Exploring Jersey City: Journal Square Neighborhood

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Adventure day has become a weekly thing, and before it’s too cold, you need to get in one last trip exploring an area of Jersey City. We’ve already brought you through Hamilton Park, Van Vorst Park, Paulus Hook, and The Village  neighborhoods, and now it’s time to peruse the Journal Square neighborhood. Here’s a bit of exploration of the Journal Square neighborhood of Jersey City — places to see, things to eat, and of course, history. Happy adventure day!

History

If you’ve ever passed through the Journal Square Path station, you may have noticed the 14-foot bronze statue of Jackie Robinson, honoring him as the first African-American professional baseball player {who played for the Jersey City Giants}. While it’s a hustle-and-bustle type of spot in present day, back in the 1600’s, Journal Square was covered in farmhouses and manors built by the Bergen settlers. With its convenient location and proximity to Ellis Island, Journal Square become HQ to Jersey Journal, which set up shop in downtown JSQ. And as far as transportation goes, the Jersey Central, Pennsylvania, Erie, and Lackawanna railroads all made one of their first stops in Journal Square.

In post war-years, Journal Square lost its once glamorous status as the railroads collapsed, business declined, and crime increased. The JSQ Transportation Center as we know it today opened in 1973 — and now has more than 8.3 million people yearly that pass through it. Journal Square is known for the distinctive neighborhoods surrounding the station including India Square, which has the highest population of Asian Indians in the Western Hemisphere, and Little Mania, home to numerous Filipino-owned grocery stores, bakeries, and restaurants. We took a tour of the area to scoop out the good eats and what’s to see in Journal Square.

#EEEEEATS and Drinks

Philippine Bread House {530 Newark Ave}

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Philippine Bread House is a pastry-lovers dream, as all of their breads, rolls, and cakes are created from scratch with fresh ingredients. The main event is their ensaymadas, which are brioche breads covered with butter, sugar, and cheese flakes and filled with coconut or purple yam. They offer multiple different types of cakes that can be custom ordered included Black Forest and Pan de Coco as well as Filipino specialties such as Bibingka Cassava and Ube Halaya. There is a café attached to the bakery serving Filipino comfort food such as adobo pork and fried fish with vegetables.

Monteleone’s Bakery {741 Newark Avenue}

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Monteleone’s Bakery is an old-school bakery at heart. With no website and running a cash-only operation, this 60-year-old, family-run bakery is the real deal. It can be a bit overwhelming when you first enter the shop with so many baked goods to try, but the staff is super friendly, knowledgeable, and will happily answer all of your questions. The best part: You can easily spend less than $10 and leave with a box filled of custard-filled cookies, small and large cakes, pies, cannoli, and so much more.

See More: The Best Bakeries in Jersey City

VIP Diner {175 Sip Ave}

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This American diner with a classic ’70s theme may become your new go-to spot after a night of hanging out in downtown JC. The no-frills 24-hour locale serves good food in comfy booths — and it’s worth a visit. VIP Diner‘s menu is your typical diner fare {think pancakes, burgers, and pasta} at any time of the day and will make you wonder why you went anywhere else for late-night eats.

Read More: The Best 24-Hour Restaurants in Jersey City.

Santa Maria’s Brick Oven Pizzeria {390 Summit Ave}

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Santa Maria’s Brick Over Pizzeria is an old-school pizza joint making some of the best pizza in Journal Square. In addition to the awesome pizza selection, Santa Maria has a variety of pizza rolls, calzones, strombolis, salads, sandwiches, and several seafood options. Open for breakfast with classic omelets and pancakes as well as some great baklava, this pizza parlor is complete with old school pizza ovens, arcade games, and several TVs — a perfect place to get your pizza fix.

PJ Ryan Squared {4 Path Plaza}

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If you’ve been to the Journal Square path station, you’ve probably walked right by PJ Ryan Squared. Located in the center of JSQ Transportation Center, the full Irish bar has menu options such as Frank’s hot sauce mild wings, buffalo chicken quesadillas, and chorizo chili. They have a large beer menu and extensive cocktail offerings. And with eight large TVs, this is a great spot to catch a soccer or football game. If sports aren’t your thing, live music happens every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights.

