All Aboard the Path Train
It was a speedy, easy ride from the World Trade Center station to Grove Street in Jersey City.
Up the escalator we ascended from the station, welcomed by Jersey City's downtown historic district. It's a mix of old storefronts and new high-rise buildings.
This was one of Jason's rare days off from the Dutch, which he spent eating and drinking with New York editor Max (behind the camera) and me.
"Am I really going to live in Jersey City?" Jason asked himself when moving. But keep clicking and you'll start to understand why he did...
Stop #1: Taqueria Downtown
Like a true Los Angeles transplant, Jason loves his Mexican food. He started off our JC crawl with some real-deal tamales and tacos, a short walk away from the Grove Street station.
Taqueria Downtown: 236 Grove Street, Jersey City NJ 07302 (map); 201-333-3220
Note: Taqueria Downtown has been closed since the hurricane but plans to re-open this month.
Inside Taqueria Downtown
They really like Halloween at this family-run restaurant (note: we visited in early October so the pumpkin garland is probably down by now). Underneath all the seasonal decor, the walls are covered in Los Angeles maps, Lakers and Dodgers signs, and rock band posters.
West coasters love a good fish taco, but it can be hard to find them outside SoCal. (As SoCal transplants, Jason and I bonded over this.) He comes here for the Baja-style tacos on double-layered corn tortillas, covered in fresh avocado salsa and shredded cabbage.
Pay at the counter at Taqueria Downtown, or don't if you have a Van Halen ticket stub on you! Another sign explained "los diez mandamientos" (the 10 commandments) here which included no fajitas, no nachos, no cute clay or adobe plates to match the cute clay or adobe decor.
Stop #2: Kraverie
Kimchi Quesadilas vs. Crepes
Jason and I peruse the menu, which is split into two. On one side, Mexi-Korean stuff, like kimchi quesadillas, and on the other, French-style crepes, both sweet and savory. For the indecisive types, there's a Korean Crepe served on a scallion kimchi garlic crepe with cheese, mushrooms, onions and bulgogi ribeye.
Korean barbecue short rib (galbi) gets packed into a thick burrito with lots of sticky rice, caramelized kimchi, sour cream, lettuce, and sesame seeds. "I'm not going to complain about the Kogi spin-offs," Jason said of this very Kogi-esque truck-turned-restaurant. "Kogi is still the original," he said, in reverence to the Los Angeles fleet of food trucks that spawned the Mexi-Korean trend.
Sriracha + Sour Cream Frosting
Jason shows us how he frosts his kimchi quesadila ("kimchidilla"). A squirt of Sriracha, a plop of sour cream, then it's all spread around, creating a creamy-spicy pink "frosting."
Erin's Blissed-Out Burrito Face
This was a happy moment.
Stop #3: Grand Sichuan
"I'm Chinese, so I had to find something in Jersey City, and this is quite good," Jason said of this Grand Sichuan. Jason grew up speaking Mandarin with his family, and ordered for us in Mandarin at the restaurant. Dan dan noodles, pea shoots, a tripe and tongue dish, and of course soup dumplings. "They deliver too, which is awesome. Even the soup dumplings survive the trip."
This is how Jason sauces his soup dumpling.
This is how Jason eats his soup dumpling.
Fake Stop #4: Barcade
Unfortunately it was only 2:30ish and Barcade didn't open until 4 p.m., so Jason couldn't take us to his favorite bar-cum-vintage-arcade. We peeked through the windows though and saw the sweet coin-operated pinball machine.
Across the Street
National Discount Store is your local source for Whip-Its, according to the window sign. (You're right, this isn't at all food-related but we felt like including it.)
Cobble Hill or Jersey City?
Strolling around the neighborhood, many of the residential blocks resembled my tree-lined Brooklyn neighborhood of Cobble Hill.
Jason and Erin
At some point the conversation turned to grocery shopping. The amazing Asian superstore Mitsuawa is just a ten-minute drive away. "I'll never go to Sunrise Market again." We almost hopped into Jason's car for an impulsive Mitsuawa trip...but instead, headed in the direction of cake.
Stop #3: Cake Lush
Because at this point in the afternoon, everyone could use some cake! Jason introduced us to his buddy Greggy Soriano's wedding cake bakery, Cake Lush. You may recognize the smiley Greggy from the first season of "Cake Boss: Next Great Baker" on TLC.
A plush living room inside the cake studio, where tastings are scheduled by appointment only (sorry, no walk-ins, except if you're walking around with Jason). Greggy specializes in fun, modern, avant-garde wedding cakes. The most intense (and expensive!) cake he's ever baked was this Marc Jacobs/Louis Vuitton Tribute Patchwork Cake. "I'm inspired by everything. Fashion. Shower curtains. The ground. Everything."
Culinary School Roommates
Aw, these two were roommates back at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park. And here they are now, neighbors in Jersey City.
We took our pink cake bags on a walk over to Liberty State Park, where Jason pointed out Liberty Island and Ellis Island just across the water.
Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island
"I have a 50 times better view than any of my friends in Manhattan do."
Cupcakes in the Park
Greggy sent us away with a cupcake version of one of his best-selling cakes, the chocolate hazelnut cake with cappuccino chocolate frosting.
This guy has an insane sweet tooth. "I went through an intense Ben & Jerry's red velvet ice cream phase." He loves everything pastry chef Kierin Baldwin makes at The Dutch but has to stay far away from sugar during triathlon season. "It's my two weeks of the year when I can't let myself eat sweets."
Last Stop of the Crawl: Zeppelin Hall
Beer here comes in two sizes: mug or liter. We went with the liter.
After our last sip of lager around sunset o'clock, we were back on the Path train, reverse-commuting into the city. Farewell Jersey City!