Jersey City Is the Under-the-Radar Gem You Should Know

Jersey City
Tony Shi Photography/Getty Images

Located directly across the Hudson River from downtown Manhattan, Jersey City is an often overlooked neighborhood that some consider the sixth New York borough. While we wouldn’t go that far, Jersey City is a place that is worth your time. Easily accessible from New York City (it takes about the same time to get to Jersey City from Manhattan as it does from Manhattan to Brooklyn), the bustling community is full of incredible restaurants, high-end cocktail bars, great shopping, and plenty of solid hotels. If you hang out near the waterfront, you’ll find the best view of the New York City skyline in the area. Whether you’re looking to embark on a staycation adventure away from NYC or are traveling to the city and want a cheaper place to stay that has a ton to offer, Jersey City is the best bet. Here are our favorite places to play, shop, eat, drink, and sleep there.

Things to Do

White Eagle Hall

White Eagle Hall
Stephen Olker

If you love to see live music, White Eagle Hall is the place to do it in Jersey City. The newly restored historic theater is a stunner — original design details like a wrought iron, wrap-around balcony and 28-foot tin ceiling with two stained glass atriums reckon back to yesteryear as you watch your favorite modern bands take the stage. We’re not sure if it’s the design of the building or White Eagle Hall’s sound team (most likely a mix of both), but the acoustics in the venue are fantastic, no matter where in the house you’re standing. We checked out the band Real Estate when we visited, and for people of fairly average height, we’re happy to say that if you stand strategically to the side of the venue, you can see the stage perfectly. While we only had drinks when we were there, the venue also serves food on the balcony if you want dinner and a show.

Shopping

Coolvines

This wine, beer, and spirits store is your one-stop shop to grab everything you need for a fantastic party (or simply that bottle you’ve been eyeing). Coolvines sells a wide variety of both big and small brands, as well as a selection of specialty foods like cheeses, charcuterie, jams, and chocolates. Look out for complimentary tastings and in-store events so you can learn about new brands and try before you buy.

Another Man’s Treasure

The folks at Another Man’s Treasure travel the country looking for the absolute best vintage clothing and accessories for their store, so don’t expect to dig through dusty bins to find a diamond in the rough. The  men’s selection is one of the better we’ve seen, whether you’re looking for an old leather jacket, military fatigues, cowboy boots, or Hawaiian shirts. The shop even carries a curated selection of vinyl from nearby Iris Records for all you audiophiles out there.

Restaurants and Bars

Frankie

Walking into Frankie is like walking into a really well-decorated friend’s house. Bright greenery, chic lighting fixtures, and cool artwork make you want to trade your own possessions for this curated dwelling. The Australian cafe serves fresh, seasonal fare and specializes in natural wines, which we think is one of the best selections in the area. We suggest starting with the labneh, which is garnished with peach, pistachio, and honey, and the Murray’s Cheese stracciatella with olive oil and black pepper. The grilled garlic shrimp with nam jim is an absolute must as it was one of the best things we ate this year. Frankie’s burger is one of (if not the) best burgers in the neighborhood. The beef patty is crisp and charred but incredibly juicy and topped with roasted garlic aioli, pickles, and cheddar. The dish is served with house-cut fries that are sprinkled with chicken salt. Don’t miss the insanely good pavlova for dessert, which is topped with seasonal fruit (we had a tropical mix), yogurt, citrus, and herbs.

Dullboy

Dullboy Bar
Dullboy/Facebook

Dullboy serves the best cocktails in Jersey City, whether you’re looking to sip a signature creation or craving a classic. We sampled a little bit of both when we were there, and it was difficult to leave because everything was so damn good (and the staff is awesome). The tropical-tinged Maxine was our favorite, mixed with blanco tequila, banana-infused rhum agricole, creme de banana, Lillet Rose, Fernet-Branca, and house bitters. Another must-try is The Stark, which combines bourbon, Yellow Chartreuse, Amaro Nonino, honey syrup, and lemon juice. The food is fantastic too, and we highly recommend the duck fat tater tots, double cheeseburger, and chicken nuggets, which are battered in chipotle buttermilk and served with rhubarb foie gras syrup. Wash it down with a perfectly refreshing Japanese highball from the Suntory Toki Highball machine.

