On a Sunday afternoon, I boarded a train in midtown Manhattan bound for to New Jersey to go explore Little Manila, a Filipino neighborhood located in Jersey City.
Invited to explore the area by my travel blogger friend Kristen and Kristen’s friend Kristina, we aimed to see all that Little Manila had to offer.
With over 16,000 Filipinos living in Jersey City alone, the city is a wonderful place to explore Filipino culture and food. The food is cheap, the people are friendly, and it is a place you will want to return to time and time again.
On a mission to explore all of Little Manila in half of a day, we set out on our journey beginning at Max’s of Manila on the western end of Newark Avenue and we made our way by foot all the way out of Little Manila to Legal Beans Cafe near the eastern part of Newark Avenue.
Max’s of Manila
The first stop on our exploration of Jersey City’s Little Manila was to Max’s of Manila, a famous fried chicken restaurant chain based in the Philippines that is known as“The House That Fried Chicken Built”. In addition to their fried chicken, Max’s in Jersey City offers a large variety of both Filipino and Asian dishes.
After looking over the menu with Kristen and Kristina, we each decided on which dish we wanted and what we would share amongst the three of us.
I ordered the Bangus Sisig (Sizzling Boneless Marinated Milkfish). Served on a sizzling plate, the dish is comprised of chopped deep fried boneless milkfish with onions and ginger, and it is some of the most flavorful fish dishes that I have eaten in my life.
Kristen opted for the famous Max’s Fried Chicken. Like many other cultures around the world, fried chicken is also enjoyed in the Philippines.
Fried to perfection, Max’s Fried Chicken is a 70 -year-old recipe that is marinated in Max’s signature seasonings. It is said to be best enjoyed with Banana Ketchup mixed with Worcestershire and hot sauce, however I ate it plain.
Kristina ordered the Sinigang na Baboy (Pork Tamarind Soup). Comprised of tangy tamarind, chopped pork, and an assortment of vegetables, which came highly recommended by Max’s staff.
Location: 687 Newark Avenue, between Summit Avenue and Kennedy Boulevard
Fil Stop Food Market
After departing from Max’s, we headed next door to Fil Stop, the largest Filipino grocery store on the east coast of the United States.
The grocery store is passionate about sharing Filipino culture and food with the world, and they source Filipino food to the store directly from the Philippines and the rest of Asia.
With a wide variety of authentic Filipino food, Phil Am says that they are a one-stop-shop for all of your Filipino needs.
am slightly obsessed with love mango, so the first thing I did when I entered the store was to make sure I stocked up on delicious Filipino dried mango. I spent the rest of the time in the store acquainting myself with some other Filipino foods and snacks.
Shopping Tip: If you want anything directly from the Philippines, make sure to check the label of the product you are buying to ensure it says ‘Product of the Philippines’.
Location: 683 Newark Avenue, between Summit Avenue and Kennedy Boulevard
Red Ribbon Bakeshop
The next stop on our trip around Little Manila was to Red Ribbon Bakeshop, a part of a bakery chain based in the Philippines.
One item that immediately grabbed my attention when I stepped through the door was the large purple Ube (purple yam) cake in the display. It was so beautiful and if I had a reason to buy a cake, that definitely would have been the one that I would have opted to get.
Location: 591 Summit Avenue, on the corner of Newark Avenue
Philippine Bread House
After strolling through the streets of Little Manila, we had two more places in mind that we wanted to visit, and one of them was the Philippine Bread House.
As a family owned bakery, the Philippine Bread House produces a large amount of fresh breads and baked goods daily. Not only is their bread top quality, but they are very friendly too.
I purchased a couple of items including piping hot Pandesal (salt bread) that just came out of the oven, a container of Ube to eat with my Pandesal, and Suman Malagkit (sticky rice with coconut and sugar wrapped in banana leaves). The sweet owner gifted me with some delicious Bicho-Bicho (Filipino donuts) after I made my purchase, and I devoured before the night was over.
Location: 530 Newark Avenue, between Baldwin Avenue and McPherson Place
Legal Beans Cafe
Located outside of Little Manila, the little Legal Beans Cafe is Filipino-Puerto Rican owned coffeeshop and barbecue house that was featured by the Travel Channel’s Andrew Zimmerman.
In addition to their coffee beans, Legal Beans Cafe is known for their lechón and their in-house rotisserie pit where they cook entire hogs Cebu style in the middle of the restaurant while you watch.
As a non-swineatarian, I opted for their pulled barbecue chicken sliders, which were ridiculously delicious and cheap. Kristen and Kristina happily munched away at their pulled pork and pork-on-a-skewer as we recapped the day and talked about all of the amazing food we ate.
Location: 2 Division Street, at Newark Avenue
Other places to try in Little Manila:
- Casa Manila (665 Newark Avenue): Home-cooked Filipino food served buffet style
- Fiesta Grill (655 Newark Avenue): This Filipino restaurant offers inexpensive Turo Turo (‘point point’) dining
- American Pinoy Food Market (530 Newark Avenue): a small Filipino grocery store
- Little Quiapo (530 Newark Avenue): A Turo Turo style Filipino restaurant known for their breakfast Silogs (garlic fried rice, topped with over-easy eggs and and a side of meat).
Getting to Little Manila:
Take the PATH train towards Journal Square (on weekends it is Journal Square/Hoboken). When you depart from the train you will be on the corner of Pavonia Avenue and Kennedy Boulevard. Head north on Kennedy Boulevard for three blocks, and turn right onto Newark Avenue, where your journey will begin. Cost: $5.50 RT