Cafe Alyce opened in 2021 in Jersey City and instantly became a fan favorite, serving breakfast, brunch and lunch inspired by an array of Jersey City’s ethnic communities. The cultural variety of Jersey City became the ideal backbone for Chef/owner Tory Aunspach’s concept— which revolved around the idea of community. WIth the help of co-founder, Natalie Miniard, the duo began conceptualizing a completely unique concept for their quaint cafe.
“Each of the world’s most venerated cuisines are characterized by the flavors and techniques of one specific culture. The question we are pursuing is ‘can a cuisine be shaped by a place whose identity is a woven fabric of cultures who share a common history?’” says Aunspach, “In other words, what would a Jersey City cuisine be like, how might it be distinct from the cuisine of New York City and how might it change how we think about ourselves as a community?” he continues.
Cafe Alyce aims to reflect Jersey City as a whole rather than by each individual culture. “This was a baby step in us questioning why a cuisine couldn’t reflect a place rather than a culture,” says Miniard.
When renowned restaurateur, Peter LeSar came aboard, Cafe Alyce began to truly hit its form. LeSar felt that menus are too static and while they offer consistency, it is difficult to capture something as malleable as the cuisine of Jersey City’s whole. What they landed on was a series of dinners that could capture it with an ever-changing, coursed menu.
“Founding a dinner series of multi-course meals that each excavate within a local theme seemed to be the best way to peel back the layers of collective identity,” LeSar states, “the culinary identity of New York City is beautifully distinct in the world, and yet Jersey City has its own separate history and character within which I believe a singular, powerful culinary identity might be hiding in plain sight waiting for the community to ask the right questions.”
Suddenly, the Alyce vision became even more clear: Put out a menu that plays on every part that makes Jersey City what it is and eventually, the community itself will come to define its culinary identity.
Chef Aunspach values community input— he wants to know from Jersey City residents what is being done well and what can be added or improved upon. This longing for community input is obscure to see from a chef and it is why this dinner series is instantly one of the most unique dining experiences in New Jersey.
Rather than simply picking the best resumes from across the country, Chef Aunspach instead aims to put an emphasis on an employee’s story. That’s why Cafe Alyce hires Jersey City’s best talents from a diverse set of cultures— allowing the team to brainstorm and collaborate on ideas using the cuisine and techniques that are close to their hearts as inspiration. Each staff member defines an individual part of Jersey City’s fabric.
Cafe Alyce’s first menu in this new era is simply called “1894.” The 10-course meal honored the year in which Cafe Alyce’s very own building was opened on Montgomery Street as a dairy brand called The Borden Condensed Milk Company. The 1894 menu is available on Friday evenings. Currently, this is the team’s only dinner service offered and is acting as a small stroke of a paintbrush in what will one day be a colorfully and extensively decorated picture.
“I believe Chef Tory is one of the bravest chefs in America right now. He wants community input to speak loudly, both to celebrate when we nail it and to help us to understand where we fall short so that we can reflect our city ever better. This desire for constructive community input is unusual in the restaurant space, but Chef Tory knows that in exploring Jersey City’s culinary identity, his team must learn together with all corners of the city. Real exploration requires that we push beyond traditional culinary boundaries…some of what we uncover will be uncomfortable and some we know will unfold timeless stories of Jersey City coming together.” says LeSar.
Dinners max out at 20 guests, so seats fill up fast. In addition to enjoying an expertly crafted meal, you are contributing to a much larger picture. A picture that, with your help, will evolve as the team learns more about the complex fabric that Jersey City is woven within.
We promise, you don’t want to miss this. Reservations for 1894 can be made here.