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Posts Tagged ‘jersey city’

Many years ago, when my father worked in the Northern NJ area, he would always take me to the same place if I visited. I knew about the Hamilton Park Ale House before I really knew anything else about Jersey City. Ironically, after being priced out of Brooklyn, my husband and I wound up buying a condo in the Hamilton Park area of downtown Jersey City almost 2 years ago – just blocks away from the Ale House.

The Hamilton Park Ale House has long been a staple of downtown JC. Under the watchful guise of Maggie Vecca, a former waitress turned co-owner, the Ale House thrived and was a local favorite. The food was always top-notch, especially considering the other choices in the area at that time. Executive chef, Krista Trovato, had been a cook at impressive locales such as Gramercy Tavern and the World Trade Center’s Windows of the World before coming to the Ale House.

In recent years, however, since Maggie (also involved with Skinner’s Loft) sold the bar the service and food has gone downhill. One of the biggest issues that had surfaced in my mind…the lack of a good beer selection – they do call themselves an “ale house.” I have read many complaints about the owner that came after Maggie, Jim Leo, and how he ran the bar into the ground. I can attest to the validity of these rumors. The food and service became terrible. Their burger wasn’t even that great. For me, it was the brunch that was the worst. We only had it once. It’s a shame because it’s so nice to walk a few blocks from home in the nice weather and sit outside for brunch. We just haven’t found anything that fits the bill for a good brunch with outdoor seating. (I will write about Beret’s Simple Café in a later post).

After a long phase of papered windows, there is a new name on the window: The Hamilton Inn. There has also been some activity in the way of renovations. I have read some rumors online that the new deal for the Hamilton Inn fell through and that management ran out of capital after the renovation. It has been quite a long time since we noticed the reno being done, but I cannot confirm the validity of these rumors. There’s a short blurb from November 2009 in the Jersey City Independent that states the Hamilton Inn would open in a few weeks, but obviously that didn’t happen. Although, there is another article in JCI that discusses Jessie Dardar – the chef behind JC dessert truck La Petite Temptation – who is “readying to supply desserts for the Hamilton Inn, which is set to open in the former Hamilton Ale House space on Jersey Avenue this April.” So, maybe we’ll get lucky next month and see an open door. I did find the official Hamilton Inn website where there is no new information about their much anticipated and elusive opening. However, if you give your email address they promise to send you “information” about their opening.

For now, we’ll just have to wait it out. If I find out any new information, I’ll write an updated post. In the meantime, check out The White Star bar on Pavonia and Brunswick. They boast a good burger and decent beer selection, better than the Ale House has had in years.

The Hamilton Inn (formerly the Hamilton Park Ale House), 708 Jersey Avenue, Hamilton Park Jersey City.

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So…it seems that there is a television shoot in my neighborhood (Hamilton Park). This wouldn’t have been odd in the least, when I lived in Park Slope, but I live in Jersey City now. After some digging, I discovered that it’s a TV pilot called Mercy, about a nurse returning from Iraq and trying to acclimate to life in the States again. I’m not sure who is in it, but I will tell you that Haddad’s movie trailers are taking up all of 10th Street from Monmouth to Brunswick. The parking is atrocious on 10th Street for a few blocks from here until Erie. They have closed the area to parking for the duration of the shoot.

Jersey City Independent reported that “the production company has made arrangements to secure the private parking lot on Erie and 10th.” Click here for full post. However, this information supposedly came from a letter that the production company sent out to residents, but I am a resident and I received no such letter…so…what’s up with that? Anyway, apparantly the number you can call for parking information is (973)925-8157, but according to comments on the JCI webpage, the people answering the phones aren’t much help.

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Isabella's De Cuba

Isabella's De Cuba

Moving from Park Slope, Brooklyn to Jersey City has been a major adjustment. Finding good food has proven to be tricky. Park Slope definitely spoiled us, in that we could walk down the block and have 5 – 10 restaurants of good quality at our disposal. I’m not saying that Jersey City doesn’t have good food, there’s just less restaurants. In our constant quest to befriend our new neighborhood and find some good eats, we discovered Isabella’s De Cuba. (Downtown Jersey City, Hamilton Park neighborhood.) It’s not a bad walk from our apartment and the food is great. The first test was delivery. We ordered and got our food fairly quickly. I have to say that the Pollo Asado was excellent and best of all only $8 and came with 2 sides! They run daily specials throughout the week ranging from $8 – $10.

