Photography by James Ransom.
Next week, serial restaurateur Mat Kopec will open his third Jersey City outpost in the former La Conguita space on Grove Street. Sad as it was to see La Conguita go, the neighborhood couldn’t have asked for a more worthy replacement.
Aptly named Mathews, the new restaurant brings a particular Southern charm to the neighborhood- drawing inspiration from multiple trips to Charleston, SC.
Kopec, who left a job in finance to become an entrepreneur, entered the restaurant business almost on a whim. Late one night in 2005, while scrolling through Craigslist, he found a listing for a bar for sale on Brunswick Street. Shortly thereafter, the original White Star was born. Fast forward 11 years, and he’s now preparing to open his flagship concept.
From the moment you enter the space, it’s clear that passion drove the project. Whether it’s the design and construction crew, culinary team or house staff, Kopec looks for one specific characteristic, “Everyone must have a passion for something and for hospitality.”
To bring the concept to life, Kopec put together an accomplished team of experts from both Jersey City and across the river. Heading up the physical transformation was architect Andrés Ulises Cortés of Agencie, a Jersey City resident whose work includes some of Manhattan’s most premier properties.
Brookyln-based interior designer Kevin Greenberg of Space Exploration brought his years of NYC restaurant experience to the project.
The visual identity – logo, menus and signage – was designed by Drew Heffron, a Brooklyn-based graphic designer (and Charleston, SC native) who has worked on many restaurant branding projects. An egret was chosen as the symbol for being a common yet elegant shorebird found up and down the eastern seaboard from Miami to Charleston to JC symbolizes everything Mathews represents.
Together, the design team worked through every little detail to create the perfect vibe. After spending a few months rendering concept, the year long build out began. The team sourced wallpaper, tile, door hardware and brass fixtures from all over the world. A 1940’s light fixture was found in Berlin and now hangs prominently above the corner booth.
The general contractor was Eric Powers’ Rowhouse Construction which has extensive experience in Jersey City, previously handling the build-out of Marco & Pepe, White Star, and the Majestic Theater lobby to name a few.
The result is a sophisticated yet welcoming space. Bright and uplifting, the restaurant hopes to attract a significant brunch following in addition to its dinner service.
As for the menu, Kopec hasn’t released one publicly. He instead wants folks to come in for the full experience. He did offer up a few adjectives to help describe the food, “approachable, simple, American”. Led by culinary team Jon Mecca and Mike Kedala, formerly of “One if by Land, Two if by Sea” in NYC, the inventive menu can be summed up as “elevated and thoughtful, but presented and priced casually”.
The real show stopper, however, comes in cocktail form. Devised by mixologists Cody Goldstein of Muddling Memories, the menu is as much presentation as it is craft. For fear of not doing it justice, you’ll have to stop by for the full cocktail experience. Though I will say, they’re unlike anything else you’ll find in Jersey City.
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351 Grove St, Jersey City, NJ 07302