Diary of a Food and Drink Gypsy

Diary of a Food and Drink Gypsy

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An Escape to Grove St. & Newark Ave. in Jersey City

When you enter Atlas, you’ll notice the beautiful window opening which gives you an immediate welcoming feeling before you sit down. The scenery is very relaxing, complete with front and back bars, and a top and lower level. One of my favorite parts about this bar is its library “sit by the fire”
feel in the back. It surely adds a little extra to the usual bar atmosphere I am used to, and if you are corporate worker, a student, etc., there is a little something to share for everyone. Since I already ate, I decided to go with a beer at this location and found something extremely interesting…I like to
call it the Russian roulette beer tap. Complete with a list of 24 independent NJ breweries to try, you’ll have a hard time picking just one. I chose the Kane Sneakbox Pale Ale and it was very pleasant and smooth—a good pick me up after the hardy meal I had. Atlas also has some live music nights as
well, so if you are ever in the area and wanting to kick back and relax for a cold brew and a bite, this is the place to go. So because this journey led me to 3 plus cocktails already, the wise thinker in me decided to break this trip into a couple of sequences.

The next night, I headed to Pasta E Vino which is a little bit of a walk from where Atlas is located to have some wine and some good old Italian food. The environment at Pasta E Vino’s upper level is perfect for those craving a location to impress that girl you’ve been waiting to ask out for weeks.
There is plenty of table room both in the back and front, and the bartenders and staff are very friendly and knowledgeable about their menu. Since this is night two and I was starving from the PATH ride in, it was time for the moment of truth… my food choice for the evening, The Ricotta Gnocchi. Oh my God, can I gush over a dish too much? This perfectly cooked dinner staple was beyond perfect complete with melt in your mouth gnocchi, pea puree, pancetta, green beans, black summer truffle and parmesan crisp. I was in utter heaven eating this, and since you can’t be a true Sicilian girl without pairing everything with wine, I couldn’t resist poking at their wine menu too. Everything about this visit was excellent, and guess what? For all you night club people, there is an after hours spot connected to this location called Red Lounge right down stairs. Check it out after partaking in a good meal upstairs, and enjoy some awesome music and after hours fun. Onward to The Archer!

First thing I’d like to say about The Archer is it is a bit difficult to find: Use Google Maps! Otherwise you will end up looped around in every such way like I was for a good 30 minutes. Once I was able to locate it, I was greeted by their bar manager Jesse and seated right at the bar. Archer comes complete with both awesome drinks, kitchen menu, and plenty of bar and table seating for all. The bartenders are on point with their mixology skills and are more than happy to suggest something from the menu if you are not familiar with their location. My eyes immediately gravitated to a drink called the Cloak and Dagger—being dangerous (and a bit of theater nerd), I couldn’t resist giving this cocktail a try. This drink is
slightly sweet and strong. Made with two different types of rum, it’s enough to make this potent drink knock you on your butt, and then some if you are not careful. Do yourself a favor, and pair it with food like I did. I went with something simple: The Pretzel and Beer Cheese. It’s the perfect combo of flavored dips, and who doesn’t love a soft pretzel? As much as I didn’t wish to leave, I bid adieu to The Archer and headed to my next destination: Talde.

Now you might be asking yourself, why did I deviate from the Newark Ave. strip? This hidden gem has been talked about over and over to me. I really didn’t know what to expect from it, only that the cocktails were amazing and it has a good after hours spot. When I walked in, my first thought was wow… gorgeous. A combination of both American and Asian vibes, your eyes will immediately gravitate to the lovely lanterns over your head above the bar. The ambience will instantly relax you and all drinks and food are fresh to order. I asked the bartender what drink would be a good fit for me, and he recommended I try the Watermelon Thai Basil Margarita. This cocktail bursted with watermelon flavor, you could barely taste the tequila (uh-oh) and was so delicious, I almost fell out of my seat. If you find yourself here on Fridays and Saturdays, grab yourself one of these margaritas, and head downstairs to their after hours location called Ms. Wongs on their lower level. It is a Friday and Saturday night must, complete with music and cocktails that keep you coming back for more. After my 3 cocktail limit was reached, I decided to break my rule and go to one more location for this evening – FM Bar and Grill.

Mostly known for being a live music venue, I found my trip to FM Bar to be more than what was detailed to me. When you enter, you will get a rocker type bar feel, but it certainly is more than meets the eye. I had the fortune of joining them for their burlesque night with host Lillian Bustle, and
her show is both entertaining and fun for all. Now I have to admit, I am a bit biased when it comes to FM’s cocktail menu since I’ve been there before. The drink that won my heart: The Ramones. It’s the perfect blend of sweet and refreshing, and a summer must have while you are partaking in the live
entertainment they are offering for the evening. They also have some awesome food! Their loaded fries are every salt lover’s dream and combos finely with the sweetness of The Ramones. My advice about this bar is that it is more than what you hear. It is not strictly a music venue, coming complete
with open mic, burlesque, comedy, and more to come in the future. It will be the radio station you won’t want to turn off, so give it a try—you’ll be glad you did.

