downtown Jersey City with her husband since 2014, and has fallen in love with everything JC has to offer. You can follow her beer-loving, restaurant-hopping explorations on Instagram @sam.cooper.studios!