Welcome to EAT THIS CITY, your tour of the best restaurants in one of our favorite cities, as chosen by a world-class chef, celebrity, or local hero.
This week, we’re heading for the oldest town in New Jersey and home to the largest IMAX dome theater in the nation. It’s the intersection of modern entertainment and classic Victorian architecture. It’s also the home of some damn good eats. And if there is a person who knows the local dining scene, it’s George Kuan, the owner of Jersey City’s own Bang Cookies.
Though he graduated from Rutgers University with a degree in finance and slid smoothly into the corporate world, Kuan had a passion for food that wasn’t being appropriately celebrated in his day-to-day life. He needed more, so he left his job and launched a self-discovery journey, working with start-ups in the world of food. Soon, he decided to use his spare time to “stage” — pronounced with a soft “a” and meaning to work the line (for free) — in any New York City kitchen that would have him. In some cases it meant cooking in casual eateries, but he was also working the critically acclaimed fine dining hustle.
During this time, Kuan learned all about prep, technique, and ingredients. Plus, he had the chance to dive deep on his favorite sweet treat: cookies.
Now, Kuan runs the premiere cookie bakery in Jersey City — baking dreamy treats with fresh, organic ingredients. Check them out and tell us you aren’t craving one immediately.
Now that we’re hungry, let’s get George Kuan to drop knowledge about his favorite dining experiences in Jersey City.
My favorite artisan pizza place. Known for their thin, perfectly cooked crust with no patches of undercooked sections and using local ingredients from New Jersey farms, they are a rare breed in understanding how to make a great dough, how to bake it properly in a wood-burning oven, and how to pair the pizza with ingredients that complement each other.
My favorite is the burrata pizza, which is topped with basil, tomato sauce, and garlic.
Mexican tacos always hit the spot, and Orale serves up a really mean one that I always order. They have a unique take on tacos that is nontraditional, such as tuna, bone marrow, lamb… the list goes on. The carnitas taco (my favorite), aka braised pork belly with red onions, cilantro, and salsa verde is soooo good. The owners of the place are always at the restaurant making sure service and food are up to snuff.
This place is money well spent for a good evening out when tacos are needed.
I can’t count how many times I’ve been here. This OG joint for Vietnamese food was introduced to me 10 years ago by an ex-girlfriend, and I’ve been hooked on it ever since. The pho #1 is on speed dial in my brain. I order extra pho soup with nothing in it just to drink it; it’s that good. The spring rolls here with the peanut dipping sauce are amazing. I’ve been known to down half a dozen of these in five minutes. If anyone wants legit Vietnamese food, they need to come here.
Cravings for meatballs always arise, and I can’t say enough about IncrediBalls. They have a unique take on meatballs with flavors that span the globe. My two favorites are the Swedish meatballs (beef meatballs with brown gravy sauce and sour cream dill drizzle) and Banh mi meatballs (pork meatballs with pickled carrots, jalapeno, cilantro, and sriracha aioli sauce). They have a food truck that roams the streets of Jersey City, and a quick call will allow you to find out where they are in Jersey City.
When I need something sweet outside of cookies, I’m always game for some quality gelato. It’s a little off the beaten path from where the main strip of restaurants are, but it’s well worth the effort to locate and walk to. Bucket & Bay’s ingredients are top notch in quality and taste.
I wouldn’t waste my calories on subpar sweets, and their vanilla bean gelato has the right creaminess and depth of flavor that keeps me coming back. They use a lot of organic dairy products and 100% grass-fed milk that speaks to me in volumes, given what I’m willing to put in my body.
Great ambiance, great service, and (most importantly) great food. I’ve brought friends and family here for special occasions and have tried almost everything on the menu. Love their zucchini fries and oysters. My favorite entrée is the pomegranate-glazed pork chop with crispy spaetzle and charred broccoli. I have ordered this pork chop every single time I’ve been here. I’ve never been disappointed, as the owners and the managers run a very tight ship.
Big, thick, juicy, flavorful burgers are my jam. This place makes some really great burgers in a casual setting. Their onion rings are big, crispy, and perfect with a large side of ketchup. I always opt for the sweet potato fries here, as they deep fry them so well. The fries are never soggy and always crispy when served. It’s hard to beat the sweet and salty combination of these fries. My favorite burger is their Ghostface Killer.
I would sometimes stick the fries, and onion rings inside of my burger and go to town; these burgers make me feel like there’s a party in my mouth and everyone’s invited.
