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The Heights Gets a Taste of Afro-Caribbean Culture

Image Credit: Aida M. Toro

The Jersey City Heights has evolved so much throughout the years. All the way from luxury residencies being built to eclectic eateries opening their doors to the public. With that being said, the heights gave Griot Café a warm welcome into the neighborhood in late March.

“I knew Central Avenue had a lot of business and so many restaurants, so we though Griot would be a good addition,” said Victor Joseph, partner and part-time chef at Griot Café.

“We named our café the Griot Café because we wanted to fuse both the Haitian and West African meaning of Griot,” said John Gichuru, a partner at Griot Cafe. “We recognize the importance of not only serving you great food but providing a space where you can create pleasant memories.”

Pronounced as [gree-oh], Griot can mean something different depending on your country of origin. In Haiti, Griot is defined as a popular dish loved by the Haitian population.

Instagram/griotcafe
Instagram/griotcafe

“Big chunks of pork shoulder are marinated in a citrus and scotch bonnet chiles, then simmered until it’s very tender,” said Gichuru.

In certain parts of West Africa, Griot was a profession that encompassed many roles. A Griot could be a historian, storyteller, musician, teacher, warrior, interpreter, master of ceremonies, ambassador, and so much more.

According to Malick Drame, another partner,  a Griot in the history sphere was an invaluable member of the community, since their responsibility was to preserve the history and the genealogy of their society and transmit through stories or songs.

“To become a Griot, one had to be born into a griot family and a child would be exposed to the particular area where the parent was a practicing Griot,” said Drame. “In other instances, certain communities provided training where young apprentices would learn under the tutelage of a master Griot.”

Griot is a one of a kind café as it was designed by Kim Coca, a local interior designer, which is decorated with unique paintings.

“Because of her intimate knowledge of the area, she enabled us to come up with something unique from a space and design perspective,” said Gichuru.

Griot also happens to be the only coffee shop in the Hudson County area carrying Chameleon Cold-Brew coffee, being that the brand is mainly found at retailers like Whole Foods and Target. Most importantly, Griot is the first café that rolled out Chameleon’s hot coffee initiative.

Instagram/griotcafe
Instagram/griotcafe

The menu at Griot varies as the café is an Afro-Carribean pastry shop where items such as Haitian Turnos and Griot Sandwiches are offered in addition to everyday staples like Avocado Toast, Veggie Omelettes, and Spinach Wraps that are served with bacon and potatoes. Griot also offers an assortment of pastries from Balthazar Bakery and International Delights, which are both local establishments.

Gichuru mentioned that the menu will have some new additions in June, such as a Creole Chicken and Waffles dish with a side of fruit, Haitian and Kenyan Beignets, Kenyan Samosas, salads, and fresh juices.

Instagram/griotcafe
Instagram/griotcafe

“We look forward to serving our guests a different, yet delightful cuisine,” said Gichuru.

The partners at Griot Café are also planning on opening up a patio section for the upcoming summer where consumers can sit down, have brunch, read a book, and have some fun in the sun. An open-mic night is also in the works since there is a space in the cafe where people can sit down and perform the lyrics to their songs or their spoken word poetry.

“We want to offer guests a communal space where they can share their stories with us and those they meet there,” noted Gichuru.

Griot Café is located at 434 Central Avenue. For more updates on the cafe, follow @griotcafe on Instagram.

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Aida M. Toro

Aida is a journalist with a passion for gastronomy, fashion, and fitness. She was born and raised in Hudson County and enjoys writing pieces that inspire the residents of the communities in the county. Aida has a BA in Journalism from NJCU and has been published by well-known publications such as North Jersey.com (The Bergen Record), HobokenGirl.com, and The Girls Soccer Network. Aside from being a journalist, Aida enjoys cooking paleo recipes and working out at the Crossfit box she’s a member of.

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