See More: The Best Places For Wings and Football in Jersey City.

Morgan Fish Market and Restaurant {542 Newark Ave}

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Tucked behind downtown Journal Square is the small family-owned restaurant, Morgan Fish Market and Restaurant. This is a classic hole-in-the-wall Egyptian restaurant serving Mediterranean-style seafood dishes such as whole tilapia, porgy, striped bass, and flounder. Also on the menu are seafood dishes such as shrimp marinated in garlic as well as a variety of appetizers such as a cucumber salad, papa ghanosh, and hummus. It’s an easy spot to grab a few friends, bring a bottle of wine, and a enjoy a relatively inexpensive and authentic meal.

Rasoi {810 Newark Ave}

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An authentic Indian restaurant in the heart of India Square, Rasoi is an Indian eatery specializing in Northern Indian cuisine. The massive menu has all of the Indian classics such as chicken tikka masala, samosas, and tandoori chicken — but the real gems here are the plentiful options of vegetarian food including the saag paneer and the chana deli. For meat eaters, they have over a dozen chicken dishes, Indian-Chinese entrees, goat and lamb, and seafood. During the week they have an extensive lunch buffet with numerous salads, appetizers, meats, rice, and vegetables for $12. And if you can’t get enough but are traveling around the state, the restaurant has two other locations, Iselin and Monmouth Junction, NJ.

Sapthagiri {804 Newark Ave}

A kosher-certified strictly vegetarian Indian restaurant, Sapthagiri is one of our favorite restaurants in Journal Square. Specializing in both Northern and Southern cuisine, they serve tasty eats like giant dosas, uttapam {similar to a thick pancake}, and a variety of combination planners, which are ideal for trying a little bit of everything. Don’t miss the papadi chat, an Indian street food made of Indian crackers topped with potato, yogurt, onion and sweet and spicy sauce. Sapthagiri is one of the only restaurants to have outdoor seating in India Squaree, so bring your dog and enjoy some tasty Indian food while taking in the vibrant bustle of the neighborhood.

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Taqueria Mi Mariachi {213 Sip Ave}

Taqueria Mi Mariachi is  an authentic hole-in-the-wall Mexican joint. With only a few small tables and a couple counter stools, this place is an absolute gem. On the menu is 10 different types of tacos including carnitas, al pastor, and tripa {for the most adventurous}. If you aren’t in a Taco Tuesday mood, Taqueria Mi Mariachi has a variety of burritos, tortas, and cerviches on the menu. Make sure to wash them down with one of their aguas frescas, and save room for flan or pan dulce for dessert.

Want some more ideas for #tacotuesday? Here are 5 Places for Taco Tuesday in Jersey City

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Whealth and Co {615 Pavonia Ave}

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A new concept for the JSQ neighborhood, Whealth and Co offers a prix-fixe, locally-sourced 3-course meal for $45. In a Brooklyn-esque space with reclaimed wood and leafy plants, you can expect to find dishes like roasted pumpkin with maple bacon, grilled fig, and goat cheese and sake poached pears with ginger ice cream. The space boasts an open kitchen and the weekly rotating menu that doesn’t leave you feeling guilty — and it is *definitely* worth booking a reservation for one of their two seatings on Friday nights.

Square 1 Eatery {283 St Paul’s Ave}

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Perched on the corner of St. Paul Avenue boarding the edge of Little India, Square 1 is truly a community restaurant. Instead of coming into the neighborhood with a restaurant concept in mind, the four owners literally sat outside the restaurant and asked the community what kind of restaurant they wanted in their neighborhood {true story}. The answer was a community, farm-to-table eatery that embraces old values while helping to shape the future of Jersey City. On the menu is an eclectic mix of global culinary techniques, where you can find a variety of sandwiches, salads, and breakfast options such as avocado naan, cheese arepas {and classics such as a pressed charred carrot sandwich}. Along with having a cozy industrial-modern interior, outdoor seating and a back patio, channels a secret urban oasis in the JSQ neighborhood. Although they are currently only open for breakfast and lunch, talks of opening for limited dinner service in the near future are happening.

