Brian Dowling Brings Hoboken’s Park & Sixth to Grove & First in Jersey City
Grandma’s kitchen isn’t the only place where a hungry person can find comfort food, according to Brian Dowling.
“Comfort food is food that makes you feel good,” says the owner and executive chef of Park & Sixth. “I love braising. I think of something that falls apart when you eat it. And that’s what I incorporate into my sandwiches and catering.”
Dowling has been serving comfort food in Hoboken since June 2009, at the original Park & Sixth, and he’ll be serving it in Jersey City, starting this month, at the restaurant’s new Grove Street location.
“We have the same menu as the Hoboken location, but there’s seating here,” says Dowling. On Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights, Park & Sixth in Jersey City will transform from a specialty food store into a sit-down restaurant with a limited menu.
“I’m doing a ground short-rib burger here, which we don’t have in Hoboken,” he says. “It doesn’t travel well for takeout, and I’ve just been waiting for a chance to serve it.”
Appropriately named The Beast, the short-rib burger will be dressed with American cheese, bacon, lettuce, chipotle mayo, ketchup and a fried egg — no substitutions. Customers who order the burger will receive a complimentary Park & Sixth T-shirt.
On a stretch of Grove occupied mostly by Asian restaurants, a homestyle Polish joint, and a lively Cuban cafe, The Beast has little competition for the title of best burger. However, healthy eaters and vegetarians need not shy away from Park & Sixth.
“We have salads, and I do have a healthy menu. We make an eggplant burger and an all-vegetable sandwich called The Garden,” Dowling says. “I wanted the Hoboken location to be a specialty food store, but it morphed into a sandwich shop. I think the specialty foods will go over a little better here.”
Dowling says sandwich shop like it’s a bad thing. In reality, his brisket sandwich – red wine braised brisket with fresh melted mutz, on a baguette – is most likely Hoboken’s most popular sandwich. It’s also Dowling’s favorite. “It’s ridiculous; in June, we sold 450 of them,” he says.
With such overwhelming demand at the Hoboken location, Dowling couldn’t help but open a Jersey City store too. It helped that many businesses in Downtown Jersey City were already placing large take-out orders from the Hoboken store.
“To execute and deliver in a timely fashion, we thought we might as well open another store, closer to Downtown Jersey City,” he says. “Plus, I live down here, and I originally wanted to open the store in Jersey City. I just couldn’t find a space at the time.”
That space opened last fall, when Bagua Juice closed down. Dowling, who has lived in Jersey City since 2003, says he’s happy to open up shop in his adopted hometown.
“I love the diversity, the people, the restaurants here. The customer base is a little more artsy, more cerebral,” he says. “Locals have been stopping in, saying ‘I can’t wait’ and ‘There’s nothing like it down here’. There are some great places like Taqueria and Ibby’s in the neighborhood, but my place is unique.”
And Dowling’s claim stretches from food to decor as well. Among the one-of-the-kind decorations gracing his Grove Street space is a vintage World Trade Center subway sign that reads “Trains to New Jersey;” it hangs above the self-serve coffee bar. Dowling purchased the sign from a vendor who was selling them illegally on Houston Street in Manhattan. (The vendor has since been arrested.)
In addition, Dowling has also reserved an entire wall for local artists to showcase their works.
“I went down to the art [supply store] and just said, you know, bring some stuff, introduce me to some local artists — there are a lot of local artists,” he says. “We’d love to be involved, have art shows, maybe do hors d’oeuvres.”
Dowling is planning for a mid-September opening, but the exact date depends on city inspections. A veteran to opening new stores, he admits that, no matter how much you know about the business, you will make mistakes in the beginning. As such, he will host a grand opening after Park & Sixth has been open for a few weeks.
“I’ve taken what has worked from my other stores and brought it to a location with more foot traffic,” Dowling says. “I’ve definitely seen this neighborhood morph into something like the East Village in Manhattan. More people are going to move here. I think it’s only going to get stronger.”
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