Home Food + Drink Shawn’s Table: ‘Food for the Soul’ in Jersey City

Shawn’s Table: ‘Food for the Soul’ in Jersey City

by Yiwei Gu
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In the quiet neighborhood in Jersey City’s southmost Greenville, charcoals can be found cracking and popping, with a lavish spread of chicken thighs and fat sausages sizzling on a grid. That would be Shawn of Shawn’s table where locals go for delicious grills, stews, mac’n cheese, coleslaw, and boiled peanuts — all mainstays of southern cooking, located at 271 Ocean Avenue. Here’s a look at what makes Shawn’s Table so great and what to expect from this beloved neighborhood gem.

shawn's table jc

The Backstory

shawn's table jc

A Jersey City native, Shawn loves to trace the restaurant’s “origin story” to his grandparents’ kitchen. “One day my grandma told me, ‘Either you go out to play basketball and have some fun, or stay in and watch me cook rice,’” Shawn told Hoboken Girl. “I chose to watch her cook rice. And I fell in love with cooking that day.” 

Read More: Where to Get Caribbean Food in Jersey City + Hoboken

After graduating from a local culinary school, he honed his skills at Brenda’s Place, a neighborhood haunt where bartenders and patrons know one another’s names. Ten years later, in 2017, he opened Shawn’s Table at a small space on the same street, right next to Brenda’s Place. The new place was to focus on soul food staples, or as he himself puts it, “food for the soul.”

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What’s on the Menu

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“This is what the community gravitates to,” Shawn said of his decision on the menu. The recipes are largely based on the homey dishes he grew up eating, but he took them to the next level with bolder seasonings and professional techniques.

Golden Door Dispensary

The stewed oxtail, for example, is braised in a house-made browning sauce and then slow-baked for more than two hours. The sweet, smooth maltiness of the gravy seeps well into the fibers of the meat, which tastes velvety, almost creamy when it melts in your mouth. 

shawn's table jc

Another local favorite is the shrimp. Fresh off the grill, the shrimp meat is springy, juicy, and subtly sweet despite the bold herby seasoning. It’s great on its own and is even better when served on a bed of buttery grits. Make sure to get a square of macaroni and cheese on the side. Perfectly slick and gooey, it is worth every single calorie.

The menu, posted on Shawn’s Instagram page almost daily, changes slightly every day, according to “social media reactions from customers,”as Shawn himself puts it. Oxtails and fried/grilled fish and shrimp are fixtures of the menu, but other festive items such as massive, finger-licking (literally) barbecue ribs, also pop up from time to time. 

shawns jersey city

A Closely-Knit Community

The young restaurant has a tight-knit community vibe, with about three-quarters of its customers coming from the neighborhood close by. Although the interior space was converted to a grocery and deli during the pandemic, Shawn’s Table has remained a neighborhood hangout, partly thanks to the cookout events held by the community. 

See More: Carolyn’s Soul Food: Home-Style Cooking in Jersey City

“I miss the atmosphere (before the pandemic),” Shawn reminisced of the pre-pandemic dining room where eaters rub shoulders in the intimate space. “But I’m looking forward to doing more cookout events. Maybe the next one will be organized by ourselves.”. 

He also has plans to bring his food to a wider audience, potentially by opening a second branch at a different location. Regardless of the plan, his homey, comforting dishes that have fed a neighborhood will certainly feed everyone’s soul.


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