Hangawi is an excellent Korea-inspired vegan restaurant across the river in Manhattan. They have a good selection of organic dishes on the menu. My top favorites here are spicy kimchi mushroom pancakes and organic tofu steaks. The seasonings are on point with the right combination of spicy, sweet, and savory. The textural component of the dishes pairs nicely with the seasonings. Tofu, tempeh, and most vegan ingredients are not the easiest to make tasty but this restaurant does an amazing job with them.
A very good brunch spot on restaurant row of downtown Jersey City. They have a great brunch menu ranging from the pancakes to meat and eggs to vegan options. The ambiance is cozy in the interior, but I prefer the outdoor seating on the warmer seasons.
When I’m here, I have three go-to options: crispy braised pork belly and fried eggs (comes with creamy parmesan polenta), steak and egg tostada (comes with fried eggs, black beans, avocado, sharp cheddar, and tomatillo salsa) and filet mignon sliders ( come with shoestring fries, sautéed mushrooms and garlic butter).
Iconic Food of the City
This establishment has been in Jersey City since the 1960s, and I have been a fan for many years. It has a typical diner ambiance, with booths and stools and a very large menu. Their pancakes are on point and can compete with some of the best in Manhattan – and that’s no small feat! They are light, fluffy, and have the ever-so-slight chew that gives way to a smooth pancake interior. Their three egg omelet dishes are huge and paired with different mix-ins — from cheese, to meat, to vegetables.
This place stands the test of time with their solid food and consistency. Come hungry as their portion sizes never disappoint!
Odd Culinary Experience
Not in Jersey City but in Edgewater, NJ. Tokyo Hanten is one of the food stalls in the Mitsuwa Market that serves up a mix-mosh of rice and noodle dishes paired with different sides. A really interesting combination is the hamburger patty paired with some type of miso gravy sauce over rice. This was the first time in my life where I had eaten a really thick hamburger patty that was also very different from a traditional hamburger patty from America. The flavor profile had hints of onion and pork and the texture was really supple. It was super tasty, and I ordered two of these dishes on my first visit and licked the plate clean. No buns for these burgers, just bare Japanese burger patty over rice with some brown miso gravy sauce.
I love a really good lobster roll, especially one with lots of meat. I can single-handedly eat six lobster rolls in under 10 minutes. The lobster roll needs to have a good bread, and by that, I mean slightly warm and crispy on the outside and slathered with butter on the inside. The first bite should be crispy, followed by buttery, followed by pillowy goodness on the interior of the roll all mixed in with a nice mayonnaise sauce in the lobster filling. Hooked JC delivers on this ideal lobster roll and is a great addition to Jersey City.
I order it with fries and jam the fries into the lobster roll to unleash my inner fat kid. Then, I’ll go for my second round of the same thing.
Biscuits, fried chicken, pancakes, pizza and doughnuts as hangover food? Nope, not with me. Ramen is my staple for a hangover and we are not talking about instant ramen here. It needs to be the legit high-end ramen from Japan. The broth needs to be a thick, rich, creamy, porky, deep-flavored stock that’s been cooked for hours on end. The noodles need to be freshly made and cooked to al dente so that they hold their texture. Ani Ramen is a fairly new ramen addition to Jersey City and my favorite. They hit on all the elements that make ramen great. I usually order an extra side of ramen and pork belly with my order of the pork tonkatsu ramen.
Their sake soy-glazed chicken wings are very addicting and a great addition to the meal to help you heal from the drunk mess that one partakes in. Carbs, broth, sodium, fats, and protein … yeah, that’ll sober you right up.
Thank you, Chef Arthur Gonzalez, for taking us on a culinary tour of Long Beach!
Stay tuned for more EAT THIS CITY — where each week we’ll feature a premier chef in a different city sharing their insider eating tips! Missed a week? Check out Long Beach, Phoenix/Scottsdale, Washington D.C., Dallas, Indianapolis, St. Louis, Napa Valley, Asheville, Charleston, Columbus, Kailua-Kona, Monterey, San Antonio, Louisville, Nashville, Raleigh, San Diego, Cambridge, Hoboken, Hollywood, Return to Miami, Return to Las Vegas, Manhattan, Oakland, Paris, Portland, Tampa, Durham, Toronto, Baltimore, Monterey, Vail, Lexington, Bentonville, San Antonio, Warsaw, Kansas City, NYC, Washington DC, New Orleans, Cleveland, Miami, Seattle, Las Vegas, San Francisco, Sydney, Portland, Chicago, Austin, Los Angeles, Brooklyn, New Orleans, Providence, Memphis, Orange County, Boston, and Detroit.
See you next week!