The Village Voice Blogs
By Adam Robb Mon., May 19 2014 at 12:44 PM
If you haven’t yet learned to navigate your way to Jersey City, let us help you out: Take the PATH during the week and a newly discounted weekend ferry service from the World Financial Center. If it’s been awhile since you’ve been there, you’re missing out on a crop of good restaurants. Here, we’ve rounded up Jersey City’s 10 best plates on menus right now, from meatball banh mi and pork belly guac to black and white seafood noodle bowls an ocean apart and river away.
10. Spring Pie, Razza, 275 Grove Street, Jersey City
You know what you’re getting when you duck into spinoffs of John’s and Two Boots, so take a chance on Razza, a bare-bulbed tavern from the team behind the pies at Maplewood’s Arturo’s. The wood ovens here bake dough made with a wild yeast culture worthy of a dissertation into golden crusts; the ever-changing spring pie is topped with fresh mozzarella, parmesan, and whatever’s growing in chef Dan Richer’s garden, including these spring onions and asparagus.
9. Market Fish Mazemen, Union Republic, 340 3rd Street, Jersey City
After Communipaw Avenue early gentrifier MAE closed its doors in late 2012, chef Gregory Torrech and partner Noah Sexton relocated downtown and opened this cafeteria in what would become Urban Ready Living highrises. Union Republic combines all-day coffee shop, butcher counter, grocery, and noodle bar, (and soon, a bar for drinking, too). While the long winter made Torrech’s nose-to-tail ramen a must-order, this summer, we’re favoring the market fish mazemen, a lemon scented no-broth noodle bowl topped with charred sugar snap peas and a cod croquette that pierces as easily as the soft egg beside it.
8. Spaghetti Nero, Thirty Acres, 500 Jersey Avenue, Jersey City
Momofuku vet Kevin Pemoulie has made seasonal pastas a menu staple at Thirty Acres since its opening, and the from the three current incarnations, we’re digging this creamy abyss of squid ink spaghetti tangling silky cuts of sea urchin, wispy sprigs of parsley, and rough chopped jalapeño that brightens the bowl and dances on the palate.
7. Veggie Schnitzel, Mordi’s Schnitzel Truck
For years, a “coming soon” sign for a second outpost of Chelsea Market’s Buon Italia anchored the vacant ground floor of Jersey City’s Trump Plaza (88 Morgan Street), and as the weeds grew up around it, so did a new gathering spot for the neighborhood’s ever-evolving food truck scene. Its most recent addition is an ex-Eataly sous chef frying up his childhood favorite Israeli street food inside Mordi’s Schnitzel Truck. Three varieties of breaded, beaten chicken cutlets are on the menu, as is this almost-healthful alternative, which layers freshly fried crumbed eggplant with five fresh and house-pickled veggies stuffed in a homemade parsley tahini- and harissa-absorbent baguette from Marie’s Bakery in Hoboken.
6. Banh Mi, IncrediBalls Truck
Come lunchtime on Trump Plaza’s west side, and in the evenings at Groove on Grove near the Grove Street PATH station, you’ll find the year-old IncrediBalls truck, where an ex-Maritime Parc bartender bakes then steams ground proteins destined for spongy Balthazar rolls. Eight of the chef’s 80 regional recipes are always on the menu — Swedish, red sauced Italian, Jamaican jerk chicken, smothered pork, and BBQ — and the truck also serves up the city’s most inspired banh mi, built with coriander- and fennel-spiked pork balls, crunchy pickled carrots and jalapeños, and a kicked-up soy Sambal sauce infused with cilantro stems.
5. Guacamole Trio, Orale Mexican Kitchen, 341 Grove Street, Jersey City
Three years after Jersey City’s hipster taqueria Taqueria expanded to Manhattan’s Orchard Street, Grove Street’s Orale is following suit: A second location is taking over the Cafe Frida space on 98th and Amsterdam. It’s worth the trip from downtown on the PATH to the Jersey City original, though, for the seasonal serrano-blended guacamole served myriad ways. Go for the trio, and pick our three favorites: el naco made with chunky braised pork belly, el fresa made with a finely diced fresh fruit salad, and blue demon made with creamy Cabrales blue cheese and toasted pepitas.
4. Onion Rings, Park & Sixth Gastropub, 247 Washington Street, Jersey City
The bar at the Washington Street spinoff of Grove Street’s Park & Sixth sandwich shop gets busy early with off-duty bond traders and Catholic school teachers, and bar plates keep the front room full all night long. Order some of the best onion rings on either side of the Hudson: A tangy tomatillo-buttermilk shell clings to the fat springy rings, and they’re enlivened further by a dunk in a pool of pink vodka sauce. The only drawback? You can only get them as a Wednesday night special.
3. Thursday Night Supper Club, Sam AM, 112 Morris Street
This Paulus Hook cafe keeps commuters lined up all day long for Stumptown coffee and bacon, farm egg, and smoked salmon breakfast sandwiches on Amy’s Bread ciabatta. But it’s worth stopping by on a Thursday night, when the kitchen stays open past 6 p.m. to serve an evolving $45 five-course supper with dishes like tiger prawn ceviche, braised shortrib, and glazed plantains. Fun bonus fact: Meals are frequently inspired by the regional flavors chef Francis Samu discovered on a skateboarding pilgrimage to New Orleans.
2. Hot Roast Beef Sandwich, Carmine’s Italian Deli, 165 Mallory Avenue
Squads of police and firemen from as far away as Kearny flock daily to this neglected west side neighborhood for the city’s best Italian, and you should follow suit so you can grab one of owner Carmine Scalia’a signature hot roast beef sandwiches saturated with fresh pulled mozzarella and a mouth-watering gravy stirred all day with a wooden paddle. While you wait for your takeout order, ask for a sample of today’s soup — you’ll soon find yourself leaning against the soda cases slurping down what feels like an entire bowl of lentil or minestrone, gratis.
1. MP Burger, Maritime Parc, 84 Audrey Zapp Drive
Each Thursday, the bar at Liberty State Park’s Maritime Parc griddles up grass-fed brisket-, short rib-, and chuck-blend patties, and then smothers them in melted Tomme (a creamy goat’s milk cheese), grilled onions, and special sauce. You can nab one for $20, a price tag that includes a bowl of duck fat fries, a half dozen oysters, and one of eight beers or wines by the glass. This killer burger also serves as your first taste of BURG, chef/owner Chris Siversen’s forthcoming beer garden burger bar dishing out DeBragga blends alongside frozen old fashioneds in Newark’s Military Park this August.