Jersey City, NJ 07302
- Credit Cards: All Major
- Alcohol: Full Bar
- Parking: Street, Metered
- Take Out: Yes
June 7, 2016
“Órale” is a uniquely Mexican expression that means “wow,” “ok,” “yes,” “true,” “right on,” “cool,” “hurry up,” or even “your turn,” depending on the context. Visiting Jersey City’s Órale Mexican Kitchen can elicit any one of these exclamations.
A more colorful restaurant is hard to find, thanks to Órale’s cleverly illuminated wall of Jarritos soda bottles, graffiti-style murals on brick walls and Day of the Dead knick-knacks all over the place. A long mosaic tile-topped table fills the center of the main dining room, beyond the rough-hewn wood bar. A second room has more bricks and more tables.
Like most spots in this part of Jersey City, steps from the Grove Street PATH station, Órale hosts a hopping Happy Hour. The well-stocked bar at the entrance is often packed with singles downing beer and Margaritas (10 versions). There are 28 individual tequilas on the menu. Órale’s list of imported mezcal is also worth exploring. (Mezcal is a smoother agave spirit that tastes best neat. My favorite versions – like Los Nahuales – have smoky whiskey notes.)
Órale’s modern Mexican cooking shines as bright as its cocktails. The menu features eleven twists on traditional guacamole, including versions with crab, pulpo picante (spicy grilled octopus), pork belly and fruit. The upscale tacos are very good, arriving on an upright metal platter. Served in a single tortilla, toppings include bone marrow, Peking duck and lamb, along with more common carnitas (pork belly) and carne (beef), Try the excellent Tacos Borrachos – beer-battered fish with jalapeños and cabbage slaw. Chicken enchiladas Suizas, in a creamy tomatillo sauce, is another familiar dish done very well here. Sides include a tasty brussel sprouts and charred corn with queso fresco. Ask about any specials. More extravagant ones have included cochinita masa gnocchi and duck pozole. Desserts like vanilla flan and tres leches round out the menu. (Torico’s homemade ice cream, which Órale uses in its sundae, is just two blocks away.)
All the food we tried is excellent for a place with such a bar scene, but not quite in the same flavor or spice ballpark as the hearty, cheaper, fare you’ll find at other Jersey Mexican spots like El Matador (Bloomfield) or La Valentina (Long Branch), or the upscale Mexican at Villalobos (Montclair). Órale Mexican Kitchen is worth a visit though, órale, no matter how you say it.