The Jersey City Heights neighborhood has come a long way. Over the past few years, this area has been discreetly upping its game. Young creatives, like myself, are putting their roots down. The trendy coffee shop scene is flourishing. Street art is omnipresent. Among all the new businesses, luxury residences and restaurants opening their doors, the Jersey City Heights section is now on everybody’s radar.
Whether you live in the area or are just passing by, nothing warrants a trip to this neighborhood more than some good eats. Of course, the restaurant industry is still rebuilding itself amid the pandemic. But, what better time to reward these local businesses for their resiliency? From newer entries including a Mexican-Salvadorian cafe to a tried-and-true BYOB spot (I’m looking at you, Corto), here are the best Jersey City Heights restaurants that you can eat at right now.
Order the ricotta toast. Get the meat and cheese plate. Don’t skip the mafaldine or the Angry Chicken. You know what? Just play it safe and order everything. If you’ve been to Corto, this is standard protocol. For me, it’s purely because I don’t want to ever miss out on what Chef Matt Moschella is cooking up in his kitchen. Is food FOMO a thing?
This BYOB establishment first opened its doors in 2018 and since then, it’s earned some serious street-cred. Its fan base includes Thrillist, The Infatuation and BA’s Brad Leone. If you’re a newcomer to the area, Corto specializes in approachable Italian cuisine and has a super laid back atmosphere. There’s not a wine glass in sight, but expect Jono Pandolfi plates and locally sourced ingredients.
The overall homey vibe matches their simplistic approach to food. Think housemade spaghetti tossed with anchovy and garlic. Octopus over borlotti beans with pancetta and leeks. Chocolate olive oil cake with sea salt. Note that their menu does include an ever-changing list of specials, and reservations are a must here. During the warmer months, and now winter, you can book a table on Corto’s covered outdoor patio (with heaters).
Bread & Salt
Of all the Jersey City Heights restaurants on this list, none have garnered as much attention as Bread & Salt. Even the New York Times paid them a visit. Back in 2019, this counter-service spot replaced what used to be Pizza Vita on Palisade Ave. In the weeks and months that followed Bread & Salt’s opening, there was always a line of patrons waiting outside their garage-like front door.
This all quickly changed when COVID hit. Don’t get me wrong, there’s still a crowd of people hovering nearby on any given weekend. But the restaurant itself has now exclusively become an online shop, available for pick-up (or walk-up) only. On the menu, you can find pantry items like pasta, beans, olive oil, cookies, meat and cheese. Chef Rick Easton is still hard at work though, cooking up their signature pies, sandwiches and even sweets. Imagine homemade bomboloni and crostatas. You can keep up with their schedule and alternating menu by following them on Instagram.
For fans of Anthony David’s, Chef Jamie Ramirez spent 14 years working at the famed Hoboken restaurant before opening his own spot, The Franklin. When this BYOB brunch and dinner eatery came onto the Jersey City Heights scene in 2019, it immediately made an impression on locals as an upscale corner retreat.
The menu here is mainly Italian, and Chef Ramirez puts his pasta-making skills to the test with Cacio e Pepe, wild boar ragu, cavatelli carbonara and more. Although for dinner, it’s hard to turn down the braised short ribs. He’s also taking creative liberties with The Franklin burger topped with burrata and chorizo or the octopus appetizer with brown butter, smashed garlic, Chile de Árbol and fresh lime.
Brunch is also where The Franklin shines, offering an assortment of eggs Benedict combinations ranging from truffle mushroom with grilled polenta to smoked salmon and florentine. If you’ve got a sweet tooth, you definitely don’t want to miss out on the brioche french toast slathered with mascarpone butter or the fluffy ricotta pancakes. My go-to for something savory is Chef Ramirez’s huevos rancheros. What you’re getting are two fried eggs on top of a bed of crispy, fried tortillas covered with fresh tomatoes, red onion, avocado, pico de gallo and queso fresco. Plus, The Franklin’s brunch menu is available every day of the week, not just Saturday and Sunday.
Did you get caught up in the birria taco craze? To get your fix, Irma’s Cafe on Central Ave specializes in Mexican-Salvadorian food which includes homemade pupusas, tortas, flautas, tamales and the aforementioned tacos de birria. For newbies, that’s tender stewed meat tucked inside a tortilla that’s been soaked in beef consomme. Traditionally, extra broth is served on the side for dipping.
This quaint restaurant opened its doors in October of 2020, helmed by a husband and wife duo. While not the grandest location on this list, there’s nothing about this pint-sized spot that skimps on flavor. Irma’s condensed menu and fast-casual vibe are perfect for grabbing a quick bite. (Consider them your go-to takeout.)
