Takes Java to New Heights
Hint: Check Out the High Tech Espresso Machine
By Sally Deering
Barely open a few weeks and already Ground Connection at Harborside Plaza 10 in Jersey City has people streaming through the doors for espressos, coffees, Danish, muffins, sandwiches and salads. Owner Scott Gillman, who has been in the restaurant business for several decades and owns Markers restaurant also located at Harborside Financial, sees his new coffee bistro as a place where people can get a freshly brewed cup of expresso made-to-order and friendly service from the minute they walk in to the moment they leave.
“Our espresso is Toby’s Estate coffee in Brooklyn, one of the greatest coffee roasters in the country,’ Gillman says, amidst a flurry of customers lining up at the counter to get their daily javas. “Every cup gets hand-steamed milk and each espresso gets made with a different temperature according to its size.”
Ground Connection is considered a modern day coffee shop offering small batch specialty coffee, full leaf and herbal teas, cold-brewed coffees and teas on tap. Sandwiches, sides, soups, pizzas and baked goods are prepared daily.
“Part of the reason we call it Ground Connection is the connection we want to make between our employees and our guests,” Gillman says.
Customer service is extremely important to Gilman who gives his staff extensive training in the ins and outs of running a good restaurant, in other words, the customer is the most important person in the place.
“I try to teach the staff to put obsessive focus on the guest from entrance to exit and wow them in between,” Gillman says.
The menu offers coffees, eggs served many ways, oatmeal, French toast, burgers from the grill, specialty sandwiches, flat-bread pizzas, and salads.
Fried Eggs with bacon, fontina, avocado and salsa verde are served all day; other egg sandwiches include the Smoked Salmon, NJ Classic (two fried eggs with American cheese and Taylor ham); Sausage, Egg & Cheese, and Avocado Egg & Cheese. ($5-$6.50)
For sandwich choices, there’s the Coffee Shop Cheeseburger served with ‘smashed’ and seared certified Angus beef, American cheese and tomato; the Bacon; and the Mushroom & Onion burgers; the Grilled Chicken Avocado Club and Falafel Burger. ($7-$8.25)
Specialty sandwiches feature the House Roasted Turkey, Pulled Pork Cuban, Spanish Pepper Chicken, Mozzarella, Spinach & Tomato, and Pretzel Crusted Zucchini. ($8-$9.50)
Salads include the Chopped Italian with Grilled Chicken; Cobb Salad with Grilled Chicken, Kale Chicken Caesar, and the Falafel Bowl (crispy falafel balls, hummus, Israeli salad, red cabbage slaw, chopped iceberg, avocado, pickles, Tzatziki, and hot sauce). ($8.50-$9.75)
Ground Connection has sides, too, like Crispy Skin on Fries; Side Salads and Soups. ($3-$5.25).
The star of the show is the coffee served in 12, 16 and 20-oz. cups. There’s Drip Coffee made with Toby’s Estate Brooklyn Blend; Café au Lait, Café Mocha, and Americano. There’s the Espresso Shot, and Brewed Teas, Chai Tea Latte, Green Tea Latte and Hot Chocolate. (Prices range from $2.25 for a 12 oz. drip coffee to $5 for a Green Tea Latte.) Espresso is served with Steamed Farm Fresh Milk in 3, 6, 8 and12 oz. cups with a choice of added syrups like Madagascar Vanilla, Belgian Chocolate, Dulce de Leche and Hazelnut – all of which are home-made. $3-$4; syrups 50 cents each.
Alex Mastrando is the director of the coffee program at Ground Connection; he serves a customer a small Latte to order (they’re usually served in the largest cup). He steams the milk, feeling the temperature of the milk pitcher as he does it; and then he taps the pitcher on the bottom a couple of times.
“It’s to get out the air bubbles,” Mastrando says, making a heart design in the coffee.
The coffees and espressos are considered “Third Wave”, which means they’re specialty coffees, “relationship” coffees, Gillman says, where boutique coffee shop owners like himself build relationships with their vendors, in this case Toby’s Estate in Brooklyn.
Gillman’s a pretty busy restaurateur and oversees his restaurant Markers in Harborside Plaza, too, and there’s another Ground Connection in Hackensack. The reason he opened Ground Connection in Jersey City, he says, is to bring good coffee to the community; and give them an alternative to other boutique coffee shops.
“I want people to come and experience Ground Connection and make their own decision,” Gillman says. “We serve a great cup of coffee, and food that’s made from scratch. It’s fast, casual. We’re trying to do things really well. Even our oatmeal, we use farm fresh milk.”
All coffee is a balance, Gillman says. “We may charge a little more, but we put more into it.”
If you go
Harborside Plaza 10
3 Second St, JC