We’re cruising into fall with the latest edition of Jersey Bites Buzz, where Susan Bloom takes a look at some recent and upcoming openings around the Garden State. Have a restaurant/food outlet opening, closing, or other key development to share? Email your news to [email protected].
City Perch Kitchen + Bar
With James Beard Award-winning chef Sherry Yard at the helm, City Perch Kitchen + Bar launched a soft opening on August 5 and fully opened for brunch, dinner, and late night service beginning in mid-September. Signature dishes at the nearly 180-seat “seasonal American dining room” include brioche-crusted Maryland blue crab cakes with Old Bay remoulade, frisée-citrus salad, and yuzu vinaigrette, herb roasted chicken with charred cauliflower, arugula and cilantro purée, and spiced citrus vinaigrette, and a dessert of black ‘n blue pot pie, featuring farmers market blackberries and blueberries, flaky puff pastry, and blackberry crumble swirl ice cream. Adam Seger oversees the eatery’s cocktail program, and his specialty beverages pay homage to Fort Lee’s rich film history. One cocktail worth noting is the Ay Chihuahua, which features a blend of Camarena reposado tequila, passion fruit, and homemade ginger beer. A brand new restaurant in Fort Lee’s new Hudson Lights development, “City Perch Kitchen + Bar’s interior design elements play off eclectic, assorted woods, warm colors, and pastoral touches, creating a cozy, warm, and inviting space peppered with patinated metals, aged leather, and distressed surfaces to produce a welcoming, rustic industrial aesthetic,” said Yard, a renowned pastry chef and Food Network host. “We hope that guests will find the food delicious, approachable, and interesting all at the same time and that after the last bite they can’t wait to come back again.”
Ground Connection Coffee Bar
3 Second Street
On August 10, Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop was on hand to help celebrate the official grand opening of Ground Connection, a coffee shop serving specialty, small-batch roasted coffee and espresso drinks as well as a quick casual menu of sandwiches, salads, flatbread pizzas, baked goods, and more prepared fresh daily. Ground Connection’s first two locations—in the Shops at Riverside in Hackensack and in the Livingston Mall—both opened in 2015. All three offer signature coffee drinks including the Cortado, a double shot of espresso and hand-steamed, farm fresh milk served in a six-ounce cup, and its nitro cold brew coffee, “our version of which is formulated to be smooth and creamy because of the well-dispersed infusion of nitrogen,” said Scott Gillman, owner and CEO. “Customers are also enjoying our Coffee Shop cheeseburger, a juicy and delicious burger made with smashed and seared certified Angus beef, American cheese, and Ground Connection special sauce on a toasted bun as well as our five different styles of avocado toast, one of which features fresh multigrain bread sourced from Brooklyn topped with avocado, olive oil, sea salt, micro basil, and a fried egg. Seating about 60 inside and outside with a simple, clean décor, “our goal is to serve freshly-made, delicious food and drinks in a very friendly and professional atmosphere,” said Gillman. (Gilman is CEO of the Mascott Corporation, which has owned and operated such brands as Smashburger, Noodles & Company, and Seattle’s Best Coffee.) “Ground Connection is also a place for guests to slow down, relax, and connect—with each other and with our employees,” he said.
MOM’s Organic Market
1631 Kings Highway North
Officially opening its doors with live music, giveaways, meet-and-greets with environmental organizations, and more, MOM’s Organic Market—an environmentally-responsible and local organic grocery chain currently comprised of 16 stores, largely in the Washington, D.C., Maryland, and Virginia area—launched its first New Jersey location in Cherry Hill the weekend of August 26. The store is proud to feature only the highest quality, 100% certified organic produce, an all-organic vegetarian eatery called ‘Naked Lunch’ which features such signature items as fresh salads, rice steam bowls, and juices, free car charging stations, 100% sustainable seafood (right down to the canned tuna!), a recycling center for wine corks, eyeglasses, plastic bags, cell phones, household batteries, and shoes, a backyard beekeeping section to equip customers with all the tools needed to sustain these crucial pollinators at home, an expansive health and wellness section with bulk herbs and body care products, and a wide variety of Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS)-certified clothing, pillows, and mattresses.
“We’re really happy with the response we’ve received from the Cherry Hill community since opening; people are appreciating our high quality 100% organic produce, our Naked Lunch vegetarian kitchen, the excellent service our employees are offering, and our environmental efforts,” shared MOM’s founder/CEO Scott Nash. “We hope to be an integral part of the Cherry Hill community,” added another store spokesperson, “and to help people embrace a different way of eating and thinking about food.”
1055 Hamburg Turnpike (in Wedgewood Plaza)
Since officially opening on August 24, visitors to the authentic Italian eatery have enjoyed a variety of locally and seasonally-sourced menu items as well as such signature dishes as Tagliatelle Bolognese, Pork Agnolotti, and Polpetti with Polenta; overseen by CIA-trained Executive Chef Robbie Felice, the restaurant also offers a salumi menu featuring a range of in-house butchered and cured meats including prosciutto, coppa, guanciale, pancetta, and more. According to General Manager Jin Lee, a seat at the restaurant’s special ‘Bar’ area, available by advance notice only, “offers a direct view into the open kitchen, where custom tastings tailored to a guest’s preferences are created by Chef Robbie and his team. The menu there features dishes both on and off the menu for a unique and different experience every time.” The restaurant sports a festive and casual vibe and Lee said that the team at the rustic, 70-seat BYOB looks forward to welcoming a steady stream of new and regular customers. “Our first few weeks of service have gone great and we’re definitely super excited for things to come,” said Lee.
Ani Ramen House
(photo at top; website currently directs to Montclair location)
218 Newark Avenue
This October, Ani Ramen House will follow up its successful flagship outlet in Montclair (opened in 2014) with a second location situated in the heart of downtown Jersey City’s “restaurant row.” The restaurant will feature its signature Japanese ramen noodle soups (incorporating custom noodles by Sun Noodle) and other acclaimed dishes such as pork buns, crispy gyoza, and yakitori as well as a full bar serving craft cocktails and sake. The Jersey City location will also feature a secluded outdoor courtyard where guests can gather and enjoy a variety of skewers from the Yakitori grill. The 2,000 square-foot space will seat 110 people, serve lunch and dinner daily, and will feature mural artwork by artist Rich Tu.
BGR The Burger Joint
9 West South Orange Avenue (The Gateway)
(Phone number TBD as of publish date)
In mid-to-late October, BGR The Burger Joint is scheduled to open its first New Jersey location in South Orange, in the space formerly occupied by Mara’s Café & Bakery. The 2,300 square-foot spot will seat about 60 people inside and outside and will feature such signature items as its Western BBQ burger, a grilled burger piled high with applewood-smoked bacon, the restaurant’s housemade BBQ sauce, cheddar cheese, and an onion ring. “You can also customize your own beef, turkey, or veggie burgers and we also offer other menu items as well, such as our Ahi tuna with grilled pineapple, teriyaki sauce, pickled ginger, and housemade Mojo sauce served either on a sandwich or salad,” said Ed Kelley, President of BGR Franchise Company, who noted that the award-winning restaurant is known for cooking over an open flame and grilling to temperature. With some 25 locations currently located largely in the Washington, D.C., Maryland, and Virginia area, “we’re thrilled to launch our first New Jersey location with franchise owner and restaurant veteran Phil Sannitti and his sons Paul and Michael—they’re a wonderful family with great character and entrepreneurial spirit and we’re excited to empower them to win,” Kelley said. “We’re also targeting the eastern seaboard from Boston to Orlando for additional locations, so we see plenty of growth opportunities ahead.”