There aren’t many bar-restaurant establishments in The Heights so when Low Fidelity set up shop in 2017, it was a welcomed addition. If you’re looking for true Detroit-style pizza, Low Fidelity is the spot. If you want amazing craft cocktails, akin to those of its sister restaurant, The Archer, Lo-Fi has those too.
Replacing the former Trolley Car Bar and Grill, the interior of Lo-Fi gives you arcade vibes right off the bat—think mood lighting and a pinball machine. In the backyard, they have a sweet set up with cornhole. Currently, they’ve extended their outdoor dining season and added heaters and string lights, but have since eliminated the games.
Populating the menu are their rectangular, Detroit-style pies that run the gamut from pepperoni with hot honey to pancetta with smoked mozzarella and vodka sauce. And although not the main focus, the warm burrata appetizer or cooling buffalo cucumber salad are not to be missed. Their impressive beverage offerings extend to cocktails, craft beers and ciders—often featuring local breweries and distilleries including JC’s own Corgi Spirits. The quality here of both the food and the drinks are what make this a standout.
Sure, some may see The Hutton as more of a bar, but the food is not to be slept on. In 2016, The Hutton took over Monaghan’s corner spot after nearly 40 years of service. Before that, the space was a speakeasy during Prohibition. Today, The Hutton still pays homage to its roots with lots of exposed brick, a tin roof and even elements from the original bar.
Considered these days as one of the lucky ones, The Hutton also has a backyard available for outdoor dining that’s heated during the wintertime and is outfitted with large flat-screen TVs. On the menu, goers will see odes to its Irish pub past including fried codfish and chips and a rotating draft beer list (Guinness included).
There’s also no lack of ambition here when it comes to dinner. Think an Impossible burger topped with basil mayo. A sweet potato tamale with whipped avocado, goat cheese and salsa verde. Or, a creative take on a fried chicken sandwich with naan bread, street corn, arugula and cheddar cheese sauce. Even brunch gets the out-of-the-box treatment with The Hutton’s bourbon caramel french toast topped with raisins, cashews and espresso gelato.
Fox and Crow
A “pub and parlor” is how JC’s Fox and Crow describes itself. Driving down Palisade Ave, it’s hard to miss this small, albeit colorful spot directly across from Lil’ Dove. Its vibrant graffiti exterior matches the eclectic vibe of the food and drink offerings. Currently, Fox and Crow is only open for pickup, delivery or outdoor dining. But, their sidewalk enclosure has an equally hip vibe—with space heaters.
Keeping with the laid-back atmosphere, the menu here is divided into three sections: Munchies, Light(ish) and Feast. They’re covering all the bases of American bar food from nachos and wings to pulled pork sandwiches and really good burgers. Their brunch menu boasts classics with a twist in the realm of savory ricotta toast, smoked salmon hash or pork roll (aka Taylor ham), egg and cheese with sriracha ketchup. Don’t skip the cocktails, either, which you can currently get to-go.
Does it seem like all these Jersey City Heights restaurants know their way around a brunch? Central Bistro is no exception, and they’re offering it up seven days a week in addition to lunch and dinner. Options include saucy chilaquiles, avocado toast, Nutella French toast and filet mignon eggs Benedict with horseradish and hollandaise.
This corner spot first came onto the scene at the tail end of 2018, taking over the former Cinco de Mayo restaurant at 403 Central Ave. Since then, this BYOB spot has been praised for its wide appeal to all types of eaters—even those looking for a gluten-free meal. Central Bistro boasts an equally eclectic lunch and dinner menu, everything from grain bowls and burgers to tortas, pasta dishes and goat cheese potato pierogies. Currently, the restaurant is open for limited indoor dining or offers free delivery and pickup.
Healthy and delicious is the name of the game at The Cliff. They focus on preparing foods that promote healthy living by using whole, unprocessed ingredients. This isn’t just woo-woo wellness marketing, either. The cafe itself is predominantly vegan and vegetarian with American and European influences. For seafood lovers, they’re sourcing fish straight from Iceland—I highly recommend the cod burger.
Brunch is where they really shine, think homemade smoothies and brightly colored fresh-pressed juices. If you’re still in the mood for something sweet the thick-cut brioche French toast should do the trick, topped with berries, toasted almonds, shredded coconut and mascarpone. On the savory side, you have to try the avocado toast with a poached egg and mushroom “bacon” or the breakfast burrito with potatoes and black beans. (Also available in a vegan option with tofu.) Currently, The Cliff is offering pickup or delivery and has limited outdoor seating.
Which of these Jersey City Heights restaurants have you been to? Let us know in the comments below.
Main image via @cortojc