If there’s one thing we love, it’s authentic food. Whether the cuisine hails from Italy, an island in the Caribbean, or anywhere in the world really, we’re fans of traditional fare. One such restaurant that provided us just that was Hard Grove in Jersey City. Unfortunately, as of a few days ago, the restaurant announced that it was officially closed. Not to worry, loyal Hard Grove fans, the owners are already developing a new place on Newark Ave. Hard Grove showcased the best flavors from Cuba and featured brunch, lunch, and dinner menus filled with many popular Cuban dishes, as well as some classic delights that showcased the incredible work of owner Carmen Mendiola and chef Evelyn Padin, a James Beard Foundation Recipient. We’ll bring you more updates on the new place as developments continue, but read on to learn more about Hard Grove’s closure, plans for the new spot, and everything we will miss about this Jersey City gem.
Hard Grove’s last day in Jersey City was Sunday, March 26th. The owners announced the news on Instagram the day before, saying “After 25 years Hard Grove will be closing its days. We thank every single person that has walked through our doors! Tomorrow will be our last day, let’s go out with a bang! We also thank the community of Jersey City.”
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According to Jersey Digs, the restaurant is being replaced by a recreational cannabis dispensary and lounge, called Cream Dispensary.
The New Spot
The team behind Hard Grove is opening a new spot called The Sophia Rooftop, which is located at 143 Newark Avenue in Jersey City. According to the website, it is described as “A private and secured venue with a sophisticated ambiance and elegance.” The about us section also says that “The Sophia Rooftop provides you with outstanding food, presented in the most extraordinary way. We believe that our combination of fresh, seasonal ingredients, culinary expertise, caring service and experience make your party exceed your expectations. We are devoted to creating events that feature dazzling ambiance, innovative cuisine and exemplary service.”
The new space includes a rooftop, bar, and ballroom, and is able to be booked for events like corporate gatherings, weddings, cocktail parties, holiday parties, bar/bat mitzvahs, birthday parties, graduation parties, and more. You can find out more on the website.
Hard Grove’s Origins
Hard Grove was started in 1995 by a Cuban woman named Carmen Mendiola, who still owns the restaurant to this day. Her taste for Cuban cuisine and flavors, as well as her desire to bring Cuban culture to Jersey City, ignited the idea for this endeavor. Originally, the restaurant occupied a space on Grove Street, where Carmen also owned the building, with both apartments upstairs and a retail space on the ground level. The restaurant moved just a few blocks down to its current location on 1st Street in Jersey City and operated there for the last nine years.
The Lowdown on Cuban Cuisine
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The backbone of Cuban cuisine is based around African, Spanish, and Caribbean flavors with a particular emphasis on tomatoes, peppers, and spices. With added starches, think yucca and rice, and long stewed meats, Cuban food is bursting with flavor and boldness. The restaurant tied in a mixture of Cuban and Puerto Rican dishes, which have earned the restaurant some notable recognition. Chef Evelyn Padin is a James Beard Foundation (a nonprofit that honors chefs and shines the spotlight on successful change makers) award recipient.
The menu was full of a range of dishes that will tantalize the tastebuds. Some favorites included the ropa vieja, a traditional dish and a staple in all Cuban restaurants that includes shredded beef, with onions and peppers in a Creole sauce. The name ropa vieja literally translates to “old clothes” in Spanish, but is anything but that. The bold flavors and tender beef were out of this world. Other popular dishes included any of the mofongo dishes, a plantain-based dish customized with specific flavors and ingredients such as seafood, pork, steak, and more. The restaurant also served papa rellenas, empanadas, Cuban sandwiches, and a variety of seafood dishes.
Hard Grove had a vibrant drink menu with classic Cuban favorites such as the mojito, Cuba’s classic cocktail, and different types of sangrias. The mojitos were some of the best in the area: with a wide variety of choices, think coconut, mango, Hennesey, and the classic, mojitos flew from the bar on a daily basis.
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The Jersey City community will miss Hard Grove, but we will keep you updated on the new spot coming to Newark Avenue as more details come out. In the meantime, stay in-the-know by following @thehobokengirl on Instagram and TikTok.