The idea of an island getaway is meant to evoke feelings of peace, relaxation, and joy. Of course, no paradise is complete without great food. But for those who don’t plan on leaving NJ anytime soon, one new restaurant is bringing the Caribbean to you. The Freetown Road Project restaurant in Jersey City presents both an island getaway vibe and a noble cause.
The cozy spot features palm trees and wooden decor. “This was built by family so it feels like home,” says owner and chef Claude Lewis. In addition, the Freetown Road Project moniker is rooted in meaning. The name comes from a combination of where Lewis’ parents are from in Antigua; his father is from Freetown Road Village and his mom is from Old Road village. Both spots are in the West Indies.
From Sous Chef to Chopped Champion
His parents moved to America from Antigua before Claude was born. His mom was an avid cook and his father worked his way up in kitchens. With this in mind, Lewis credits his parents as his culinary inspiration.
Early in his career, Lewis was part of the Porta Jersey City team (an authentic Neapolitan pizza restaurant); soon climbing the ladder from sous chef to executive chef. He also takes part in various food festivals in Jersey City, including numerous Midnight Market festivals. But now he focuses on doing what he can to serve his community in other ways, too.
Freetown started as an off-premise West Indian catering business in 2015. But after becoming a winner on Food Network’s Chopped, Lewis wanted to open his own small restaurant. Freetown Road Project seats 30 in its 1,110-square foot space that was formerly a medical office.
“It took some work to transform this space into a restaurant,” Lewis admits.
An Authentic West Indian Menu
Freetown Road Project serves what it calls a “modern and focused representation” of West Indian cuisine. The BYOB spot makes authentic recipes from Antigua and the West Indian islands. Signature dishes include oxtail with rice and beans, says Lewis. He also suggests that you start off with their fish cakes.
Meanwhile, signature drinks include house-made limeade, nonalcoholic ginger beer, and their tart sorrel soda.
Two days a week, the team works as a stationary or mobile soup kitchen, serving the homeless and the needy. Lewis also works with his sister, Claudia Wheeler, founder of The Salt Foundation. This foundation works with supermarkets and food suppliers to collect food that would otherwise go to waste; they then deliver the food to those who need it most (homeless and women’s shelters, food pantries and food drives). “It’s important to give back to the community,” says Lewis. “We all survive together and we’ll build together.”
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All Photos: Provided by Freetown Road Project