June 17, 2019
Since July 2015, South House Bar & Restaurant has been bringing “simple southern” to Jersey City, fusing Austin, TX flavors with the spirit of the Delta blues. In the heart of the bustling Newark Avenue Pedestrian Plaza, the three-story venue serves up farm-to-glass specialty cocktails made with brown spirits, tequilas and mezcals, ice-cold brews and Texas-style southern eats, all against a live blues soundtrack.
South House is owned by David Hohensee, who partnered with his sisters Allison Villarreal and Stephanie Villarreal of brand and design agency Mercantile Hospitality Group to craft a true southern-style experience. It’s not their first rodeo: whiskey enthusiast David also owns a bar and restaurant in Hoboken.
Bar-forward and boasting an exceptional cocktail and whiskey program, South House hits all the right Texan beats, something that Allison Villarreal attributes to the combined professional talents and business acumen of the sibling trio.
“At the end of the day, you can’t buy integrity, loyalty, dependability, and reliability,” she says.
All of those traits are a must in the fast-paced bar and restaurant industry. The South House team is always planning special events and ways to keep things fresh. In addition to the great eats, the rotating roster of local and national blues musicians is a major draw – as is the pointedly eclectic, music-themed decor.
“Most people don’t know that most of the black-and-white photography on the walls are one-of-a-kind unpublished works by the iconic rock and roll and blues photographer Dick Waterman. Some of them are from his tours with The Rolling Stones in the 1960s,” says Allison.
”Jersey City is an ever-growing destination experience that I’m very proud to be a part of.”
The South House experience is envisaged as a comfortable, casual southern setting where southern hospitality looms large – and so do the expertly executed craft cocktails and home-style menu.
“We get a lot of love about several menu items, but the smoked BBQ wings with Grandpo’s dry rub really stands out. Smoked to perfection, they’re served with ranch or our South House Signature BBQ sauce. Our most popular house cocktails are the Purple Haze and Midnight Mojito.”
The craft cocktail syrups are another winner.
“They’re all house-made by our Beverage Director, Norman James Strobel,” says Allison.
All of this is only possible with the help of a dedicated team. Each day at South House begins early with menu prep, with bar support arriving around midday to cut fresh fruit and edible garnishes for the venue’s muddled cocktails. After that, the managers arrive to arrange the day’s specials – and staff tastings. Finally, the servers are at hand to set up linens, florals and the gas lanterns in the main bar.
It’s an undertaking of love, which is something the South House team has in spades. 75% of the current staff has been a part of the South House family since day one. Every year, they travel to Austin, Texas over the Labor Day Holiday to recharge, get inspired, and find new performers to add to their ever-changing set list.
“Our upcoming South House Juke Joint Session will feature authentic Delta Blues Artists from Clarksdale, Mississippi and the surrounding Delta region. We’ll fly the artists in to perform for our guests, transporting the Juke Joint experience to Newark Avenue.”
Allison loves being able to give back to the local community, and is excited to watch the area go from strength to strength.
“Jersey City is a historical community with many new and exciting additions rolling out every year. I feel very lucky to be in such great company with all the developments in and around the Historic Downtown Special Improvement District and the City of JC. Jersey City is an ever-growing destination experience that I’m very proud to be a part of,” says Allison.
South House is currently working on an all-new rooftop level that will be completed in 2019.
149 Newark Avenue,
Jersey City, NJ 07302