Jersey City is a diverse, bustling city right outside of New York City, with so many great restaurants, cafes, and bars, and places to grab a quick drink or bite to eat. I’ve rounded up my go-to places, after living in downtown Jersey City for almost a decade.
My Favorite Restaurants and Cafes in Jersey City
Last updated: July 16, 2021 // Click here for a printable version of this list.
I was chatting with a friend about Jersey City the other day and she asked me how long I’ve lived here. I had to stop, think, and get out my counting fingers. I couldn’t believe it, but I’ve lived here for 8 years. Before Jersey City, I lived in Hoboken, which is the city right above Jersey City, so I’ve lived in this general area for over a decade. Needless to say, I have my list of favorite spots to frequent for food and drinks.
Now, this list is by no means exhaustive and is purely a reflection of my personal tastes in establishments and the fact that I’m a mother of 2 and don’t get much time to go out sans the kids. Most importantly, it’s a reflection of where I live in Jersey City (Jersey City is a geographically expansive city and I haven’t dined enough outside of downtown to recommend places otherwise.) You’re totally getting an Ali list, so if you feel that you have similar taste as mine, you’ll love these places!
Also, there are so many places that are opening up monthly that I haven’t had a chance to visit (especially since having children, I tend to go to the same places for conveniences’ sake.) Definitely don’t NOT go somewhere because I haven’t listed it here, I just probably haven’t had a chance to dine there or it’s not within my personal taste! Do your own research and discover this amazing, eclectic city that I’m proud to have lived for 8 years and am raising my family in.
Here are my go-to restaurants in Jersey City, by category:
- White Star Bar (Warren St) – the Warren St location is the best, it’s very family-friendly, has cute outdoor seating and is in a quiet part of Paulus Hook. Love their shrimp wrap and the veggie burgers.
- Lobster Shack – this is the sister restaurant to Light Horse Tavern, it’s in this adorable parking garage extension of Light Horse and they serve summer fare, like burgers, lobsters, slaw, etc. I love everything there – and they have drinks (wine and beer!)
- Greene Hook – the food here is not amazing, but it’s definitely family-friendly and their tacos at happy hour are a hidden gem, IMHO.
- Latham House – probably my favorite “go-to” restaurant in Jersey City, when I just want a great meal and a glass of wine. They have the best salads and I love their brunch (it’s packed, so definitely get there before 11am if you don’t want to wait forever!)
- Buddy’s JC – we’re big breakfast burrito people and this place has a top 3 breakfast burrito! They’re known for their sugary, inventive pancakes (they’ve been on Food Network!), so they’re certainly kid-friendly.
- Kitchen Step – the food isn’t fantastic, but it’s reliable, the breakfast burrito is good, and it has a really cute, romantic outdoor dining area.
- South House JC – amazing ambiance, great for big groups and parties (it has a fun downstairs bar with games!), and they have good big salads. It’s mainly BBQ food.
- Beechwood Cafe – a classic Mom spot, it’s got a great breakfast and lunch menu, pretty reliable for the classics.
- Hamilton Inn – our favorite original restaurant, it has a great outdoor space with picnic tables, but also a nice inside restaurant with classic fare and it’s very family-friendly.
- Hamilton Pork – this is Lu’s favorite restaurant, he loves the breakfast burrito, we do takeout a lot from here (they have classic BBQ with a Mexican flare), the Jalapeño-Cheddar Cornbread is AMAZING, the tacos are decent, the frozen drinks are yummy, and they are kid-friendly.
Latin-Inspired Fare (Mexican and Latin/South American)
- Taqueria Downtown – if you’re a vegetarian, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a healthy, filling meal here, but if you’re not, you’re going to love it! They have the most authentic Mexican food in town (that I’ve tried) and the margaritas are strong. It’s a no-frills kind of place, just authentic food right at the end of Grove St.
- Orale – we love the food here, the yucca fries are amazing, and they are family-friendly (the restaurant is big inside and has a festive ambiance.) The enchiladas are yummy and the lettuce-wrapped tuna tacos are so yummy (the spicy crispy jicama pieces on top are so good!)
- Tamborim– this recently opened up on Newark Ave (the main restaurant row) and we were blown away. The vegetarian stew was life-changing and the drinks are amazing. If you’re looking for a flavorful, festive meal with great ambiance, go here.
- Gringo’s – family-friendly, festive, with a very inventive Mexican menu (definitely more American-skewed with things like Buffalo Cauliflower Tacos – which are amazing!) They have this “Pack a Phat Bowl” that’s the biggest taco salad you’ll ever have and it’s amazing. Lobster tacos are yummy, too – with a little guac on top.