Night three in Jersey City and I have already finished the right side of Newark Ave! I was so excited to try my next location: Pet Shop. This bar brings together an eclectic crowd and the best part? It has awesome vegan and vegetarian food items! When there I unfortunately didn’t have the opportunity to try any of the food, but I did get a taste from their cocktail menu, The Desert Scorpion. Made with Rum and Brandy with some extra add ons this drink was very, very strong. If you heed any advice from me on this trip please make sure you try one of their food items to pair with this, otherwise you’ll be stumbling home in a Uber. Besides the drinks and food, Pet Shop also has a great night life scene with live music and DJ nights to choose from. If you are looking for an awesome vegan and vegetarian joint, this is my recommendation for you!

After Pet Shop I wandered over to my next location, South House. This bar sort of reminded me of an old school Southern saloon, combined with rocker/pop, and a fine dining vibe. Ask for Nikki who will be more than happy to prepare you one of my favorite drinks for this area: The Midnight
Mojito. This drink is not only refreshing but an awesome twist to your typical mojito. It’s fruity, slightly minty taste was a great option for my appetizer, the Fried Green Tomatoes. A crunchy, salty, get in my belly feel, this dish will have you begging for more. If you want awesome live shows, great drinks, and a taste of southern hospitality hit up South House for the trifecta of all your night life needs.

My last bar for the right side of the Newark Ave was the infamous Porta. When you see Porta’s menu, the first thing you will notice is the latin inscription translating: “our door is always open to honest people.” Porta’s philosophy is eat, drink and be honest, and they strive to support the
community which is one of the tings I loved most about them. Another thing that held close to my heart was their Peach Basil Margarita and their Snawzeech Pizza. Another food triumph, this pizza was every vegan’s dream made with vegan sausage, cheese, spinach, and sauce. It’s got a
little kick but the margarita’s sweet peachy flavor marries well with the spice, and was the perfect combo of spicy and sweet. Porta comes complete with plenty of tables for fine dining, and live entertainment nights which have lines winding out the door every weekend just to get in. My advice
is get here early, enjoy some good food, and dance the night away upstairs with your friends.

Sadly my Jersey City adventure was coming to an end, and there were still 2 last locations I was recommended to go try. They may not be on Newark Ave., but they are worth a quick walk according to some word of mouth information I was given. My first location: The Kitchen Step. A hop and a
skip on Jersey Ave, I managed to just to make it just before closing time. Typically described as having a modern feel decor, and “market-inspired” American menu, Kitchen Step keeps their dish ingredients approachable and strictly locally sourced. On Mondays, their chef picks one local farm and
product they are known for, highlighting it in creative dishes suitable for every palate. Beyond food, Kitchen Step also serves exceptional cocktails provided by their well-known bartender, Ray. At his suggestion I tried the Ring of Fire, a drink inspired by a trip to Hawaii he once had. This drink
may look sweet and delicate, but in reality I’d describe it as cool with a kick, having a slight smokey after taste. When I asked Ray how he would describe his drinks in one word, he immediately responded: Sensory. According to Ray: “my goal is to invoke as many senses as possible, and make
drinks that are memorable.” With acoustic entertainment on Tuesdays, fresh food, and creative drinks I can only see good things for Kitchen Step in the immediate future.

My last and final bar for this piece would have to be WÜRSTBAR. Just around the corner from Kitchen Step, this bar is known for its beer, sausages, cider, and best yet…its poutine. Unfortunately for me, I couldn’t try their Czech side tap beer that they were raving about since it was out of stock (tear), but I was able to try their go-to Haus Poutine which more than made up for it. A slight variation to our version of Disco Fries, I have to say this dish kicked any diner’s butt in terms of what to expect henceforth in terms of fresh cut fries, gravy and cheese. The difference you might ask is the cheese curds. Instead of the melted cheese I have come to know and love, this dish came with chunks of cheese mixed in. It made the platter
more than satisfying, and a filling option if you are looking to try something familiar yet different on your trip.

Overall my trip to Jersey City’s Grove Street and Newark Ave. locations left me with an eclectic group of nightlife picks to choose from. Their food and cocktails were extremely fresh and well prepared, and each place had a little something that made them different from the rest. These
were just a few of some of the places you can enjoy, but there are others you should definitely partake in like Barcade for video games and local drinking and Ani Ramen House to fulfill all your Ramen and cocktail dreams. I have now traveled to both Hoboken and Jersey City to answer
the question posed to me for this article: Is Jersey City becoming the new Hoboken? The answer is simple. Hell no, it’s better. While Hoboken offers more of an escape to its patrons, Jersey City provides more of a community feel that will make you want to stay just a little bit longer. I thoroughly
enjoyed every aspect of my visit to Grove Street, and I can’t wait to return. Until next time, cheers and happy eating to you all!

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