MAY IS AAPI HERITAGE MONTH – HERE ARE FOUR AAPI-OWNED SPOTS YOU CAN’T MISS
It’s finally spring in Jersey City! The sun is out, the birds are singing, and the pollen is a-flying. As you crawl from your home into the sunlight for the first time in what feels like months, it might feel like you deserve a little treat. May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, so with spring in full swing, why not give one of Jersey City’s AAPI-owned restaurants a try?
10 River Drive S
Babo Teahouse is like an exclamation point nestled amid the office towers of Newport. Serving up bubble tea, gelato, and various other sweet and savory snacks since 2003, this cozy café is like a sweet-toothed nerd’s dream (well, my dream, anyhow.) Stepping inside, customers are greeted with by a full mural dedicated to classic comic books and anime, with illustrations of Superman and friends sucking down milkshakes, Attack on Titan’s Eren Jaeger in full battle mode, and more. Further inside, there’s a wall of Gatchapon machines, and everywhere, there’s the tongue-in-cheek urging to “Suck My Tapioca!”
Back in 2007, when bubble tea was still a relatively unknown entity in mainstream NJ, co-owner John Sin explained to New Jersey Monthly that it was a favorite of his while growing up in Hong Kong. Fifteen years later, Babo Teahouse is still among the best. Go for the classic flavors, like black tea, earthy matcha, or enticingly bright taro, and stay for the more unusual, like chocolate Milo or brown sugar latte, all dotted with chewy tapioca.
1183 Summit Avenue
128 Newark Avenue
Mammoth cookie slinger Bang Cookies is a Jersey City staple, with their original location in the Heights and their second Downtown outpost. This year, they’re anticipating two more openings, with plans to set up shop in both the East Rutherford’s American Dream Mall and Edison’s Menlo Park Mall.
As owner George Kuan told Jersey City Upfront in 2017, the idea came from a dearth of “made to order, organic, and natural cookie” options in Jersey City. Now, five years later, their offerings have expanded – no longer limited to classic cookies in flavors like traditional chocolate chip and unorthodox espresso, Bang now serves up creative brownies, banana bread and more from their bright, friendly storefronts. You can’t miss their cheeky signage, enticing eaters to “get Bang’d in Jersey City.”
280 1st Street
Located just off Newark Avenue’s Pedestrian Plaza in the heart of Downtown, Just BeClaws has been earning rave reviews since opening its doors in 2015. The laid-back seafood joint bills its food as Vietnamese Cajun, and offers mouthwatering Southern dishes like gumbo, lobster mac & cheese, and po’ boy sandwiches, as well as succulent seafood, boiled by the pound.
The owners, brothers Francis and Nambinh Tran, come from a family of Jersey City restauranteurs, who opened the restaurant Miss Saigon in the early 1990’s. Now, the Tran brothers are slinging crab, shrimp, among other shellfish and crustaceans from their bright, nautically decorated space. Be sure to BYO – and don’t miss their fries! Stacked high with crab meat and lush with lemon aioli or cheese, Just BeClaws’s signature fries are a decadent, can’t-miss classic.
175 Newark Avenue
Milk & Cream Cereal Bar’s towering, sugar cereal-topped soft-serve creations have been a must-try on any Instagram-savvy foodie’s agenda since the original NYC location’s opening in the spring of 2017. Founded by Cory Ng and Thomas Leong, Milk & Cream is an ode to 1990’s nostalgia, complete with screens playing cartoons mounted on the walls and the occasional Rugrats or Nickelodeon collaboration.
Serving up treats like the Cocoa Dough (with Cocoa Puffs as the star of the show, and brownie bites and cookie dough as supporting characters) and the Apple Jack Avalanche (incorporating a triple threat of Apple Jacks, Honey Bunches of Oats, and Cinnamon Toast Crunch), Milk & Cream’s offerings are built to entice every 90’s kid’s inner, well… kid.
Milk & Cream’s Jersey City outpost is their first franchise location, opening its doors in May of 2020, at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic’s first wave. Even then, the line to get in stretched out from the entrance of the whitewashed brick building and down Newark Avenue. “Everyone was wearing masks. Everyone was social distancing, but at the same time, everyone was just excited to be out,” remembers Daniel Tabao, who co-owns the JC location with his wife, Stephanie.
Now, the plexiglass shield that once encircled the eponymous Cereal Bar has been removed, and Milk & Cream in Jersey City is gearing up for summer – and the location’s two-year anniversary, on May 28th. “We’re very community-driven,” Tabao says. “We’re going to do something, but it’s more about just getting the community to come out.”