Fitness

BioFit Lab {392 Summit Ave}

BioFit Lab is a new group-training based facility on Summit Ave with small group training programs as its most popular offering. The program lasts for 12 weeks, with three workouts per week. When you sign up for the program, they offer an Inbody assessment to help personalize fitness and nutrition goals. During the sessions, certified trainers coach you through your personalized work out which includes a 5-12 minute warm-up, 30-40 minute work-out, 5-12 minute energy system development, and 5-10 minute recovery period. They offer one-on-one training and Normatec Recovery Sessions, which are rapid recovery systems for athletes, coaches, and trainers.

Sacred Souls Yoga {2983 John F. Kennedy Blvd #402}

Right next to the JSQ PATH station is Sacred Souls Yoga. Owned by Komal Majmundar, a certified yoga instructor from Atamanda Yoga in Manhattan, she specializes in Hatha Yoga classes with the goal of providing a comfortable space for clients looking to relax the mind and connect deeply with the body. Besides adult yoga classes, Sacreds Souls Yoga offers private lessons, kids yoga, and massage therapy.

Things To Do/See

Mana Contemporary {888 Newark Ave}

Mana Contemporary is cultural hub housing artist studios, exhibition space, and art storage. In a former tobacco warehouse, visitors are allowed to roam through all projects currently going on at Mana Contemporary as well as watch art making techniques {several floors worth!}. In addition to have one 3:00PM tour Mon-Fri, they have a variety of special events including artist receptions, wine tastings, and Saturday nights at Mana. View their full calendar of events here.

Read More: Why Mana Contemporary {Jersey City} Is the Coolest Place Ever

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The Landmark Lowe’s Jersey Theater {54 Journal Square Plaza}

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A non-profit arts and entertainment space in the heart of downtown Journal Square, the Landmark Lowe’s Jersey Theater strives to highlight the diversity in theater and motion picture arts. Their programming ranges from jazz and swing concerts to independent film to touring musical and dramatic plays. See their full calendar of events here.

Stanley Theater {2932 John F. Kennedy Blvd}

Built in the 1920s, the Stanley Theater was once one of the largest movie theaters in the US. It was purchased by the Watch Tower Society as a convention center and assembly hall for the Jehovah’s Witnesses in 1983. Since you can’t go inside at the present day, admire the beautiful copper marquee and three arches windows from the outside {it’s totally insta-worthy}. Even if you aren’t an architecture buff, it’s worth seeing the Italian marble and granite Corinthian columns that adorn the exterior of the building.

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Lincoln Park {West Side Ave & Belmont Ave}

With over 270 acres of land, Lincoln Park is a beautiful green space in Journal Square. The park has several tennis courts, a track, a playground, a dog run and a paved road for runners and bicyclists. During the summer months, you can find yoga classes in the park and from June-October, the park operates a farmer’s market where you can snag fresh produce and eats from local restaurants.

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JSQ Farmer’s Market {in front of JSQ Transportation Center}

Outside of the JSQ path station starting in early spring and running through fall, the JSQ farmer’s market happens every week. For its 17th year {every Wednesday and Sunday from 10:00AM-7:30PM rain or shine}, you can find “Jersey Fresh” organic fruits and vegetables from local producers such as Ort Farms and Alstede Farms. The market also houses a selection of gourmet goodies such as baked goods, pickles, appetizers, and nuts with vendors like New Jersey’s Best Kettle Corn and Tornado Potato {fried potatoes on a stick!}. Click to see their Facebook page for updates on what vendors you can expect to find currently.

View our other guides to JC neighborhoods including Hamilton Park, Van Vorst Park, Paulus Hook , and The Village and stay tuned for more tips on exploring Jersey City. Tag us in your travels on Instagram @HobokenGirlBlog or #hobokengirl.

Where’s your favorite spot to explore in JC?

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Written by:

Cait lived in Weehawken for three years before moving to Jersey City a year ago. Coming from a family of restaurateurs and chefs, Cait loves everything food-related. Her passion lies in connecting and learning about people through food, whether it’s cooking, eating at a local hole-in-the-wall, or serving a meal at a homeless shelter. During the day, Cait is an inventory planner at Macys. At night, you can find her at a new art opening, immersive theater, improv comedy show, or a live music venue.