Oralé Mexican Kitchen on Grove St — Hip, Urban and Hot, Hot, Hot!
By Sally Deering
Nestled in the middle of Grove Street in downtown Jersey City is one of the coolest restaurants you’ll find in Hudson – Oralé Mexican Kitchen owned by business partners Alex Mendelsohn and Louis Alvarez, restaurateurs who meticulously created a beautiful eatery and a menu of authentic Mexican Cuisine with an American twist.
“We had fun with the fusion of Mexican and American.” Mendelsohn says, giving a visitor a tour of the restaurant. “The most prime example on our menu would be the Casa Gringo. We took the most common American dish, mac and cheese, and incorporated it with chipotle and Mexican cheese sauce. As a special we did a Mexican version of classic fried chicken. We marinated the chicken in a number of different herbs and chilies and our breading had cinnamon and sugar. It was sweet and salty. We took something fun and twisted it; that was a huge hit.”
Located just a couple blocks from the Grove Street PATH Station, Oralé’s atmosphere is urban hip with red-bricked walls scrawled with big and bold graffiti, a wall of back-lit candy-colored sodas, and images of skulls inside one of the most beautiful dining rooms in the city. By the time you’re seated at one of the dining room tables, Oralé’s ambience has you feeling both relaxed and excited about what’s to come – and the food doesn’t disappoint.
The Dinner menu starts with Snacks, dishes like Plantains, Yucca, Brussels sprouts and Tartare de Salmon; and different Guacamole dishes like El Bombero with Chipotle, Chile de Argol; and Blue Demon with Cabrales blue cheese and toasted pepitas. Starters feature the Queso Flameado, a mix of Oaxacan & Chihuahua cheeses melted in a cast iron skillet served with house-made tortilla chips; Camionero, chorizo & sautéed potatoes; and the Gringo, Mexican mac & cheese.
There are lots of Taco dishes to choose from including the Al Pastor, marinated & roasted pork topped with caramelized pineapple, chile de argol and cilantro; the Vegetariano with garbanzo fritter, spiced yogurt, quinoa salsa and cilantro; the Pollo made with shredded chicken tinga topped with soy pickled Serrano chilies & yellow tomato pico de gallo; and Carne, beef tinga topped with roasted scallions & avocado tomatillo salsa.
Enchiladas include the Enchilada Ajarocha of shredded chicken, hazelnut & almond mole; and Enchilada Vegetariana made with kale, spinach, roasted spaghetti squash, shitake, tomato ranchera crema and pomegranate morita glaze.
Main dishes feature the Dinosaurio, ancho & chipotle-marinated bone-in short rib grilled with tamal de olla & a tomatillo chipotle compote; Pollo Con Mole, roasted half chicken with almond & hazelnut mole topped with toasted sesame seeds & huitlacoche budin; and Mariscada, halibut a la plancha, saffron achoite rice, clams, mussels, shrimp and pumpkin.
Working with Mendelsohn and Alvarez to create the menu and daily specials is consulting chef James Muir; Olivia Guittierez is Lead Prep Cook, who Mendelsohn says is a genius when it comes to creating sauces. And if you’re looking for some authentic tequilas, Oralé has a fine list to choose from.
On Fri, Nov. 1st, Oralé celebrates “Dio de los Muertos” or Day of the Dead with a house party featuring DJs and drink specials. On week nights there’s a happy hour from 9:30 pm to closing.
Alvarez, whose family emigrated to the U.S. from Ecuador and settled in North Bergen, has worked his way up the ladder and gained a lot of his experience at Rosa Mexicano in New York.
“The American Dream really does exist,” Alvarez says. “I got the chance to work my way up via great companies and the opportunity to open a restaurant.”
Mendelsohn, who also worked at Rosa Mexicano hails from the Princeton area, and says he was interested in the restaurant business ever since his family took him to a popular Italian restaurant in Trenton when he was a kid.
“What attracts me to this business is the excitement of a busy restaurant,” Mendelsohn says. “When you get a two second break to look around the room and everyone is enjoying what you put together it gives you an immediate and huge sense of fulfillment. At the end of the day, it’s a simple business: food, drinks and a place for people to hang out with their friends. If you give people good food, good drinks and a fun environment, you’re doing your job.”
If you go:
Oralé Mexican Kitchen
341 Grove St
Mon-Wed, 3-10pm; Thurs, 3pm-10pm;
Fri, 3-11pm; Sat, 12 noon-11pm;
and Sun, 12 noon-9pm