Meet Matt, Summer Intern Extraordinaire
This is a new series on our blog written by our summer intern, Matthew Burdorf. Matt just finished his freshmen year at Boston College's Carroll School of Management. He will be battling Hoboken and Jersey City establishments all summer long, offering an unbiased opinion of his findings.
Hoboken vs Jersey City:
Best Lunch Under $15
If you had around $15 to spend on lunch, where should you go? La Isla in Hoboken, or Taqueria in Jersey City?
Since 1970, the original La Isla restaurant has been located at 104 Washington Street in Hoboken. The BYOB restaurant was founded with the goal of providing authentic Cuban food for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Some people say that their Sunday brunch is a divine reason to skip church, and one of these people is Food Network star, Bobby Flay, who competed head to head with La Isla owner and chef, Omar Giner, in making stuffed french toast on his show “Throwdown with Bobby Flay.” The $10 stuffed french toast of La Isla won the showdown, a victory that is partly responsible for its consistently crowded weekend mornings.
Located less than half a mile from the Hudson Hoboken Train Station, La Isla sits right in the thick of downtown Hoboken.
When entering La Isla I immediately took notice to a relatively narrow and tiny restaurant. On a Monday afternoon, it was nearly packed to the max.
La Isla is decorated with bright colors, pictures of celebrities and impressive awards. After my server brought the table water, I noticed that many of the employees were wearing “Noboken” T-shirts. I asked the server what the phrase meant and he explained that “No” in Cuba is an expression meaning “Hot damn!” or “Oh my goodness!” These shirts, as well as the colorful decorations, really make the customer feel like they are in a homely Cuban place.
My server was extremely kind and helpful, (he even took this photo of the food for me) and the other employees seemed very engaged with the customers. They seem to have a ton of regulars, and the servers really care about their day. Their conversations with one another are very genuine and are not forced in the slightest. The restaurant seems to truly connect with everyone who walks through the door.
I ordered the Monday afternoon special of roasted chicken with beans and white rice for $10. The food came out in less than five minutes, but the food did not at all taste premade. The chicken was extremely moist and the rice and beans tasted very authentic. Definitely worth the price!
While there is a second restaurant in the Lower East side of Manhattan, I visited the Taqueria Downtown located in Jersey City on the corner of Grove Street. The owners, Phil and Andrea Barraza, attempt to blend together Mexican style food and Los Angeles taco truck character into their restaurant, and have greatly succeeded.
Immediately after walking down the stairs into Taqueria I noticed the numerous Los Angeles Lakers and Dodgers posters on the walls, and the Sunset Boulevard license plates near the bar. Professional skateboarders were doing crazy tricks on the television, yet the customers and employees all seemed calm and relaxed. Taqueria really does a great job of cultural expression, and ultimately there are no doubts about the image the restaurant wants to give off.
I saw a lot of smiles while I was at Taqueria, even a few laughs from the gentleman sitting beside me with a broken foot. The man was asked by an employee how he was feeling from the other side of the restaurant, immediately after he sat down at his table. There was a great variety of customers for a Wednesday afternoon, for there were businessmen and women, families, and even police officers.
When I sat down to write this I looked up the street Taqueria was located on, for I could not remember. While I was doing this, I came across an article talking about the restaurants experience with Hurricane Sandy. Taqueria was closed for six months after the storm. I was then extremely curious why it reopened in the same location as before, and found out that the Barrazo’s wanted to keep the restaurant in a flood zone because they love the Jersey City community so much. I think that speaks wonders for the city and its people.
I ordered the chicken quesadilla ($5), and of course received complimentary chips and salsa, which tasted wholly authentic and smooth. My quesadilla came out in a decent time, and was hot and fresh when it reached my table. From across the room I observed tacos and wraps that looked delicious, and made me regret not ordering more food. I really should have, not only because it tasted good, but also how cheap it is. You really get taco truck prices in a beautiful and chill restaurant.
I loved researching and discovering the culture and character of these two famous restaurants. I highly recommend both, especially for the low price tag, but if I only had $10 to spend on a lunch, I would spend it at La Isla, not only for its food, but its friendly employees and warm atmosphere.