Mathews Food & Drink

This lively neighborhood eatery serves up new American fare and inventive cocktails in a sunny, friendly setting. There are plenty of options for our vegetarian friends and lots of meaty delights like pork belly croquettes, lamb bolognese, and a hot honey crispy chicken sandwich, which is a must-try. The staff will be able to guide you through their excellent wine list, or you can spring for a signature cocktail like the Cool Rummings, a robust mix of bourbon, blackstrap rum, vanilla, Cappelletti, Jamaican bitters, and a menthe rinse. Mathews’ brunch menu is just as excellent, so make sure you visit on weekends as well.

Piggyback Bar

Chef Leah Cohen (who owns the acclaimed Pig & Khao in New York City’s Lower East Side neighborhood) uses her Filipino upbringing and annual expeditions to the region to inspire her Southeast Asian-leaning menu at Piggyback Bar, which is located on Jersey City’s bustling Harborside waterfront. This is drinking food at its finest. We’re talking about dishes like Korean honey butter wings, five spice chicken liver pate, and a kimchi pulled pork sandwich. Piggyback Bar boasts a solid wine list, and cocktails like the Mint Condition (gin, mint liqueur, simple syrup, orange bitters, egg white, and lime) are almost too easy to drink.

South House

This three-level bar and restaurant brings a taste of Austin, Texas to Jersey City with its southern fare and Delta Blues live music schedule. The space is vast and offers games like pool and shuffleboard to keep thirsty patrons occupied as they sip their cocktails, which are excellent, by the way. Try the sweet, spicy, smoky El Jefe, a mix of rye, mezcal, Cherry Heering, orange curacao, jalapeño demerara syrup, and Angostura bitters, or choose from an impressive wine and beer list. When you’re feeling peckish, Lone Star State favorites like a Frito pie and brisket sandwich will help soak up the booze.

RoofTop at Exchange Place

Roof Top at Exchange Place
Rooftop

While we spend much of our time downtown when we visit Jersey City, its stunning waterfront neighborhood is not to be missed. Perched high above the street, the multi-level indoor and outdoor RoofTop at Exchange Place offers sweeping views of the Manhattan skyline. It’s designed with a retractable glass roof, so you can enjoy it no matter the weather or season. The cocktail list has something for everyone, whether you’re looking for a refreshing gin spritz or a strong and stirred Manhattan variation. Plates include lots of shareable options such as flatbreads, pimento cheese dip, and a charcuterie board with all the fixings. The menu also features big salads, sandwiches, and entrees if you want something more substantial. Check out the DJ-fueled parties on weekend days and nights.

Hotels

Residence Inn by Marriott

best things to do in jersey city residence inn marriott v2

We don’t discriminate when it comes to hotels — we like the big chains just as much as the independent boutique hotels, as long as they are done right. Jersey City’s Residence Inn by Marriott is one of the most comfortable and well-appointed places we’ve stayed as of late. The rooms are designed for an extended stay; along with amenities like big, beautiful bathrooms and super comfy beds, the studio-style rooms are stocked with a fully-equipped mini kitchen, including a fridge, microwave, dishwasher, stovetop, and everything else you need to cook a homemade meal. We know this sounds like a silly observation, but our room also had an iHome dock with a hookup for the current phone model. We’ve stayed at dozens of places that include the useless old model in the room, so this is a breakthrough in our minds (you know it’s true). The property has an onsite fitness center that’s open 24/7, so you can work out anytime on the go. But the best part about this Residence Inn by Marriott is the complimentary daily hot breakfast. It’s stocked with every morning delight imaginable, from fresh fruit and oatmeal to sausage, bacon, eggs, and roasted potatoes. There’s even a waffle maker for those who crave something sweet in the morning. We enjoyed the burrito bar, which has all the fixings for mini breakfast burritos that make for the perfect fuel before a day of sightseeing. The friendly staff is there to fulfill your every need, so don’t hesitate to ask them for assistance, whether you simply forgot your toothbrush or want help with restaurant reservations.