Dulce de Leche in the Heights (376 Central Ave.) is my new favorite hangout spot in Jersey City and here’s why:
Awesome espresso and coffee is just the beginning.
The space is big and bright, thanks to the high ceilings and lighting, and is perfectly upscale while still being welcoming of the mixed clientele. The staff is a bit flummoxed, as they are still figuring it out, but so are the customers, who are still figuring out where they now live or figuring out the changing landscape of where they have always lived.
Resident Renee Lucas asked me about my favorite coffee shops, and I thought this required a post rather than a simple response.
While I have yet to try every spot (most independent shops are far from my house), I asked my trusted friend and 20-year resident of JC to help me create the list.
Here are is our collective answer:
Beechwood Cafe: Nothing, nothing beats their inviting ambiance on a cold winter day. Lots of bright light, very friendly servers if you sit on the restaurant side, which I recommend you do, and that very special feeling when your hot chocolate or latte arrives in an oversize mug with beautiful designs on top. I was here on one of the saddest days of my life last year, but I couldn’t help but smile.
Gia Gelato: This neighborhood spot has a variety of different coffees (as well as food and gelato). I’ve had regular over ice and a cafe mocha. Both were standard. While I haven’t tried the food, I hear it’s good, and the two gelatos I had here were lovely. GG also has “punch cards,” so your 10th coffee (or gelato) is free.
Mod Cup Coffee: While MC has a brick-and-mortar location on Palisade Ave., still has its wheels (follow them @modcupcoffee on twitter for locations), I think we all died over Travas’ British accent and his explanation of the importance of fresh coffee beans (imported from the source and brewed within 18 days) at the farmer’s market. Truly unique and very, very good.
Choc-O-Pain: The latte, pastries made on site and the quiche are winners according to the several who voted this French bakery and Cafe with various locations in Hudson County. The cozy atmosphere and nice art only add to the appeal. One commenter said: Their chocolate pastry “soothes the soul.”
Dulce de Leche: Whether a weekday or weekend, Dulce de Leche always has a good crowd. Beyond excellent coffee, a wide pastry selection, grab-and-go items and did we say delectable desserts??, the bakery’s lunch menu allows those who want to take advantage of wi-fi and ample seating to work through the hour sustained.
Lackawanna: The super bright ambiance and friendly baristas help you begin your morning and carry out your day. With ample seating and a beautiful backyard, many of Jersey City’s self-employed residence use thier as their office for the day.
The Cliff: The newest addition to the Heights, The Cliff offers a variety of drinks that are extremely customizable due to a plethora of dairy and non-dairy products and range of sweeteners. Also, for what they lack in indoor space, they have a cozy back deck – no other place in the area has a backyard.
Congress Station: The first coffee shop to open in the Heights in years (sparking others to open locations here), Congress offers a neat variety of coffee and espresso drinks. Good for on-the-go, as there are a few seats inside and out.
Ground Connection: Bringing back old school styles of brewing, GC expertly weighs and measures every single shot and cup to get a blend perfectly balanced for your personal preferences.
I recently visited Jersey City’s newest coffee addition addiction, Ground Connection, located at Harborside Plaza 10.
Owner Scott Gillman (of Jercey City’s Markers Restaurant) and director of the coffee program, Alex Mastrando, who is the head chef, went to different places in the city New York City “to see what was working and what wasn’t” in the coffee industry, while the head barista and store manager, German Chabur, visited Seattle and Atlanta coffee conventions to do the same.
The result is awesome “third wave” coffee in a fast-casual environment [Ed. note: “first wave” is mom-and-pop shops, “second wave” is Stabucks, et al]. “Third wave coffee means we are bringing it back to basics using real espresso with real machines and actually weighing everything properly,” says Alex as he shows me their Italian espresso machine, which is one of few in the U.S. and uses technology that just came out last year.
“You can go to a coffee chain, where the machine will weigh the coffee and the barista will push a button, but this machine can figure out the weight from the dry—it’s amazing technology,” says Alex. “The machine allows us to weigh exact grinds, program the weight, and create a ratio. So you give it the ratio, you give it the grind, and it automatically calibrates as it’s coming out. It gets that perfect ratio and its always going to be in balance. That allows us to keep our coffee consistent.”