Hard Grove: Flavorful, Authentic Cuban Food in Jersey City

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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, authentic fare. One such restaurant that does just that is Hard Grove Jersey City. A longstanding restaurant in the heart of Grove Street, Hard Grove showcases the best of the best flavors from Cuba. The restaurant features a brunch, lunch, and dinner menu filled with many popular Cuban dishes as well as some classic delights that showcase the incredible work of owner Carmen Mendiola and chef Evelyn Padin, a James Beard Foundation Recipient. Despite the hardships of the pandemic, Hard Grove has proven that it can handle just about anything. Team HG was lucky enough to chat with Hard Grove to learn all about this Cuban restaurant. 

hard grove jersey city

{Photo credit: @hardgrovejc}

Hard Grove’s Origins

hard grove jersey city

{Photo credit: @hardgrovejc}

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 hopes and desire to bring Cuban culture to Jersey City, ignited the idea for this endeavor of hers. Originally, the restaurant occupied a space on Grove Street where she also owned the building and apartments above the retail space below. The restaurant moved, just a few blocks down, to its new location on 1st Street in Jersey City and has been operating there for the last eight years.

The Lowdown on Cuban Cuisine

hard grove jersey city

{Photo credit: @hardgrovejc}

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 ties in a mixture of Cuban and Puerto Rican dishes that have earned the restaurant some very notable recognition. The chef, Evelyn Padin was named a James Beard Foundation {a nonprofit that honors chefs and shines the spotlight on successful change makers} recipient.

Read More: Cuban Food Delivered to Your Door: La Isla Is Open for Delivery + Pickup

The Menu

hard grove jersey city

{Photo credit: @hardgrovejc}

On the menu, are a heap of dishes that will tantalize the tastebuds. Some favorites among the community include the ropa vieja, a very traditional dish, and a staple in all Cuban restaurants that includes shredded beef in 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 is out of this world. Other popular dishes include 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 serves papa rellenas, empanadas, Cuban sandwiches, and a variety of seafood dishes.

hard grove jersey city

{Photo credit: @hardgrovejc}

Hard Grove also has a very tailored drink menu with classic Cuban favorites such as the mojito, Cuba’s classic cocktail, and different types of sangrias. The mojitos are some of the best in the area and are made fresh. With a wide variety of choices — think coconut, mango, Hennesey, and the classic mojito — mojitos fly from the bar on a daily basis.

Responding to COVID-19

hard grove jersey city

{Photo credit: @hardgrovejc}

Due to the current situation, Mendiola had to adjust her business plan in order to maintain safety for her guests and employees. Luckily for us, we can continue to enjoy the treasures of the menu while still feeling comfortable and safe.

The restaurant, which is located on 1st and Newark Avenue in Jersey City is situated on a strip of road that has been closed off. To encase the outdoor dining area, Mendiola had a deck built so guests can enjoy dining in the open air at six feet apart. Also available is a grab and go bar from the front of the restaurant. Many people enjoy grabbing drinks while they wait for their food to come out.

See More: Cocina Candela: Authentic Puerto Rican Food in Montclair

Hard Grove is working tirelessly to ensure the safety of all those who visit the restaurant. Mendiola was even appointed by NJ Governor Phil Murphy as chair of the Restaurant and Small Business Advisory Committee in Jersey City. Her job, which includes bringing together restaurants and small businesses in the area to hear their concerns and opinions regarding their businesses, is one that she takes very seriously. She delivers that feedback to the governor’s office as they devise a plan for reopening. Our community is lucky to have such a dedicated, intelligent, and committed business owner like Carmen.

The restaurant is open Thursday and Friday from 12:00PM until 8:00PM and Saturday and Sunday from 3:00PM until 8:00PM. Be sure to check out their brunch, lunch, dinner, and catering menu on the website here.

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Hoboken homeowner and lover of all things local, Danielle made her home in the Mile Square City nearly six years ago. Danielle is a second grade teacher by day; after hours, she can be found in the kitchen whipping up a a new recipe or grabbing a bite to eat with her husband and friends. Danielle is the try-er and buyer of all things beauty and loves finding a good deal. Shopping on Washington, interior decorating, and riding her Peloton are just a few of Danielle's favorite things. Oh, and did we mention her undying love for the New York Yankees?