When the pioneering Cast Iron Lofts development was built along the northern fringe of Downtown Jersey City, the neighborhood surrounding it didn’t have much going on. That has certainly changed over the past four years, as project after project after project has caused a dramatic reshaping of the area.
Now, current and future residents of the neighborhood are in for a treat, as New York-based RB Hospitality Group is finally crossing over to the Jersey side of the river and will be opening an elevated cocktail bar at 837 Jersey Avenue. The company is the brains behind several Manhattan restaurants including the Michelin starred Junoon, the only Indian restaurant in New York City to be designated as such.
The company’s first New Jersey space was initially home to a Brewshot outpost, but owner Arun Nanda decided to go in a different direction. He reached out to his friend and RB Hospitality owner Rajesh Bhardwaj about an idea and eventually partnered with the group to commence a complete gut renovation of the space that took almost six months.
Drawn up by NYC-based Navigate Design, the guts of Jersey Social feature a bar area, traditional seating tables, and an enclave with couches and smaller tables. A mural adorns one of the restaurant’s walls and TVs are minimal, as a more intimate experience is what the owners are shooting for.
“There’s nothing like this in the immediate area,” RB Hospitality owner Rajesh Bhardwaj said. “Both Newport and Southwest Hoboken lack a higher-end type of bar experience, so we’re looking to serve Manhattan-level quality cocktails with more reasonable prices.”
For the drinks program, Jersey Social brought over world-renowned mixologist Hemant Pathak from Junoon, while acclaimed Chef Adin Langille, who was formerly the Executive Chef at Fabric by David Burke, will handle the culinary duties. Both food and drink menus will change seasonally but also feature reliable standbys, and all bartenders at the restaurant will be professional mixologists.
The cocktail menu includes several drinks that feature Indian and Asian spices meant to showcase unique flavors. Drinks currently being served include a mule with fig-infused vodka and honey-ginger syrup and Winter Is Coming — a cocktail of Filibuster “The Boondoggler” Whiskey, Laird Applejack, pomegranate syrup, lemon, and absinthe. Everything is freshly squeezed and homemade at Jersey Social, which lacks any soda guns and values the freshness of their ingredients.
The restaurant’s owners describe their food as “eclectic American fare,” and a peek at the menu shows why. Small plate choices include falafel bites, General Tso’s cauliflower, and shrimp ceviche, while medium-sized portions have options like the mac and cheese, grilled octopus, and house-cured lox. For those seeking something more substantial, a whole grilled branzino, grilled skirt steak, or mushroom fusilli could fit the bill.
A few salad options and sides like brussels sprouts, roasted roots, and kimchi coleslaw round out the menu at Jersey Social, which hopefully won’t be the last nighttime establishment to enter the neighborhood. “The area is on the cusp of popping,” said co-owner Nanda, who said he lucked out getting into the space early. “We’re biding our time before the boom, but we have a lot of long-term plans and really want to be a part of building a community here.”
A few of those plans include a Sunday brunch that should start sometime in February and light jazz and live bands in the space at some point. The restaurant has been soft-opened for about two weeks and the owners say they’ve gotten a positive reaction from the community so far. They are currently serving from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday, and Sunday, closing late at 1 a.m. on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.
Jersey Social will be officially celebrating their grand opening on February 1. You can follow the journey of the launch at their Instagram handle @jerseysocialnj or visit their newly launched website to make a reservation.