While it wasn't the avocado toast that initally drew me in, I did give in to it. And I'm so glad I did.
Short Grain, a small but bright open space located right across from City Hall at 183 Montgomery Street, opened in late May as a café and eatery with a Vietnamese-influenced menu, Balthazar baked goods, and specialty coffee service. One of their first menu items was the avocado toast, capitalizing on a current trend and one that would appeal to the neighborhood, guaranteeing this place would spark a lot of initial interest.
Short Grain is serving Counter Culture Coffee and while I've heard more than a few rumbles of "we already have plenty of coffee shops around", I would argue that a city should have lots of excellent coffee places and that in fact, Short Grain is much more of a casual café than a coffee shop. The coffee, though quite good, is not the real reason to go. although The Vietnamese Cold Brew is a particular stand-out, stronger and thicker (thanks to the condensed milk) than most iced coffees and absolutely delicious. The food is the major draw here and the fact that it isn't a full-scale restaurant complete with table service and huge brunches (a bit rare in the area) - you can get in and get out, or sit down to enjoy the meal you ordered at the counter.
While service is still running a little slowly and with some disorganization and anxiety (pretty common in a new restaurant), it's certainly not showing in the food. The sandwiches I've had, the cold cut (basically a banh mi) and the chicken coconut curry, were both fantastic. Made on fresh banh mi-type baguettes, the sandwiches are a good size and packed with flavor although not overfilled or stuffed in any way. Simplicity and layering the ingredients are key here. Both contained shredded carrots, cilantro, pickled red onions, and cucumber. If you ask, they'll also add some sliced hot pepper to make it spicy (I recommend it). All the ingredients were extremely fresh, making the sandwich feel light (even the cold cut with pate), and adding a nice bit of crunch to the otherwise softer bread and ingredients. The chicken curry was especially good with the flavor of the coconut milk and spice of the curry really coming through well.
And of course, the avocado toast. I got mine to go with an egg on top and while I think it veers a little close to being overpriced, I still think it's worth the price ($9 without the egg, $10 with it, I believe). I'm happy to say they are being generous with the avocado and it also comes with pickled onions, thinly sliced radish, feta (ok to skip if you're vegan/dairy-free), salt and pepper on fresh, good quality bread. I wouldn't have minded if mine had been a little more toasted, but overall, it was a really great version of avocado toast. The egg was perfectly cooked with a mostly- runny yolk, but solid whites and it helped make the toast feel like more of a complete meal.
All in All
Short Grain, open 7am-7pm, is serving a fairly simple menu, but they're doing it very well. I want to try just about everything on their menu, including the lemon ricotta hotcakes which seem to be exceedingly popular, and looking at them, I can see why. As I mentioned, service can be a bit slow but I'm sure that will change over time and the quality of food they're serving makes it worth it. Everything runs in the $7-$10 range which seems reasonable and the portions are quite decently sized.I love the relaxing, comfortable feel to the space and the casual atmosphere and take-out abilities are a great addition to Jersey City.