Life is definitely more savory when you live in a relatively progressive state like New Jersey. Having lived in north New Jersey my whole life almost, I’ve met people from many different ethnic and social backgrounds. You’ll find many different combinations of interracial marriages here. It’s so common that Hubby and I barely turn heads anymore. Or maybe I’ve stopped noticing. Either way, I like having access to places with a rich cultural mix. That brings me to the Ironbound, a thriving neighborhood in the east section of Newark. Traditionally, the Ironbound is known as a Portuguese and Brazilian neighborhood. It’s one of my favorite places to hang out, with its blend of cosmopolitan bistros and old-fashioned European-style dessert shops. In this video clip, you’ll see a shot of Mompou (1:29), where my friends and I gathered for my 35th birthday dinner. The main artery of the neighborhood, Ferry Street, is loaded with beautiful stores, including a chic European baby’s clothing boutique where I spent a lot of money on Baby’s christening gown. Hubby loves the place. There is a great fish store, Mexican restaurant and wine shop. He says the vibe in the Ironbound reminds him of some of the little European towns he remembers from the part of his childhood that his family spent in Italy. His family lived in Milan, I think, for seven years, so they saw a lot of Spain and other parts of Europe.
And while it seems like the handful of Portuguese families that dominate the business landscape there are still pillars of the community, the central American is steadily increasing. It suggests the neighborhood is about to undergo a substantial cultural change. I do hope the Portuguese maintain their stronghold, to be honest. Much of the Ironbound is well-kept, the bigger families and business owners bring in a lot of money, maintain a cohesive business community and they do a lot to promote the Ironbound brand, making the neighborhood a great place to kick back and enjoy a night out. During the sultry days of summer the merchants put on a week long cultural celebration called Portugal Day. One Christmas season, the local business association piped Christmas carols through outdoor sound systems, creating a fantastic atmosphere for strolling and shopping.
Another great thing about the Ironbound: the people there are used to being in diverse surroundings, especially the Brazilians, whose native country really is a cultural melting pot. Hubby and I never got lingering stares or glares while having dinner or shopping in that district, and nowadays we barely register a glance from passersby.