From the moment The Iron Monkey opened its doors in the late 1990s, it became something special, an icon that even a casual observer could not miss. On the corner of Greene and York streets, The Iron Monkey is an easy stroll from the local business district, the Hudson Bergen Light Rail station at Exchange Place, and the Exchange Place PATH station.
Open seven days a week from late morning until the wee hours, the restaurant and tavern is extremely convenient for lunch, brunch, after-work drinks, or a full-fledged evening meal. With an iron monkey metal sculpture situated on its cornice and dark wood exterior, it looks like something straight out of historic Greenwich Village. The Iron Monkey has provided its Jersey City neighborhood with high quality food, creative drinks, and a good variety of music and art.
And a recent visit to Greene Street only verified this reputation.
The comfortable atmosphere promises an enjoyable experience, whether you choose the first floor bar area with its tall round tables or the second floor dining room. The eatery is well-known for its metal tables and chairs, and historic atmosphere. You easily get the sense that you have stepped out of the 21st Century into the 1930s or even the late 1800s.
The Iron Monkey was one of the first places to open on the revitalized city waterfront.
Sometimes called “rustic,” the interior is dominated by dark wood, odd sculptures, and low lighting.
The building is a converted house and it still has a fireplace, although closed off, tin ceilings, art work displayed on the walls, and ample space at the bar. The Iron Monkey also provides a roof top area with tables and a bar.
Our waitress, Keila, was not only friendly, but knew which dishes to recommend.
The Iron Monkey menu is nearly perfect for “back Pack commuters” who might be coming from work, but the space can also can accommodate larger groups, families or groups of friends
Local chef with a lot of experience
The quality of the food has a lot to do with Chef Angelo Panageas, who knows the meaning of fine cuisine. He grew up in Jersey City and attended nearby St. Mary’s school, and currently lives in Bayonne. He taught himself to become a chef, and in his nearly 37-year career has worked in some very high caliber eateries, included the legendary Delmonico’s in Manhattan. As chef at the Iron Monkey, he is responsible for designing the rich menu.
Among his favorite dishes are the Grilled Salmon salad served with red quinoa, cauliflower, chickpeas, Greek yogurt, and mint; and the Crispy Potatoes served with chorizo, goat cheese, smoked paprika, and a fried egg.
Great menu and not overwhelming
The food menu is remarkably broad, but a one page format keeps you from getting lost in the choices.
Appetizers range from $6 for homemade potato chips to $14 for buffalo chicken wings. These dishes include roasted shrimp, crispy calamari, chickpea mums, and burrata (slow roasted tomato, basil, can crusty bread in a balsamic sauce.)
Salads range from $13 for baby spinach salad to $18 for grilled salmon salad. The menu also includes grilled shrimp salad and a Tarragon Dijon Chicken salad wrap.
The Iron Monkey offers a surprising number of tasty dishes ranging in price from $12 for things like BBQ Pulled Pork or what the menu calls “The Burger” to $27 for Steak Fries, a New York strip steak with crispy fries.
For the vegetarian, the menu provides a black bean burger at $12, charcoal grilled salmon at $22, flat bread with slow roasted tomato, fresh mozzarella, Capitola basil and roasted garlic at $13.
You can get a turkey club, mac and cheese, grilled shrimp, rigatoni and other tasty staples.
Side dishes range from $3 to $5 and include items such as cheesy grits, sautéed baby spinach, spicy fries, maple roasted sweet potatoes, grinned corn with garlic butter herbs, red broccoli, crispy fries and a mixed green salad.
Tasty and original
We started with crisp calamari for an appetizer. It was sweet and tender. While many cultures offer some variety of calamari, Iron Monkey’s comes from a Thailand tradition. The coating was very light, and crisp with a spicy but not overwhelming after taste. It was a kind of sweet and hot combination, using the hot peppers very popular in Thai food. There was a significant quantity, too.
Served with a slice of lime, the calamari avoided the overt fish flavor often associated with other dishes.
The chick pea humus came with a good chili sauce, just spicy enough to give it an edge without being too intense. Some of the spices in this dish and others are subtle. You don’t taste them at first, but they come on later. Unlike commercial humus, it lacked any bitter after taste. Served with grilled tomatoes, the dish was filling enough to satisfy someone who might just be stopping in for a snack.
The prosciutto – a dish recommended by the staff – was stunning. Served with tomato, red bell people, onion and other items, the flavor explodes in your mouth in a dramatic array of tastes something akin to the last display in a fireworks show. In this case, all of these flavors work together, creating a kind of magnificent relish that embraces the dish.
The rigatoni with grilled chicken comes with hot pickled cherry peppers, sun dried tomato cream, basil, oregano, parmesan cheese. The pasta has a spicy kick, but it’s the chicken that’s special, tasting almost cured, minced with green and roasted cherry peppers, special enough for even the seasoned foodie, but can be ordered without the heavier spice. Like all good dishes, the sauce clings to the pasta.
A particular tasty dish was the Cedar River Farm coffee-rubbed grilled flat iron steak with maple roasted sweet potatoes, charred corn, and chimmichurri. The steak had a rich taste, and was cooked precisely as ordered. Although rubbed with coffee, the steak had a citrus marinade that gave it an original taste. The grilled corn had a smoky taste that was emphasized by the pesto sauce.
Deserts include a number of original offerings, from gelato to cake, fruit and cheese plats, and other items.
The Iron Monkey is located at 97 Greene St in Jersey City. They are open for lunch, brunch, dinner, and cocktails. For more information, call (201) 435-5756.
Al Sullivan may be reached at email@example.com.