The vibrancy of a town can be measured by the abundance and variety of its places to eat. This is especially true when the city is as walkable as Montclair, NJ, home to more than 150 restaurants by latest count. New, exciting establishments spring up all the time.
Chef Robbie Felice, experienced in gastronomy worldwide, and winner of countless accolades, has introduced pastaRamen to Montclair, the dining sensation that combines Japanese and Italian cuisine – Wafu Italian – an elegant blend – so popular that reservations are taken more than a month in advance. Everything French is uncompromising when it comes to fine dining. Faubourg takes that stereotype to the next level, not only with its food – the reason we patronize great restaurants – but also its majestic space. The downtown is alive and in constant transition. In what was once a bank, then a theater, Faubourg rises to the occasion with upscale craft cocktails and modern French dishes that deliver the richness and drama of its location’s provenance. Nami Nori is a temaki bar, specializing in open-style sushi hand rolls, including crunchy varieties – a favorite – as well as interesting takes on the classics and a special vegan section. The visual display anticipates the pleasure in each fun-to-eat bite. Japanese-inspired snacks, appetizers, beer, sake and wine complement each meal. Authentic Ethiopian restaurant Mesob offers a vegan vegetarian-friendly menu. Only the finest lamb, chicken, and beef make it onto Mesob’s tables which have graced Montclair since 2003. The traditional flat bread alone rewards the palate of diners in search of adventurous new textures and tastes. The proprietors of sophisticated American cuisine restaurant Turtle and the Wolf are keenly aware of historical context, which explains why its chosen name is made up of two creatures meaningful to the Lenape tribes native to the history of the Montclair area. Family Style servings are available; takeout is available. The menu is varied and colorful. Samba brings the rustic taste of Brazilian cuisine to Montclair. Chief Chef Ilson Goncalves’ Samba Montclair Cookbook is a best-seller. The restaurant is named for traditional Brazilian dance because food should be prepared to elicit joy, and the best expression of joy is to dance. Samba offers an extensive, exciting gluten free menu. Reservations required. BYOB. Walk in. You will dance out. Abundance attracts even more abundance. Word is that world-renowned Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto is looking to open a restaurant in Montclair so keep your eyes peeled and your gait loose in the walkable city.
Montclair is full of discoveries. What about a restaurant in a bookstore? Da Pepo serves traditional southern Italian dishes in a relaxed, shared space with a bookstore, Montclair literary landmark, Watchung Booksellers. Italian food and good literature are among those favorite things that make life worth living. Here you can find them both in one place. Allegory is the signature restaurant inside the MC Hotel, the place to stay if you are visiting, or where you can direct large parties who might be visiting you from out of town. An allegory can be a story, a picture, a piece of music that reveals a hidden meaning. Allegory is all of that, with a gallery, entertainment, and meals at breakfast, lunch and dinner, each a work of art. In a town known for its diversity, it’s no surprise that more than one restaurant embodies combined influence. Meet Me at Madisons is a prime example: “Mediterranean cuisine with a Latin influence” is how it promotes itself with this promise: “Time beautifully filled” at breakfast, lunch, and dinner for those with cosmopolitan tastes. Le Salbuen brings the flavors of Europe to Montclair. Hand-crafted menus, minimalist artistic presentations delivered with care. Fresh ingredients from trusted sources – farmers and fishermen. It’s all here. Marcel lists as a kitchen and bakery, which tells you the mix it offers. “Enjoy Food and Savor Life” is its mantra, with a middle eastern menu – breakfast plates including three eggs your way and the famous Israeli breakfast, lunch plates, pita, falafels, Turkish eggplant, just to name a few, baked goods, scones, blueberry muffins, Nutella tea cake, much more than can be listed here and always authentic.
Ray’s Luncheonette urges you to “Come Hungry!” Ray’s has been serving breakfast, lunch and early dinner to Montclair residents and visitors for more than 40 years. Second and third generations have grown up at its tables. The Corner has seating options that look out on the street so you can observe the walkable city while you eat your meal. It is a gourmet cafe that offers interesting variations on the expected. Consider pulled pork Benedict, chicken liver toast, and prosciutto and ricotta toast. The brunch competition in Montclair is challenging. Many think The Corner has it cornered. Mercado, of course, means “market” in Portuguese. This market offers a wide selection of sandwiches, wraps and bowls that you can almost taste just by reading their ingredients. It has a breakfast menu, a soup menu, a plant-based menu, special coffees and smoothies with enticing names like strawberry tart, triple berry, avocado rush, and spiced chocolate. Pineapple Express Barbecue and Beer Garden occupies historic Lackawanna Station, the railroad terminal that served Montclair from 1913 to 1980, on the National Register of Historic Places. Its team won the Grand Champion title at the prestigious May World Championship Barbecue Contest in Memphis plus placed first in the ribs category – first team to take both titles in 22 years. Fresh oysters every day. Happy Hour Thursday and Friday. Teglia Pizza Bar offers more than pizza. Its Roman pan pizza is the best in the business. In Teglia’s own words, “The pursuit of beauty, flavor, texture, and nuances is our art.” Teglia will cater your event, but entering the restaurant and reading through its menu is a mouth-watering event in itself.
Montclair has it in every variation and expression. The Paper Plane Coffee venue is unique, for sure. But one most of us have experienced before – the inside of an airplane. The seats are airplane seats. You can’t order online at Paper Plane. They stopped that in October, 2021 because interest and number of orders exceeded their capacity. You have to come in and see the place. Everything is personal and customized for you, like the exotic choices on the menu. Buckle your seatbelts. Boho Café reminds that there’s no one who doesn’t love ice cream and coffee. They both free whoever indulges to pause and reflect, to think about something or nothing, to escape into the moment of enjoyment as long it lasts. Boho Café, a family-owned boutique coffee and ice cream shop has a complete menu of Espresso Drinks, Teas, Desserts and home-made Ice-Cream flavors, including sea salt caramel whose name itself takes you on a voyage. It’s one of the most Instragramable eateries in town. Café Giotto serves coffee and more – handmade northern Italian specialty food – lunch and dinner, exquisite sides, exciting desserts. Consider the Frozen Pistachio & Almond Layered Mousse. All with an unmistakable European flavor. Café Moso is named after its location – MOntclair SOuth. A Montclair American Bistro. American fusion cuisine in a casual fine dining atmosphere. Experience the south end of Montclair.
Kreme and Krumbs creates ice creams completely from scratch, using the finest ingredients. The production team enjoys experimenting with complex flavor profiles, exploring different chocolates, salts and vanillas. The hand-crafted results keep people smiling and coming back. Vesta Chocolate is a bean-to-bonbon craft chocolate factory and café. As the owners say, when you do what you love to do with the people you love, magic happens. In this case, the magic that happens is one delicious chocolate at a time. Check out their wares. Purity, Precision, Perfection are the three words Il Laboratorio del Gelato uses to describe its passion and dedication to creating a bewildering selection of seasonal gelato and sorbet flavors that change throughout the day, keeping a constant line of patient patrons spilling out to the sidewalk. Il Laboratorio del Gelato sources its own ingredients, adhering to the original artisanal Italian method of gelato-making.