Continental Food, International, and Eclectic
- Satis Bistro – this has prime real estate, right on the most picturesque corner of Paulus Hook and it’s very European-chic. The food has been inconsistent lately, but it has always been a favorite of ours. The wine list is great and they often have divine specials. It’s definitely a date night spot and not exactly kid-friendly.
- Bistro La Source – a French-inspired restaurant with a large seating area, I love this for summer date nights. They have an extensive menu, a great vegetarian platter, and the appetizers are great (the octopus!)
- Uncle Momo’s – a Lebanese/French restaurant right in the center of Grove St, it’s definitely a restaurant with great people watching. It has an oven that cooks fresh pita and while the seating isn’t super comfortable outside, it’s quaint. I love the Chicken Tajine and the hummus is divine.
- Cellar 335 – one of our favorite places when we’re looking for a festive night out, Cellar 335 is up in “the village” part of Jersey City (closer to 78 highway), but you feel like you could be anywhere else – the atmosphere and decor is so fun, the drinks are as festive as they get (they do theme weeks during the holidays!) and I’ve always had an exciting meal with extra flavorful food (the Avocado Fried Rice!!)
- Frankie – this is an Australian bar and eatery, but I don’t love much on the menu (their fries are great and their veggie burger is pretty good) so I mainly come here because it’s very cute (indoors and outdoors) and the bar is fun to sit at. It’s very family friendly.
- Rumi Turkish Grill – I’ve never actually sat here and eaten, but we order takeout from here often. It has great falafel, a great lentil soup, delicious hummus, and Lu loves the kabobs. If we want something on the healthier side but still hearty and filling, we’ll order Rumi (and we do, often!)
- John’s Pizza – classic NY-style pizza with other classic American-Italian fare. They have an outdoor space that’s great during the summertime and is in a little cute nook of Paulus Hook.
- Tino’s Pizza – this is a recent open and we love their pizzas, they’re a bit artisanal and we’re obsessed with the White Pizza. They have chicken bites Lu loves and their meatballs are good, too – definitely a little on the heavier side, but solid.
- Porta Jersey City – if you want a lively bar and pizza experience, go here! They often have live music, nighttimes are lit (do people still say that?!), and their pizza is actually good. They have a few salads, too, that are a great addition.
- Pasta Dal Cuore – very great for pasta and Italian fare. The ambiance is meh and the location is a bit random, but the food is solid.
- Roman Nose – our favorite “overall” Italian spot in Jersey City. Fun fact: the owner is from Rome but moved to NJ and went to high school with Lu! There’s a lot of Italian influence here, which makes the menu legit and I’ve always been amazed by the quality of food. Their pizzas are awesome, too (some of my favorite) – I’m obsessed with the Eggplant Parmesan here and the brunch is even better – the frittatas are freshly made and so fluffy. And great for people watching and family friendly!
- Razza – when I first moved to Jersey City, we always went here for “cool” (aka artisanal) pizza. Then, it made some “Best NYC Pizza” list and now unless you go there at 4:30pm to get on line, you can’t get in! Crazy! Sometimes you’ll get lucky and snag a table, but it’s a hot spot! Great pizza, obviously.
- Luna – this has an Italian-inspired menu, but it has lots of new-American on the menu. Some of their dishes are some of our favs, like the Che Pizza (Detroit-style pizza) or the Chicken Stew. Lu loves the Chicken Milanese. We always have a great meal, but it’s on the heavier side.
Sushi and Thai
- DOMODOMO– if you want real sushi and sake in a cool, hip spot, go here. The sushi quality is top-notch and it’s definitely an authentic sushi experience, especially if you sit at the bar! Get the cauliflower as an appetizer/side! It’s our go-to sushi date night and it’s right next to Ample Hills for a little ice cream afterwards.
- Honshu – if we’re doing sushi takeout, we get it from Honshu (only because DOMODOMO doesn’t deliver!) It’s your classic reliable sushi joint.
- Sky Thai – for Thai takeout every once in a while, this is our go-to. I like their vegetable stir fries with brown rice, pretty classic.
Quick and Casual
- Ibby’s Falafel – I’m a big fan of falafel and places where I can grab vegetarian food – this fits that bill but it’s a no-frills place.
- Sweet Green – a huge salad chain, you can’t beat the freshness of Sweet Green!
- CAVA – a Mediterranean salad/bowl kind of place, we love getting the kids the falafel kids platters, but also love their salads and grain bowls.
- Dullboy – if you’re feeling hipster and want to grab a drink and some bites, check out this bar. It’s unassuming from the outside but cool on the inside.
