Downtown Jersey City's dining scene is like a microcosm of Brooklyn. But on the Hudson. The PATH trains here run all night and weekend, and eat up less of your Metrocard than a subway turnstile. Barcade has expanded westward. And there's also a reason celebrity chefs and Kanye West have crossed the river to party here, too.
For nearly a decade, local chefs have quietly been cultivating a dining scene dedicated to comfort food at every price point—beginning with bowls of Marco & Pepe's signature bacon-and-mushroom mac and cheese, and recently growing to oyster, burger and beer happy hours at Maritime Parc in the shadow of the Statue of Liberty.
Because locals treat their beer and food with equal seriousness, even the new Barcade (pictured) has an all-night menu to satisfy drunken gamers who crave Nutella-and-bacon sandwiches more than another night out in New York City. And if you live in Manhattan or even Brooklyn, it’s not that far. Promise. Here’s some of our picks.
Park & Sixth
Named for the corner address of the Hoboken original, the downtown Jersey City spin-off succeeds with the same meaty menu where skirt steak, brisket and meat loaf sandwiches reign supreme, none more so than the Eli Manning. If you can't find the Mile Square City's most notable local on the Hoboken High football field, he's here in spirit on the menu as hot roast beef outfitted with caramelized onion, roasted garlic and a slathering of horseradish. Or try tackling the Beast, a mammoth burger available only at the Grove Street shop The retro decor does nothing to prepare you for the prehistoric proportions—a half pound of ground short rib topped with American cheese, lettuce and onions, bacon and fried egg, ketchup and chipotle mayo, served with a generous helping of old bay fries on the side. 364 Grove St. between Bay and First St. 201-918-6072
Light Horse Tavern
A restored 1850s tavern, Light Horse pioneered the Paulus Hook dining scene by serving grown-up pub grub—more Gramercy Tavern than Spotted Pig—first crafted nine years ago by its founding chef, Ian Topper-Kapitan. He's since returned to the kitchen, turning out hunky lobster gnocchi and a weekly salt-crusted prime rib—all the more appealing to the longtime residents of the surrounding brownstones and bankers who work and sleep in waterfront highrises. (None of the dishes break the $30 mark.) Live jazz, a few strategically placed flatscreens and a hearty bar menu keeps the front room full even as the after-workers depart. 199 Washington St. at Morris St., 201-946-2029
Two differences (and rivers) separate Barcade's Jersey City location from the original Williamsburg craft-beer haven. The new addition to Newark Avenue's downtown dining scene—just two blocks from the Grove Street PATH—offers outdoor seating and an all-day menu of bar snacks and sandwiches like Nutella and bacon, and pork shoulder. The bites keep locals on their feet through long nights playing "Punch-Out" and sipping the more than the two-dozen beers nightly on tap. And if there's anything the former Washington Mutual bank has in common with its previous incarnation, it's that a roll of quarters is still easy to come by. Among the more than 30 classic arcade games lining the walls are Barcade's first sit-down machines: an F.40 racer and a restored Atari Star Wars cockpit. 163 Newark Ave. at Barrow St., 201-332-4555
Let the solitary gamers go to Barcade across the street: LITM is a bar designed for socializing. Every week brings another party, screening or visiting DJ to the retro-thrift room, whose back space is better known for the constantly rotating showcase of local artworks than anything coming out the kitchen. The real draw is the abundant menu of beer, wine and cocktails, which are pricy for its Newark Avenue address. Here, skinny jeans, serious tattoos, sunglasses and pompadours converge under an ever-evolving eraser-board menu filled with dozens of seasonal and staple drinks, from hot cider spiked with Frangelico in winter to Watermelonade during the warmer months—a vodka cocktail awash in freshly squeezed lemonade and watermelon puree. Refreshing. 140 Newark Ave. near Grove St., 201-536-5557
An outdoor deck perfect for sipping Sixpoint while overlooking the Hudson—and with a smoker on the way—the newest catering hall and restaurant in Liberty State Park is also the most ambitious casual dining spot in the shadow of the Statue of Liberty. The bar features a drinks menu crafted by Summit Bar's Greg Seider, with drinks named for sunken wrecks in the surrounding waters. Cocktails like the Sindia—Goslings mixed with ginger cinnamon agave and lime—are so much easier to raise. And for the wine lover, on Thursday nights the bar hosts a $20 happy hour offering a glass paired with a half-dozen oysters, a burger and fries. And every night, the back room offers chef Chris Siversen's menu of raw bar staples alongside a modern seasonal menu where surf and turf means lobster with pork belly. 84 Audrey Zapp Drive 201-413-0050
Dark wood, tufted banquettes and the walnut bar that is the inn's nexus signal a more mature clientele that holds court at this quiet residential corner off Hamilton Park. The neighborhood that served as the birthplace of the Jack Rose cocktail nearly a hundred years ago has had its drinking options greatly reduced in the century since. But here a steady stream of grown-up regulars who have outgrown Hoboken and the Newark Avenue hipster haunts come after work to drink martinis with blue-cheese-stuffed olives late into the night. And when there's cause for a cocktail, it's a comfort to know bartenders stock more than one type of bitters behind the bar. 708 Jersey Ave. at 10th St., 201-839-5818
The former Star Bar, its name has changed to Pint, but its commitment to both craft beers (the largest selection in town with more than 50) and the local gay community haven't. Remaining open through renovations, Pint is only a block from the Grove Street PATH station, and it's still the most fun a Jersey City bar has to offer—assuming your idea of fun is drunkenly watching “Glee” or playing Wii. And like nearby LITM, Pint offers a rewards program for regulars, meaning daily drink discounts and special events. 34 Wayne St. at Grove St., 201-367-1222
Lucky 7 Tavern
The jukebox is the main draw for this favorite dive bar with an industry crowd mostly interested in nightly specials and spending their quarters on wings instead of video games down the block. Few beers, shots and drinks veer over $5 on any given night—with a weekday happy hour lasting five hours and overlapping with half-price drinks for ladies on Thursdays and servers on Sundays. No one here craves pretension, just cans of PBR—and once inside there's no sign the neighborhood is any more gentrified than when the bar first opened. 322 Second St. at Coles St., 201-418-8585
Marco & Pepe
South of the Grove St. PATH, Marco & Pepe's mix of all-day brunch spot, craft beer bar and comfort food haven has seen most every great Jersey City chef pass through its kitchen and survived so many who have tried to replicate its success elsewhere. The coffee is La Colombe and the breads are from Balthazar, but the dishes are all original and the mushroom-and-bacon mac and cheese is still replicated ad infinitum all around town. The corner bistro across from City Hall attracts local politicos, stroller-pushers and hipsters alike, all of whom finish the night with the same dessert, a Serendipity-size sundae for two. Packed with gelati (opt for seasonal flavors like peaches and cream or bourbon pecan) buried under whipped cream and Belgian chocolate sauce, sundaes are topped with more than a Skor bar's worth of crushed housemade toffee. 289 Grove St., at Mercer St. 201-860-9688