June 17, 2019
In The Heights neighborhood of Jersey City, The Hutton is a beloved go-to spot for food and drinks. It’s existed in its current incarnation since October 2017, but has a past dating back to Prohibition times.
New owners Leah Blesoff and Ian Woodcock share the story of a regular customer whose grandmother grew up on the block. The door at 225 Hutton would swing open to reveal a dark room with men drinking inside – a speakeasy flying under the radar of local law enforcement.
“You can’t buy that history!” says Leah.
Leah claims that the bar wasn’t something that she and her husband actively sought out.
“It actually came to us. Ian is in construction and was looking for a new project. He came across the building via local real estate agent and neighborhood icon Bridget Cleary. Ian is pretty low-key about things. We were out for dinner and Ian casually mentioned that he had put an offer in on a bar that day. I choked on my drink!”
The space needed a lot of work, but Ian had a vision, and Leah had many years of restaurant experience under her belt. They decided to give it a shot.
“Ian is from Bray, Ireland, and it felt right to carry the torch in what was such a strong Irish-American neighborhood and now has become such a diverse, exciting neighborhood to have a business. We are thrilled to be here.”
Leah says Ian strove to maintain the integrity of the original space while updating it to make it feel current, doing such a good job that in 2017 he was honored with a Jersey City Landmarks Conservancy Preservation Award.
“There is so much local talent, creativity and support, which makes it a truly vibrant community. People show up for each other here, which makes it such an incredible neighborhood.”
They kept the original terrazzo tile floor and tin ceiling, but added a back patio to showcase their favorite element: a 200-year-old tree that provides a lush backdrop to those fun summer nights. One of their regulars has suggested that they build a tree house structure that can be used as a table, which is something that they’re still pondering.
Ian was also able to salvage the bar and back wall from the venue’s forty-year history as local neighborhood haunt Monaghan’s.
“The overall atmosphere is a casual mix of old and new. I love the fact that on any given night, you’ll find old school neighborhood people, young hipsters, families, a large group of local moms drinking wine or having a book club night. Everyone feels comfortable here.”
The decor is just part of the appeal. The Hutton hosts Irish music sessions every week – sometimes with up to 15 players from NJ, NY and even Ireland – and is known for its wide-ranging menu.
“Our customers really love their burgers. Other very popular dishes are the vegetarian sweet potato tamale and the chopped brisket and gnocchi. For brunch, The Hutton Benny and Hangover Sandwich are big sellers. We’re also becoming known for Chef Carlos’ innovative and delicious specials. We get calls and messages about those every day.”
The Hutton’s cocktails are also in high demand, with the most popular picks changing with the seasons.
“In the wintertime, it’s The Hutton Old Fashioned and the Jersey City Donkey. In the warmer months Fresh to Death is really popular. We also have many sophisticated wine enthusiasts, and people are big fans of our rotating craft beer list. Kane is an excellent local brewer that is always a top seller.”
It’s an exciting time to be in Jersey City and The Heights in particular, says Leah.
“The neighborhood is booming, and we love hearing about new businesses opening up nearby. The more the merrier! We have found the business community and the entire neighborhood to be incredibly welcoming. There is so much local talent, creativity and support, which makes it a truly vibrant community. Some of our favorite local musicians and artists are also JC business owners who are also very involved in the local park conservancies, farmer’s market, theatre groups and so on. People show up for each other here, which makes it such an incredible neighborhood.”
Next up for The Hutton is the Jersey City Annual Guinness, Oyster & Music Festival on Saturday June 22.
“If last year is anything to go by, this year will be fantastic. We’re going to close off the block and have an all-day event with great bands, oysters, Guinness, a full bar, a special menu and a DJ. We’ll even have a bouncy house – hope you can make it!”
225 Hutton Street,
Jersey City, NJ 07307