We noticed that they served breakfast all day, so we walked over one cold morning in search of some good coffee and food. We weren’t disappointed. The Cafe Con Leche is only $1.75 a cup and delicious. I opted for the Isabella’s French Toast, which is croissants dipped in cinnamon egg batter and powerdered sugar. The hubby got one of their 3 egg omelets with chorizo, onions and cheese. We were blown away that yummy breakfasts were so close to our door and so inexpensive! The only drawback was the service. We have been on 2 different weekend mornings, both times only one girl was working in the front. She had some issues with prioritizing. People would come in and tables were still dirty and she’d say “just a minute”, but then the phone would ring and she would take the delivery order while the people were standing there. (This happened to us both times we went.) Service was slow, too. I think she forgot to put our order in the second time we went because it was just way too long. Be that as it may, if you go in there with a relaxed attitude and have some time to spare, it’s a good experience. The staff is really nice and the place is very cute inside. The orange colored walls and full store-front windows in front make it feel cozy and warm. People watching while sipping your hot Cafe Con Leche is a perfect combination for a  lazy Sunday morning.

–Isabella’s De Cuba – 227 7th Street at Erie (201) 222-2562 – Free Delivery w/ minimum order of $15.

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It’s Been Too Long…

Ok, so I know I’ve neglected my small fan base, but I’ve had a lot going on. I’ll give you a quick run through of everything that’s been going on since last I wrote.

First, the hubby and I finally made the jump (after all the mortgage shit worked out) and moved to Jersey City! It’s been a lot to get used to, but we own our place! The commute is a bit strange, still getting used to that. I’ve used my bike more than ever before! It’s quiet here and very chill. I like it, but I still miss Brooklyn. Sigh. I use any excuse to go there ;-) I’ve recently been letting the hubby take mass transit in the morning and coming to pick him up in the evening. Of course, getting dinner and drinks…as long as I’m there I may as well, right? Which leads me to explain my sudden wealth of free time.

Next, I recently was laid off. BLECH!! Yes, the recession came out and bit me full in the ass. So, I’ve been baking and cooking a lot and now I’m hoping to get to write more and search for another job, of course. I’m looking into freelance work and full-time, we’ll see what happens. Don’t worry about me though, I’m hanging in there and the hubby is LOVING all the muffins, cookies, pies, cakes, etc. I’m going to have to start giving them away though. There’s only so many baked goods you can eat before your ass starts to scream to the whole world that you’ve been eating way too many buttery crusts.

Well, for now I will leave you with this info and I’ll be back, hopefully with much more regularity.

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We were getting nervous because we hadn’t heard back from the bank right away. The anxiety was completely warranted. When we finally heard back, we were given a big fat NO. We were shocked. What had happened between this deal and the last? It had only been 2 months and all the financials were the same. The first mortgage had even been for more money. Nothing had changed in the last 2 months, what gives???

Upon further digging, we found out that there was an old credit account showing up on my credit report that was from about 10 years ago and delinquent. What was it? Victoria’s Secret. WTF?!?!? Yes, the expensive panties that I had bought 10 years ago were making it impossible for me to buy a house. Ironically, I had given up shopping at VS years ago, when I realized their product was overpriced and inferior. Yet, here I was drowning in a mistake I had made 10 years prior.

That’s when I decided to fight back. I wrote a long letter to the underwriter that had denied us. I asked if this could be reconsidered. Why were we approved only 2 months earlier with the same credit reports, etc. Wasn’t this “Affordable Mortgage Program” made for people like us? If we weren’t qualified, who was? I made my case and sent the letter off.

Meanwhile, our Brooklyn apartment continued to fall apart. We spent a week with no electricity in 3 rooms because of some wiring malfunction. Strange noises have been heard lately in the walls (I don’t even want to know). The whole building shakes daily due to the 5 construction sites that surround us on our half (yes HALF) of the block. If we didn’t get the mortgage, what were we supposed to do in 2 weeks? We had to be out??? We frantically started to look for rentals in Brooklyn. The only drawback…we would most def have to sign a one year lease and delay our home buying process another whole year.

Twenty-four hours later, the underwriter made a decision. We got it! It was relief after the week from hell and living surrounded by boxes, not knowing where we were going to be in 2 weeks. We would be in our new home in Jersey City. One catch though…I had to pay for those 10-year-old panties.

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Recently, the hubby and I have been trying to buy our first home. It was very simple at first; we got pre-approved for a mortgage and off we went in search of a real estate broker. The long and short of it really is…it’s not that simple. It starts that way, but one must prepare themselves for a lot of heartache along the way.

