Home Food + DrinkBars The Story of Emma’s in Journal Square, Sister Restaurant of Latham House

The Story of Emma’s in Journal Square, Sister Restaurant of Latham House

by Chris Goodlof
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Opening a restaurant is no small undertaking, especially when you’re opening that restaurant during a global pandemic. But, against all odds, Emma’s opened to great acclaim and success at 4 Path Plaza, Journal Square in Jersey City. Owned by Kris Yettra and Dan Latham, who also own Latham House, and managed by Ryan Farrell, Emma’s was built on a solid foundation. Read more about this awesome eatery in Jersey City.

The Story

emmas restaurant journal square

{Photo credit: @emmas.jc}

Farrell, 31, was born in Long Island but moved to New Jersey a decade ago. “The one thing that really struck me when I first moved to Jersey is the comradery that people have out in Jersey City,” said Farrell, “as well as most importantly the restaurant industry. “I’m proud to be living as well as working within the community.”

Farrell Met Kris Yettra and Dan Latham through a cousin who was a server at Lathan House. He was impressed with the restaurant as a whole, and how it was run.

“You could just tell it was a very close-knit family-like atmosphere they have there from the management standpoint down to their own employees,” said Farrell. “It was like one big family, and you never really got that vibe from a lot of places, especially from where I came from in Long Island.”

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emmas restaurant journal square

{Photo credit: @emmas.jc}

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Farrell really hit it off with Yettra and Latham, and especially loved how they treated everyone with respect. In October 2019, after getting to know each other for a while, Yettra and Latham called Farrell in to discuss opening a new restaurant.

“Without hesitation,” said Farrell, “I wanted to work for them.” The wheels were set in motion and thus, Emma’s was born. Named after Yettra and Latham’s daughter, Emma’s was planned to take over the location of PJ Ryan’s.

Read More: Ahri’s Kitchen: A Family-Owned Korean Restaurant in Jersey City

Yettra, Latham, and Farrell planned a grand sendoff for PJ Ryan’s on the day of the St. Patrick’s Day Parade, to be followed by an Emma’s opening a week later. But when COVID-19 hit, they had to regroup and find a new way forward.

“It requires a lot of patience when you have to run a restaurant,” said Farrell, “especially during these times, and you can’t be successful without the people around you. Without Kris, Dan, and without my own employees, this place would not be thriving if it wasn’t for all of them.”

The Food

emmas restaurant journal square

{Photo credit: @emmas.jc}

“The vision going in,” said Farrell, “we wanted to make it more of an upscale, but also very southern, warm, cozy-etiquette type of place for the cuisine.”

The menu oozes classic southern charm. From their acclaimed pulled pork sandwich to their catfish, Emma’s brings that notorious southern hospitality to Journal Square.

emmas restaurant journal square

{Photo credit: @emmas.jc}

Emma’s also has a slew of vegetarian and vegan options as well as a three-course prix fixe menu for dine-in, pick-up, and delivery.

The appetizers alone are reason enough to pay a visit or place an order. The split-pea soup, cast iron macaroni and cheese, shrimp and grits, nachos, and indulgent braised brisket quesadilla are comfort foods executed to perfection.

See More: City Diner: A Staple in Jersey City

Farrell credits the restaurant’s quality and success to the staff. “So far. It’s been phenomenal, the experience, putting the staff together.”

The Affects of COVID-19

emmas restaurant journal square

{Photo credit: @emmas.jc}

Most restaurant owners and managers have a story about how they adapted, but there are few whose story begins in the pandemic. The writing was on the wall for Farrell, Yettra, and Latham – the pandemic would scrap their chances at the opening they hoped for. But perhaps this setback could actually be useful.

“It’s an opportunity to focus on refining skills,” said Farrell, “to see what we can do better on. It’s our opportunity to work on that, and also what the customers are looking for as well. As the community itself, especially the Journal Square area, they’ve been looking for a place like ours.”

It was important for Farrell, Yettra, and Latham that Emma’s was as safe as possible for the customers. “We need to be as careful as possible because, at the end of the day, our customers are the most important thing,” said Farrell.

emmas restaurant journal square

{Photo credit: @emmas.jc}

Serious about the precautions from the beginning, Farrell and the company made sure to put in place contract tracing, mask requirements, and a host of other policies to do their part for public safety.

“We didn’t just jump right into it and not really prepare ourselves,” said Farrell. “All it takes is the community to come together, and be patient, especially with the restaurants. We’re doing the best that we can right now and the people in the community know that, they understand that, they’re patient with us and that’s all that we can ask for.”


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