By now you’ve heard about Kitchen Step – the former Thirty Acres spot that’s become a true neighborhood gem in Van Vorst Park. But you probably haven’t heard the story behind the name: why a piece of Portland marble was so significant in Jersey City in the 1800’s, and where Cory Checket found those insane Victoire Canopy Balloon Chairs in the window.
Cory and his team wanted a place where someone could become a regular, creativity and taste uncompromised. “The bartender, Ray Keane, is probably the most talented in the state – you need to try one of Ray’s cocktails, it’s an experience in itself and one you won’t soon forget,” Casey Cotton, the team’s brand consultant says excitedly as we easily pull into a parking space out front.
I tried them. It is true – they are amazing (but can you really go wrong with cocktails handed to you in a rose gold pineapple goblet?). The inspiration behind the bar design? “A grand stand, where a big band would be playing – we just happen to be showcasing our bartender instead” laughs Cory.
But, being a design obsessive, what I really wanted to know was – why the name? And why such a departure from the Battello aesthetic, the team’s other venue?
“The father of Cornelius Van Vorst was gifted the piece of marble that sat at the base of a statue of King George III in Bowling Green after a citizen’s revolt took it down, and after it was upended as a grave stone for Major John Smith of the British Army in Paulus Hook,” Casey says. “He eventually gifted it to his son, who decided to use it as a step from his kitchen to his garden…it was a mystical thing.” People came through his garden, crossing over the step, and Cornelius would entertain, have dinner parties, and welcome guests into his garden. “It became a symbol of friendship and hospitality, known as a ‘corner-stone of liberty’. That’s the type of feeling Cory wanted in this space,” Cotton says.
“I tend to get a little into the masculine side when I start to design, a lot of iron and wood. But this one, I wanted to go a little softer,” says Cory. “I partnered with Marina Cheban – she does mostly high end homes, but she agreed to tackle this with me. So she brought in the mirrors, the chairs, suggested the faux living wall.”
Hold up – those chairs! “They are from a company called Absolom Roche. It’s where I have all my meetings. I sit in those all the time.”
Next time you’re eating at Kitchen Step, look up. The ceiling canvases were there originally, specifically for sound absorption. “I have a friend who has a tattoo studio around the corner – we brought all the canvases to him. They were so big he had to paint them on the street and it actually helped to garner us a lot of attention because people were like what are you doing?”
Our conversation wrapped on the topic of real estate in Jersey City. At the time, I was headed out to meet my realtor to check out some single family homes in Jersey City Heights – I shared this with Cory. “Such a good neighborhood! The Heights took a while, a little longer than most people thought, but investing in it is long overdue. Things are happening up there for sure.”
Next design stop – the Heights?
The Kitchen Step is a neighborhood bistro in the downtown Van Vorst section that celebrates Jersey City’s rich history and delivers thoughtful market-inspired cuisine and craft cocktails in an intimate and inviting atmosphere. Open for dinner daily, closed Mondays, and serving brunch on the weekend.
Beginning in November, on Tuesday nights, guests can bring their own bottle with no corkage fee; as of November 6th, The Kitchen Step will offer dinner on Sundays from 5:00 – 9:00 PM
Interiors by Marina Cheban of Cheban Interiors
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500 Jersey Ave, Jersey City, NJ 07302