The tide has turned in the Hudson River. While 10 years ago “bridge and tunnel” meant the trashy party people from New Jersey coming into Manhattan, New Yorkers are now heading to downtown Jersey City for their entertainment fix.
Let’s face it: Most neighborhoods in Manhattan have priced out budding artists and DIY spaces (see: every cool NYC nabe ever), and just to the west, Jersey City has become the area’s new cultural incubator. Compound that with Jersey City’s transformation over the past few decades from the dirty-water wasteland that served as a setting for the end of Sid and Nancy to a metropolis with its own gleaming skyline. Then, add in the burgeoning, electric nightlife scene, which has been cultivated by Steven Fulop, who assumed the office of mayor while still in his 30s. At this moment, Jersey City is one of the hippest places in the world.
Speaking of the mayor, we sat down with him at a cool cocktail spot called the Archer. We ordered off the drinks menu; Fulop got a beer. “We tried to keep the cool, gritty feel and the authenticity of Jersey City, but, at the same time, we tried to build a business community and attract nightlife here that works for people,” said Fulop. “I think that we are at a point today to have a good Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Tuesday night out in Jersey City. Proximity-wise, we are as close to Manhattan as Park Slope or Brooklyn Heights; once you get over the stigma of Jersey, you are in the second inning of a nine-inning game. The city is still growing and changing. Some people find things in the eighth inning and they’ve already missed it—don’t miss this. We have an energy that you can’t replicate or manufacture.”
If the mayor himself is just a beer-drinking regular guy with a vision, the people behind the restaurants, bars, shops and events are just as real and enthusiastic. Jersey City was named the most diverse city in the country by WalletHub, which empirically confirms the vibrancy of the culture that we’ve been immersed in there—it’s a true melting pot of rad folks. For this, our guide to Jersey City, we asked our editors, readers, friends and JC residents we met out on the town for recs. A few said, “Please don’t tell everybody about my favorite spot and blow it up,” one person even called us a narc, but most were welcoming and overjoyed to have you share in their experiences. We tailored most of our picks around the downtown neighborhood, within easy walking distance of the Grove Street PATH station. While you’re soaking up the incredible cocktails and culture of Jersey City, remember the chill vibe is all about the people. As our bartender Tim O’Connell, at Lucky 7 Tavern (yes, we visited each recommendation so we could confidently endorse them in the following pages), said about Jersey City and the allure of its community, “I came here knowing no one. Now, everyone I know, I know from here.”