The first thing you’ll notice upon walking into South House is it’s amazing interior. High ceilings, exposed brick, and dozens of vintage rock and roll posters make you feel like you’re south of the Mason-Dixon line. However, South House is smack in the heart of downtown Jersey City and it could very well be downtown’s biggest restaurant opening of the summer.
The multi-floor restaurant is divided into three areas — the patio area, the bar, and the dining area. The patio area is actually enclosed within the restaurant, but huge windows make you feel like you’re dining al fresco. Behind the patio you’ll find what looks like an endless wooden bar with flat-screen TVs hanging high above. Beyond that is a slightly more intimate dining area adorned with vintage music posters from the likes of Jimmie Hendrix, Bob Dylan, and Janis Joplin.
The restaurant had its soft opening on July 17th and since then has been operating in preview mode. That means it’s offering just a tease of what’s to come. Currently the menu is divided into appetizers (BBQ wings, bacon-wrapped onion rings, etc.), salads (detox salad, dandelion salad, etc.), and “between the bread” where you’ll find meatier entrees like BBQ pulled pork, smoked brisket, and cheddar bacon.
I had the detox salad ($14), a generously-sized green salad with kale, broccoli/cauliflower crowns, raisins, carrots, almonds, sunflower seeds, parsley, and dried cranberries. You can pair it with one of five different dressings — I went with the refreshing avocado, cilantro, lime vinaigrette. It’s an expensive salad, but it’s more than enough for two people. I also had a side of the excellent potato salad ($7), which packed a nice amount of heat/spice. It’s not your traditional potato salad, but absolutely worth a try. My least-favorite dish was the down home deviled eggs with smoked paprika ($9). It was good, but it lacked any real kick or spice.
The cocktail menu is very impressive with signature drinks like Joplin’s Juice (Brooklyn Gin, Liquor 43, Fernet Branca, grapefruit, and lemon juice), Forever 27 (Tito’s vodka, fresh-muddled cranberries/rosemary, and ginger beer), and the Texas Ranger (Buffalo Trace Bourbon, vanilla-bean infused Chartreuse, mint, lemon juice, and honey syrup). I went with the latter, which was potent, sweet, and deceivingly smooth. There’s also an extensive beer and wine list along with a daily happy hour that runs from 4pm till 7pm.
Although there’s no dessert menu at the moment, our waitress assured us that they would have an in-house baker when the full menu kicks in, which is expected to happen around August 1st. The restaurant definitely has some kinks to work out (for instance I got my drink from a very apologetic bartender long after I had finished my first appetizer), but the staff is generally laid back and helpful. There’s no cooler-than-thou attitude here, which is always a good thing. The noise level is loud upfront, but it’s bearable in the dining area. I can see it getting louder as the night progresses though.
Even though it’s still in preview mode, it’s absolutely worth a visit for apps and drinks. I’ll have an update once the full menu kicks in.
South House | 149 Newark Avenue (btwn Grove & Barrow) | www.southhousejc.com