Eighty Magazine, a new seasonal broadsheet founded by travel writer Chadner Navarro and graphic designer Marinell Montales, may resemble Monocle‘s biannual guide to niche holiday destinations, but it takes its name from another definition of spectacle: the bus route that zigzags the length of Jersey City, from its southern border with the blue-collar-cruise port of Bayonne to the highrise construction sites dominating the downtown Hudson River waterfront. The premiere issue, published last August and debuted at Manhattan booksellers like McNally Jackson and Printed Matter, featured the work of friends and neighbors who contribute to publications like Vice, Afar, and Travel & Leisure but rarely train their eye closer to home.
“If you’re an international traveler frequently visiting New York, you should also be aware of what Jersey City is becoming,” Navarro argues. He made his case through the clean lines and immersive spreads of Eighty‘s first issue, dedicated to exploring the forces defining the fast-evolving metropolis’s entrepreneurial spirit, including Mana Contemporary, the warehouse turned contemporary arts center hosting a workshop with Marina Abramovic later this year; former Lucky magazine designer Emma Taylor’s ice cream parlor Milk Sugar Love; and leather artisans Chris and Kirk Bray, who design their Billykirk collection in a Bay Street studio.
It was at the Warehouse Cafe, downstairs from Billykirk’s studio, that Navarro and Montales conceived the magazine and styled the Kamayan feast of crispy pata on banana leaves gracing the cover of Eighty‘s winter issue, released last week. The meal, and Navarro’s essay on the subject, is a tribute to the flavors of both their Philippine homeland and their current Greenville neighborhood.
While Jersey City’s thriving culinary scene has just this month welcomed two restaurants from Brooklyn chef Dale Talde, and seen veteran Momofuku chef Kevin Pemoulie’s Thirty Acres reopen with a tasting-menu-only concept, the magazine intently focuses on cultural exploration, resident chefs, and best-kept secrets: The spice merchants of Curry Hill receive the same attention as a profile of Diana Valenzuela, pastry chef at David Waltuck’s Elan; an illustrated essay on spirits pairings at local eateries by Whiskey Distilled author Heather Greene; and an interview with Rene Safarova-Gonzales, a native of Azerbaijan who founded Bambino Chef, a popular Newark Avenue cooking school for children.
There is a role at Eighty for tasting menus, too; such meals fund its publication and keep it free of charge. Navarro and Montales wanted to keep the 5,000-issue run free of advertising, but rather than raise money through Kickstarter, they encouraged their prospective readers to explore the city beyond the magazine’s pages by hosting a series of collaborative dinners throughout the year, showcasing courses from new restaurants and purveyors like Third & Vine, a cheese and gin bar from former Casellula fromager Jamie Mayne, and Grandma’s Downtown, baker Krista Zevoteck’s specialty bread shop born in a local farmers’ market.
Montales sees such collaborative efforts as another way to embody the publication’s title. “It serves Jersey City and so do we,” she says. Navarro, meanwhile, sees another commonality — bus and magazine as revelation: “It says it has a schedule, but it never comes when you expect it to.”