SNEAK PEEK – The Cliff: Wholesome Food in the Heights

Tonight I was blessed to get a sneak peek at The Cliff, Jersey City Heights’ much anticipated neighborhood restaurant, which is officially opening on this Saturday, April 22, 8 am – 4 pm.

When I arrived, the restaurant was abuzz with activity in anticipation of this weekend’s opening – so the photos might be less revealing than you’d like. Never fear, me and the rest of the Heights will be back to take more revealing photos this weekend. (Tag them on Instagram at @thecliffjc!) In the meantime, here’s what you need to know:

The Menu

They call it wholesome food, and it will be served during breakfast, lunch, and brunch.

During the work week, breakfast will be bustling with grab-on-the-go options, including coffee, tea, and juices. The choices are pretty varied, but the morning menu highlights include granola (made in house) served with yogurt, fruit, or both and biscuits (also made in house) served with eggs, tofu scramble, greens, avocado and/or cheese. (Definitely cheese. Extra cheese.) There’s also an acai bowl on the menu that I’m excited about.

Lunch switches to sandwiches (traditional, pressed, and open-faced), soups, and salads. I’m looking forward to the quinoa bowl with Mediterranean flavors including feta, cucumber, olives, hummus, avocado, and harissa paste (which is similar to chili paste- it’s a flavorful spice, like a flavorful pepper.)

The Fish

Ready? ALL OF THE FISH IS COMING FROM ICELAND.

Born and raised in Iceland, Eva has fond memories of seafood. “In Iceland, we have extremely pure waters. Once you taste fish from Iceland, it’s hard to eat fish from America. It’s indescribable really – it’s not oily, there’s no unpleasant odor… Wait until you try it. You’re going to love it.”

There’s a fish store in Closter, NJ called The Fish Dock. They fly in fish from Iceland a few times a week for their fish store. They’re sourcing The Cliff’s seafood selections immediately, starting with the smoked trout. Going forward, The Cliff is planning on serving a rotating fish dish each week – whatever’s fresh.


Speaking of Fresh

Look out for The Cliff’s Blackboard Seasonal Menu. This is the side menu that will change to meet the seasons.

You might remember their watermelon feta salad with mint from this past summer’s Project: Eats festival on Grove Street. That was a great example of their “whatever’s fresh” dish. Look for Jersey tomatoes, peaches, and corn in the summer, and walnuts & cranberries in the winter.

Wholesome Means Just That

“We’re health conscious, but we’re not health crazy. We’re not on a diet. I just don’t like food that has additives or preservatives. They’re completely unnecessary,” Eva told me. “We’re serving what we eat. It’s delicious and it should energize you. But like I said – we’re not on a diet. There’s fun and fattening stuff on the menu. We have grilled cheese and potato chips – who doesn’t love potato chips!?”

To be clear, The Cliff is also calling their menu wholesome because there are so many vegetarian and vegan options.

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The Owners

Eva and Gary are restaurant veterans. They’ve been working in restaurants and bars of all shapes and sizes and in all capacities for decades. They’ve been together as a couple for fifteen years, they have an amazing four (and a half) year old son, and Eva is seven months pregnant.

I asked Eva what it’s like opening a restaurant in her third trimester. “It’s insane,” she said. “It makes everything harder. Just bending down and picking up a box is impossible. I’m growing a human – this morning was really hard to get out of bed.”

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The Space

The restaurant is intimate. There’s about 20-25 seats inside and just as many outside. And it’s beautiful. Clearly Eva and Gary understand how important details are. They’ve done a lot of the work themselves, including and especially all the cement work in the table tops and the impressive countertop.

“My mom called it cement fever – ‘You all got cement fever,’ she said. She flew in from Iceland with my brother; he laid the floor. Between him, Gary, and our friend, it was all hand poured. My grandfather and my father are master masons. They were tile layers & brick layers. My brother is now third generation. My mom walked in and witnessed the madness caused by the fragility and timeliness of the material (the concrete), and I think it all felt pretty familiar to her. She recognized it immediately.”


After Hours

When the restaurant is closed, expect that the lights will still be on. “I want the space to serve as a multifunctional space for the community, especially at night until and if we up doing dinner service,” Eva told me. “That means wine tastings, book clubs, cooking classes, KIDS cooking classes, community meetings, new mommy groups, art openings, movie nights projected on the wall in back, acoustic music during brunch, etc. etc.”

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The Cliff is thrilled to announce their Grand Opening on Earth Day – Saturday, April 22, 2017 from 8 am – 4 pm. Find them at 38 Congress Street, Jersey City, NJ.

Posted by

Mel Kozakiewicz a professor, editor, writer, and mother of two.

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