By Sally Deering
Photos by Georgi Richardson
Mat Kopec opened his first restaurant when he was still in his 20s; he bought it on Craigslist and turned it into White Star on Brunswick Street. That was two restaurants ago. Today, Kopec runs three eateries, White Star on Brunswick, White Star Warren St and his new place, Mathews Food & Drink on the corner of Bay & Grove – all three in Jersey City.
Mat (short for Mateusz) Kopec designed Mathews’ menu with Chef Jon Mecca and Chef Mike Kedala, formerly of One if by Land, Two if by Sea in Manhattan. The three decided to serve All American cuisine at Mathews that Kopec describes as, sophisticated, but presented in a casual style.
“We try to create an environment that’s everyday dining,” Kopec says. “There’s a southern influence. The South is all about hospitality, that’s the center of it. And it’s farm-to-table. We try to do that here.”
The menu features Starters, Salads, Entrees and Sides. For Starters, there are Deviled Eggs, Falafel Bites, Charred Octopus, Sweet Corn Fritters, White Bean Puree, Sauteed Clams & Chorizo, the Pickled and Raw Vegetable Plate and Country Pate ($6-$14). Salads feature the Panzanella, Chopped, Mediterranean, and Shaved Vegetable ($11-$13).
Entrees include the Grilled Hanger Steak, Mushroom Agnolotti, Fisherman’s Stew, 5 Bean Cassoulet, Roasted Lamb, Ora King Salmon, Roast ½ Chicken, Housemade Bucotini, and Mathews Burger ($15-$27). For Sides, there’s Grilled Asparagus with Lemon & Grana Padano, Crispy Brussels Sprouts, Anson Mills White Cheddar Grits, Roasted Garlic Whipped Potatoes, Homestyle Sausage Stuffing and Black Garlic Mac & Cheese with Parm Herb Crust ($6-$9).
Roast ½ Chicken
Popular dishes include the Sweet Corn Fritters and the Fisherman’s Stew, Kopec says, and all the pastas are made in-house.
“Mark did a summer in Italy learning how to make fresh pasta,” Kopec says.
Rock Shrimp Corn Fritters
The ½ Chicken is also popular, and there are specials every night of the week.
At the bar, signature cocktails are served along with craft beers. One drink, the 80s Glam is a gin concoction with a fireworks of color on a cloud of foam ($13). Cody Goldstein is the Cocktail Program’s Beverage Director.
Since Mathews opened in October 2016, business has been jumping, Kopec says. The restaurant seats 90 people and on Friday and Saturday nights the chefs are cooking several hundred dinners each night. They don’t take reservations, per se, but if you have a large party, call and they’ll make one for you, Kopec says.
“We’re busy every night,” Kopec says.
How does Kopec keep up running three restaurants? He delegates when it’s possible, he says, but he still worries about little things
‘You can have a packed dining room and worry about a light bulb,” Kopec says “It’s all in the details.”
The restaurant has a beautiful bar and seating at the bar is surrounded by rows of tables for two and four. The atmosphere is casual and relaxed, with a touch of hip sophistication in the décor and light fixtures. For a cozier dining experience, there are three smaller dining rooms in the next room. The décor is white with several light wallpaper designs and blonde wood tables. There are lots of windows, too, that look out on to busy Grove and Bay Streets.
“Our goal is to create a place for people to come out to and eat every day,” Kopec says. “We found our identity. We’re your neighborhood restaurant with great food, great drinks and great service.”
If you go
Mathews Food & Drink
351 Grove St, JC
White Star Restaurant
230 Brunswick St, JC
White Star Warren Street
179 Warren St, JC