“We named it Pet Shop after the old Village Tropical Pet Store that was here previously. And when we were discussing food options during the early stages, we thought it would be weird to serve meat at a place called Pet Shop,” says Shen Pan, one of four managing partners.
And so, the Newark Ave vegetarian bar & restaurant Pet Shop opened for business in August of 2016. Just four months old, it’s true, but they’re not really newcomers, per se. Everybody involved, from the investors to the bartenders, has been a part of the Jersey City community for years.
Managing partners Eric Speck, David Rappaport, Lindsay Gomeringer and Shen Pan have called Jersey City home for 40 years combined. And there are other small business owner investors (Adam Paterson of the Jersey City Tattoo Company and Thomas Carlson of the Jersey City Art School) who are longtime JC locals too. So they’re not new. You’ve probably already seen the bartenders around too if you’ve been doing Jersey City right.
“Everybody is super friendly and we want everybody to feel at home when they’re here,” says Pan. “Our main bar is spacious yet cozy and includes a pretty awesome jukebox, a vintage photo booth, a pinball machine, a large backroom with booths and communal tables and a backyard with picnic benches. We also have a finely crafted natural wine bar in the basement curated by our in house sommelier Chris Leo. These wines are made all natural, without any pesticides and additives cultivated by small farmers. And we have delicious vegetarian food.”
Chef Eric McGuire, another longtime Jersey City resident, created a meat-free menu that entices even most devoted meat-eaters because of its bend toward comfort food with style. Like the Buffalo Cauliflower, for example. Crispy cauliflower florets are tossed in traditional buffalo (wing!) sauce and served with vegan ranch, carrots, and celery. You had me at buffalo.
But more importantly, Pan says, is that “almost half of our friends in town are vegetarians or vegans. They could get a veggie burger or salad at most dining establishments, but their options were limited. There’s only so many times you can eat a salad for dinner in a week. We wanted to create a full menu that completely catered to non meat eaters. We’re ecstatic that people seem to genuinely love the food.”
They suggest either the Kane Head High (IPA) and/or the Asbury Park Amber Ale to undecided beer drinkers. In addition to their palatability, both are brewed nearby (Asbury Park), and so many of us pride ourselves on supporting local businesses.
Their most popular beer? Tacate.
“Our distributor told us we might be the number one seller of Tacate in Hudson County and we’re not even a Mexican restaurant. He’s as amazed as us. We do plan on putting some sort of veggie tacos on the menu in the future.”
Meet us at Pet Shop after TEDxJerseyCity. We’ll be downstairs in the wine bar.