Our first attempt was on a really nice place in Jersey City Heights. The apartment was 1,000 square feet, had exposed brick, brand new kitchen (!!!) — it had a lot of character. The seller was in a hurry, so we rushed through the contract. We had a home inspection and before you knew it attorney review was over and we had a closing date set! Then the property was appraised for $20k less than the agreed upon price we were paying for it. Our bank said flat out, NO WAY. We tried everything. We begged for another appraiser, even one at our cost and that was a no go. Then we turned to the seller and asked if he would come down on the price. He could not do it. Suddenly, the whole deal fell through and we were back to square one.

We set our sights on Downtown Jersey City, specifically the area around Hamilton Park. We loved it there. It reminded us a lot of Brooklyn (some areas that aren’t overly populated yet). Soon enough we found another place. It was smaller, but based on some research, this hood was a better investment for us. In a whirlwind of showings and signings…we were in contract again! That’s when the problems began. The seller was in a rush, so everything had to be done very quickly. That was OK by us because the building we’re currently living in (in Park Slope) is falling apart, literally. This time we were smart and we had the appraisal done first, before we paid for another home inspection. It appraised $18k higher than what we were paying for it! Hurray! That means we have $18k in equity the day we move in. Wow!! We were psyched! We started planning and packing and since we were a shoe in this time (all the financials and information that was being used was the same as last time) we gave notice at our Brooklyn pad. Everything was great, the inspection went fine and we were just waiting to hear back from the bank… TBC

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The hubby and I are continuing our growing quest to buy a home of our own. Tomorrow we are looking in downtown Jersey City at two more places.

Our quest started in March, when, on a whim, I decided to fill out an online pre-approval form for a mortgage. Shortly after, we discovered that, strangely enough, we could actually afford to buy something and what’s crazier, it’s actually a buyer’s market right now (if you don’t already own). Perfect! After some initial digging we found that Jersey City Heights was our best bet, the condos were in our price range and we were still close enough to commute to the city. Plus, it seemed like a good investment.

After our first quest with a broker (we looked at 8 condos in one day) we fell in love with one and made an offer on it. The process went super smooth and was beginning to worry us. We agreed on a price with the seller, had it inspected, flew through attorney review and it was time to get the appraisal done. At this point, the closing date would have been May 30th, shortly after we returned from our wedding. [I know it was a crazy time to buy with planning for a wedding, but it all just happened so quickly.] When the appraisal came back, it was $20k lower than the agreed upon price (which, mind you, is over $40k less than the original asking price). This became a big problem for our bank. The bank refused to give us a mortgage for $20k more than their appraiser thought it was worth. We had comps (comparable properties that have sold) run for the whole area and they weren’t that off what our deal was. Yet the appraiser refused to budge. He didn’t shift his original number in the least. Our problem, besides the obvious, was that we tried to offer less for the property, but the seller could not do it. He would have to come to the table with over $25k to close out his mortgage and it just wasn’t a possibility. So, as quickly as it had all started, it was gone…just like that.

The disappointment over our first foray in realty was lessened by our wedding and surrounding festivities. It wasn’t until we were home for a few weeks, coming out of our newlywed bliss, that this all began to hit us.

After countless hours (for both of us) online, looking for the perfect deal, we were running dry on leads. Strange, being that we found the perfect place our first time out. There was nothing else like it. DAMMIT! During this dry period we looked at other places and nothing came close to being worth leaving Brooklyn for.

Suddenly, the market took another small drop and things started to become available in the neighborhood we thought we couldn’t afford: downtown JC. Now, the hunt was on. Again, countless hours were logged online and many phone calls with our broker were taken. During our research, we learned that Jersey City Heights has been up and down since 2000 and been in a steady decline for quite a bit now. That good investment was looking a little unstable now. Jersey City was starting to seem further away than just across the Hudson river. Further research revealed that downtown JC has been consistently high since for the same time period and only dropped slightly last month, allowing certain condos to crawl into our price range. Yeah! We came to terms with the fact that if we wanted to make a better investment for our future, we would have to spend our present in smaller square footage than we had originally planned. It’s a hard sacrifice to make, especially when you have three large male cats in your entourage.

So, here we are about to look at one place that I have been eying for awhile, but have been, up until this point, unable to get a showing at. We’ll see how 650 square feet looks at 10:30am on a hot Saturday morning in downtown Jersey City. Probably not as delicious as all of the young jogging men I’ve also been eying in the hood, but maybe it’ll come close…

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