Cellar 335 is the tiki bar that grew up along with its Jersey City neighborhood.
We spoke to founder, partner and culinary director Jamie Knott about why Cellar 335 became and remains a beloved Jersey City standby for exciting food and cocktails.
What was your original vision when you opened Cellar 335 in 2016?
Jamie Knott: My team wanted to bring something different, someplace unique, to Jersey City. To play to the city rather than to the ‘burbs. We loved the tiki concept and how it invites people to have carefree fun. Who doesn’t want to drink a strong, fruity cocktail from a Polynesian tiki mug? Our drinks were and are craft cocktails, handcrafted by artisanal bartenders, another outstanding hospitality trend.
A sexy, low-lit setting was another must. And we had that with our moody, mysterious basement space. We also wanted the clubby energy supplied by beat-driven music like reggae and hip-hop. That was our soundtrack and it adds so much to the experience.
At the time, and it’s still true, Jersey City loved Pan-Asian and Asian Fusion menus. Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Thai, Vietnamese, Indian. Something for every sophisticated palate. We wanted contemporary variety in servings and portion our dishes in small plates as well as shareable large-format dishes. The menu has so many temptations, and they deliver in taste. So whatever diners feel like eating—or drinking—they can find it here. And that’s one of many reasons we have so many loyal regulars. Right off the bat, Cellar 335 was popular from after work through closing time. We drew everybody: daters, families, groups of guys or gal pals, solo dining at the bar. Still true.
Jersey City has changed a lot since 2016. How has Cellar 335 evolved along with its surroundings?
By staying true to our mission. We keep our three pillars in mind: delicious food, creative cocktails and hospitality-driven service. That’s the foundation of our success in Jersey City’s high-expectation restaurant environment.
The pandemic was a challenge, to say the least. During the lockdown, Cellar’s menu proved super adaptable to takeout and delivery. And we set up a small outdoor patio, now gone, for in-person dining. We hired a talented chef, Chris Abbamondi. We added new items to the menu so our Covid customers wouldn’t get bored, like playful dishes you roll up in lettuce leaves. People loved us for trying so hard.
All in all, Cellar 335 keeps fine-tuning to stay fresh and intriguing. With ambiance touches like tufted black banquettes, dramatic spotlighting, and amazing presentations, with orchids or seashell-like plates. We always have something new on the menu and one-of-a-kind seasonal cocktails. The kitchen and bar are doing a fantastic job.
Our neighborhood, which people used to call the Village, is mainly rentals now rather than family-owned houses. It’s more urban-feeling. Our crowd is very cosmopolitan and choosy, and Jersey City has more places to eat now, including our team’s French cocktail parlor and restaurant next door, Madame, whose chef is also Chris. The 1910 building we’re in, White Eagle Hall, is now a performance venue, so we can be part of a dinner-and-a-show night out.
What’s in Cellar 335’s future?
Doing what we do, with passion, creativity, and commitment, has worked since 2016. And now we’re thinking bigger, because the range of our customers is astounding. We get the whole multicultural urban scene. Instagrammers, hipsters, fashionistas, professionals and execs, sixty-somethings coming from a gallery opening, couples of every description. To provide excellence and excitement to this incredibly savvy clientele, Cellar 335 has to fire on all cylinders. Which we’ve always done. It’s in our DNA. And we’ll always honor the tiki spirit of fun and adventure. We’re here to provide a good time and great food and drinks. And if that’s not the ultimate restaurant recipe, what is?
Cellar 335’s vision from day one was to play to the vibe and heartbeat of this town. And we proved during the pandemic that we’re behind Jersey City, heart and soul. We’ll continue to be a part of our community’s evolution and to celebrate its cultural diversity and global influences. Cellar 335 is a love letter to Jersey City.
Cellar 335, 335 Newark Avenue, Jersey City; 201-222-1422
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