Raging River: Sandy, Restaurants and the Hudson Shore

The devastation Sandy wreaked along the Shore has been well documented. But the superstorm also pushed the Hudson River over the sea walls in Hoboken and Jersey City, damaging homes and businesses, including a large number of restaurants—many still recovering.

Even restaurants that have managed to reopen are not out of the woods: Path train service, normally bringing a steady flow of customers and commuters from Manhattan, has yet to be restored on the Hoboken and Exchange Place lines.

In Jersey City, Liberty State Park was engulfed in water, extensively damaging the entire area. Water surged into the shoreline restaurants Maritime Parc and Liberty House, turning their privileged views of the Manhattan skyline into a very mixed blessing,

PHOTOS: Chris Siversen, executive chef of Maritime Parc in Jersey City, and one of its sour cream apple crumb pies, sale of which raises money to restore Liberty State Park.

At Maritime Parc, the impact was so great that they were not able to hold their Grand Reopening until November 29th.

All this month, executive chef-partner Chris Siversen will donate 10 percent of all sales to Friends of Liberty State Park.

The restaurant’s pie sale fundraiser continues: $15 of each sale of lemon coconut meringue, sour cream apple crumb and chocolate pecan pies goes to park restoration.

Next door, Liberty House had weddings on its calendar. “Three brides postponed their events when they realized that even the hotels had no power,” says co-owner Jeanne Cretella. “But the one on Sunday [Nov 4] went ahead with her plans.”

Up to 60 people worked tirelessly with generators, tools and bare hands to clean up and paint for the wedding party, which managed to stay on schedule. But the restaurant did not officially reopen until the weekend of Nov 17-18.

“In the end, we are better than ever,” Cretella asserts. “We are really proud of how quickly we were able to get back on our feet. But we were lucky to have the resources to get things done."

On New Year’s Eve, Liberty House will donate—to Friends of Liberty State Park—$10 from the tab of every person attending its $145 pp New Year’s Eve Bash.

Downtown, across the street from Jersey City City Hall, Razza lost power, but managed to get its wood-fired oven running within two days, keeping others without power warm and selling its artisanal pizzas.

Next door, the Merchant restaurant, though without power, lit candles and became a gathering spot for people to network and commiserate over drinks and limited light fare the kitchen was able to cobble together.

A couple blocks south and a block east, Edward’s Steakhouse absorbed a terrible rush of river water, even though (like Razza and the Merchant)  it is almost half a mile from the river’s edge at Exchange Place.

Why was Edward’s especially vulnerable?

Built in an elegant converted brownstone, Edward’s ground floor bar and lounge is actually several steps below sidewalk level. The place was flooded. The owners say they plan to open, but for now are closed indefinitely.

Also boasting enviable views, Michael Anthony’s Waterfront Restaurant, perched on a pier in Jersey City’s Newport development, took on almost four feet of water. Somehow they were able to reopen in 10 days.

Jersey City developers Paul and Eric Silverman got together with the restaurateurs of GP’s, Hamilton Inn, DOCO Market and Razza to cater a thank-you lunch for the JCPD East District, whose officers had helped them and were still tirelessly working to help others.

Jersey City basically ends at the Holland Tunnel entrance. North of the tunnel is Hoboken.

Most of the city’s 433 food establishments were shut down by water damage, power outage or both. Today, however, only 15 remain closed.

“We were hit hard, but Hoboken is now open for business,” says communications manager Juan Melli.

Within days of the storm, Pilsener Haus, uptown and well on the west side, was able to serve drinks and a limited menu in their biergarten.

To give back to the community, they are offering “(almost) ON-THE-HAUS TUESDAYS” now through March. All food, beer and drinks are 50 percent off all night.

The Fig Tree, a fine-dining restaurant that opened last April, planned ahead, laying in pumps and generators, and reopened around November 9. Like almost all food establishments that lost power in the storm—regardless of location—they had to throw out all their perishable food, a hit in the thousands of dollars, for larger operations much much more than that.

By foresight or luck, the Fig Tree had given its front dining room a stone floor when it first opened in April. That floor made for a faster and easier cleanup.

Maricel Presilla, the James Beard Award-winning chef-owner of Zafra, Cucharamama and Ultramarinos market (and author of the recently-released mega-cookbook La Cocina Latina), found her businesses under water the day after the storm.

Recounting her experiences on the website eater.com, she instantly went from “expecting to go into Hoboken and find the usual flooded areas, but nothing major,” to “we’re in deep trouble here."

Presilla, whose hometown in Cuba was destroyed by Sandy—along with her grandmother’s roof—suggests “they should start using Frankenstein and Igor and horrible names to name these monsters.”

(I know some rather nice Igors, but never mind.)

After much hard work, Presilla’s businesses are back in action and like most of her neighbors in the food business, she is “hopeful and determined,” for the future.


SUZANNE ZIMMER LOWERY is a food writer, pastry chef and culinary instructor at a number of New Jersey cooking schools. Find out more about her at suzannelowery.com.

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