Road Trip – Jersey City – Vu, Zeppelin Hall, Porta Pizza and Barcade
Had to do a little traveling for work this past week and found myself in Jersey City. Not the first time I’ve been there but luckily I got to try quite a few places I’ve never been before.
The first night our Partner took us to dinner at Vu at the Hyatt Regency. A five-course meal in a private room with a view overlooking the Manhattan skyline was honestly a great way to cap off a day of both travel and work.
One of the more notable courses was the Maryland-Style Crab Cake which was prepared very well.
For the main course I chose the fish, which was a Grilled Pike with a Quinoa Salad and Roasted Baby Heirloom Tomatoes. Pike is one of those fish I’ve just never gotten a chance to try before for one reason or another and I really enjoyed the flavor (likely enhanced by the excellent way it was prepared).
The next night I wanted to strike out and see a little more of what Jersey City had to offer. Fortunately my sister lives twenty minutes away so she served as my guide for the evening.
We started out with a couple of beers at Zeppelin Hall, an authentic German biergarten. Draft selection didn’t quite compare to my local Tampa favorite, Mr. Dunderbak’s, but it got the job done. That’s a Hoeggarden and a Hacker Pschorr Oktoberfest.
After drinks we headed to an upscale pizza and pasta restaurant called Porta Pizza.
It’s important to note that Murphy’s Law of Rare Beers is not without a sense of irony; after trying Victory’s Kirsch Cherry Gose for the first time a few weeks ago, I’ve been searching Tampa high and low for a taphouse that has it on draft or a liquor store that sells it in bottle but to no avail. Funny that I find it again in a pizzeria in Jersey City of all places.
We ordered the olives to snack on while we had our drinks which were very good. They included among others, Castelvetrano olives, which is a particular variety that isn’t easy to find in Tampa.
For dinner we split a Margherita Pizza and an order of Ravioli. Let’s be honest here; we could have taken the PATH into NYC and found a decent slice of pizza in ninety seconds by walking in any direction. But as with the biergarten, the pizza at Porta got the job done. I was slightly more impressed by the ravioli which was served with a really savory cream sauce, somewhat reminiscent of an Alfredo but with a distinct smokey flavor.
Our server kept raving about a new desert they had just started serving so we gave it a shot and it wound up being the Piece de Resistance. The Dark Chocolate Covered Extra Virgin Olive Oil Gelato Bar with a Brown Butter Crumb was amazing. I’m not much of a desert guy but I do like some ice cream every now and then and this stuff was off the chain.
We ended the evening with a couple more drinks at a really unique little joint called Barcade. As the name implies it purveyed an impressive selection of both craft beers and vintage arcade games. Every game I remember from arcades in my childhood was there; Donkey Kong, Ms. Pac Man, Mr. Do, Asteroids and many others. If you played it when you were a kid in the 80’s it was there and its apparent someone put a LOT of love into locating and/or restoring functioning cabinets of all these games. The draft selection was impressive and I went with Rogue’s Hazelnut Brown Ale which I had never tried before but really enjoyed.
While Jersey City may not be anyone’s first choice when it comes to food, especially with all the epicurean options of New York City right across the river, there were still some gems hidden away and I’m glad we took the time to explore a few.
Been to Jersey City? Have any favorite locations? Leave a message in the comments section below!
And remember… the food abides…
Review – 100 Montaditos
I tend to shy away from chain restaurants and their cookie-cutter menus but 100 Montaditos is an exception in almost every way possible. First, it’s a primarily European chain with only two other US locations, one in NYC and another in DC so it’s not exactly like a Chipotle. Second, their menu, is so huge you could eat there 1000 times and never get the same combination twice. Third, I’ve seen the menus for their other locations and there are definitely some variations. All of which, coupled with the incredible flavors of their food, garnered the need for a review…
Literally translating to “100 small sandwiches,” I probably wouldn’t have attempted to seek out 100 Montaditos on my own (and if it wasn’t for the fact that it opened up right next door to the Wiregrass Brass Tap that I frequent every other weekend I might not have ever tried it). When explaining it to others, the best description I can give is “Spanish Sliders.” I love choice when it comes to menus and this place serves it up in droves.
With a decidedly Spanish décor, 100 Montaditos is another type of half-service location where you order at a counter and they bring you your food. Because the selection is so large, they give you a paper menu and a pencil and you check off what you’d like (as if you were ordering sushi). With a number of different kinds of breads, sauces, meats/fishes, cheeses and toppings, the flavor combinations are outstanding.
My first time there I tried the #15 (Baby Shrimp, Lettuce and Ali Oli), the #71 (Smoked Salmon, Cream Cheese and Arugula), and the #77 (Anchovies, Fresh Tomato, Mayo and Spanish pickles). On the side I just ordered some fries with their incredibly spicy Serrano Ketchup and a small bowl of their Spanish Olives.
You would think three tiny sandwiches wouldn’t be much, but once it’s on the plate it’s actually quite a lot of food. Everything was fresh, from the meat to the sauces to the bread. My favorite of the bunch was the # 77. The anchovies and the pepinillo pickles were extremely flavorful (and I don’t normally reach for mayo when I make a sandwich).
On my second shot, I tried the #25 (Tuna, Fresh Tomato, Arugula, Spanish Pickles and Ali Oli), the #66 (Manchego Cheese, Fresh Tomato, Green Pepper and Anchovies) and the #75 (Smoked Salmon, Blue Cheese, Arugula and Olive Oil). This time I tried the Bravas Potatoes instead of the fries and while I wanted to try to Ali Oli sauce as a side, the spice-o-holic in me couldn’t tear myself away from the Serrano Ketchup.
Again, nothing short of a flavor explosion. The #66 was my favorite in this bunch although the Tuna in the #25 held it’s own. The Bravas Potatoes were a little more robust than the fries and I will probably stick with those on future visits.
For those with a proclivity for red meat, there are plenty of options from traditional Spanish meats like Chorizo, Serrano Ham, Salchicho, Lomo and Christorra as well as more American fare like Philly Steak, Meatballs and BBQ Pulled Pork. If you’re looking for something other than a sandwich, they do have salads and a number of appetizers and small plates like Tortilla Espanola (a type of Spanish egg fritata), Crispy Calamares, and Croquetas.
If you want to have a drink, a selection of beer, wine and sangrias are available. While I was waiting, I did hear someone at the table next to me comment on how much they loved the sangria, so take from that what you will.
100 Mondatidos also has specials on Wednesdays and Sundays with Wednesdays being 1.00 sandwiches and Sundays a 2 for 1.
And while I don’t have much of a sweet tooth, their Chocolate Montaditos look kind of amazing. Chocolate bread with different combinations of fillings like Sweet Cream, Hazelnut Spread, Chocolate/White Chocolate, Spanish Almonds and Oreo Cookies look like they will win over desert lovers everywhere.
As you can probably tell from my above photos, I’ve preferred to take their food home rather than eat in-house and 100 Montaditos just might have become my Sunday night go-to, when I just don’t feel like cooking. Although at some point I’m pretty sure I will order takeout again, bring it the 10 steps next door to the Brass Tap and eat it there. Pairing this food with a spicy beer like 5 Rabbit’s 5 Vulture Oaxacan Dark Ale or Pair O’Dice’s Mexicali Jalapeno Lime Pale Ale would be nothing short of astounding.
Tried 100 Montaditos? Leave a message in the comments section!
And remember… the food abides…