"It's a bar for professionals who like to go out for a conversation and have a great meal," said owner Sue Park. "People become comfortable, and it's a friendly atmosphere. People meet their neighbors. By the end of the night, everybody becomes friends."
Nestled on 174 Coles St. on the corner of Ninth Street, a block from Hamilton Park in Jersey City, Simple Café has no outside signage.
The restaurant/bar is the kind of place that you can refer to as your own little secret gem.
Its wooden décor resembles a simple bar, but its nature is betrayed by artwork hanging in the dining room. The artwork rotates. In January, it displayed paintings by Jersey City Resident Hugh Dwyer. And the food, rather than resembling that of a local bar, is more representative of trendy New York fare.
The food can be described as American eclectic or seasonal American. The emphasis is on comfort food like pot pie or meatloaf, and while full-sized entrees are available, diners might be inclined to try smaller sized dishes in order to get a sample without filling up.
On this occasion, we tried an array of their "small bites:" duck spring roll ($6), which has scallions, pepper, ginger carrots and bonzu sauce; spicy Thai chicken ($6 and $8), marinated grilled chicken breast served on a skewer; fried calamari ($8), diced tomatoes, and spicy garlic oil; Devils in a Green Dress ($8), beer battered shrimp and freshly chopped jalapeno; steamed mussels, ($7 and $10) white or Diablo; and seared scallops ($8) with chipotle mayonnaise.
A number of the dishes have an Asian flair, like the chicken wings ($6), which in addition to the traditional spicy flavor, are available in sweet and sour, Simple Café's signature style.
Park and her partner Chin Sang hired a chef consultant when they bought the restaurant in September to help train the cooks, Ramon Valette and Jose Santos. Valette and Santos soon took the ball and came up with dishes of their own.
For dessert was warm chocolate cake with ice cream ($5). The warm melted chocolate mixing with the cold vanilla ice cream brings your tongue to the extremes of pleasure.
Park said that the clientele consists about 60 percent Hamilton Park residents. Many in the area are homeowners, so the crowd is a little older. A variety of professionals in the entertainment industry like producers, directors, dancers, casting managers, and writers frequent Simple Café, along with other professionals like lawyers and politicians.
"I think that's what the neighborhood was wanting," said Park. "A place where they can come and chill and have good food."