- Rooftop at Exchange Place – for a swanky night out, it doesn’t get better than this bar because of the views, but it’s pricey and super touristy. If you’re with a group, it’s great, but not exactly a date spot or spot for 2.
- Hudson Hall – unless you want a pretzel, I don’t recommend the food here, but the ambiance is great and nice and spacious for larger gatherings or watching sports.
- Zeppelin Hall Beer Garden – love it here, the outdoor space is great, service is friendly, and the bar food is actually somewhat decent!
- Pet Shop – a hipster bar that actually has some pretty good food.
- Surf City – Lu loves this place. It’s right on the water in the Jersey City marina and has great views. The food is not good, so I’d never eat there (it’s just fried food!) and the drinks aren’t special (but for wine and beer or simple spirits drinks it’s fine.) It’s basically the closets thing you’ll get in Jersey to a beach bar, haha – it’s literally on sand!
- One Two Cup Cafe – we go here every Sunday morning for bagel sandwiches! The muffins are great, too.
- SAM AM Cafe – the cutest, most neighborhood-y spot, ever. Love their Blushing Palmer (a berry Arnold Palmer), but they have so much more than breakfast food – their chopped salads, veggie sandwiches, and more are hits with our family. The wait on the weekends is foreverrr and the indoor dining space is tiny, but the outdoor area is great!
- B18 – one of our favorite little cafes, it has a full menu and everything is surprisingly delicious! I love their Burrito Bowl and the kids love their quesadillas and Lu goes for a Chicken Club (the menu has good variety.) Their baked goods never disappoint, either.
- Short Grain – a great place to grab breakfast, a quick lunch, or a beverage, this cafe has minimal seating inside and outside, but they make great bowl meals and quick bites. I love their Curried Chicken Bowls, pancakes, and spring rolls.
- Lackawanna Coffee – a hipster coffee spot that’s great for working from home but also has a larger outdoor space for warmer months to hang and enjoy an iced coffee.
- Choc-O-Pain – I have a special spot in my heart for this local French bakery chain. They’re just so French and cute – the baked goods (if you get them fresh before they sell out!) are great and they make some great iced teas and other beverages. They sell fresh breads, too.
- Wonder Bagels – there’s always a line out the door in the mornings for a reason – these are classic NJ bagels (aka the best bagels) – and if you have time to wait on line or you can order in advance and run in, they’re the best! Just strictly a bagel and coffee kind of place (they have omelets and things, but it’s all about the bagels.)
- 2nd St Bakery – if you want a legit Italian sub, go here.
- Semicolon Cafe – I used to live in the building next door, so we got coffee and breakfast sandwiches often here! The coffee is great, the breakfast sandwiches are surprisingly amazing, and they have good baked goods, too.
- Prato Bakery – great little sandwiches, baked goods, with a nicer decor than average bakeries.
- Madeline’s – great sandwiches and baked goods, but also good coffee. I had a few New Moms group meetups here and the service was always friendly.
Other & Notable Mentions
- Battello – this is a gorgeous restaurant right on the Hudson River (hello, views!), but I’ve always had bad food experiences here, so I’ll only go for a drink!
- Skinner’s Loft – great vegan food, surprisingly, but not somewhere I opt to dine otherwise.
- Mathews Food and Drink – great drinks and there are a couple food items here we like, but it’s not family-friendly (they don’t have high chairs!) so we rarely go.
- Würstbar – if you like bratwursts (ha!), you’ll love it here – they’re actually really delicious. And the beer list is obviously amazing. It’s just not somewhere I’ll go often, but if we have friends in town and we want something different, we’ll go here.
- City Diner – just a classic diner! I’ve spent many 2am nights here (pre-kids, of course) drinking smoothies and eating fries.
- Mantra – I don’t have much experience ordering Indian food in Jersey City (which is a shame, because it’s apparently some of the best!) but we have eaten here a few times with good luck.
- Light Horse Tavern – Lu loves this place, but I don’t – the service is meh. The bar is grand and great for a date night drink and meal, but the food isn’t anything special. I hate that I’m hating on it, because it’s an institution, but it’s a bit stuffy to me! But it’s a beautiful spot and it’s little casual spot next door (see Lobster Shack above) is great.
Places I Want to Try (Recommended)
These are restaurants that my Jersey City friends swear by (and they have good taste!), but I haven’t tried yet but they’re “approved.”
- Left Bank Burger
- Hudson Hound
- The Boil
- Franklin Social
- Departed Souls Brewery
- Rustique Pizza
- Dames Cafe