Best 20 Montclair Restaurants of 2022
In This article We discuss The best 20 Montclair Restaurants of 2022. It’s no secret that Montclair has an abundance of dining options. It’s a mash-up of international flavors. Whether you want to sip and slurp your way through a brothy bowl of ramen. Pour yourself a cup of feijoada. Alternatively, tuck into some Thai street food. It’s what makes naming some of Montclair’s best restaurants a difficult task in 2022. Nonetheless, we succeeded.
The Top 20 Montclair Restaurants
The local restaurant scene has been forever altered in the last year. Although we were sad to say goodbye to some of our favorites along the way—Laurel & Sage, Vanillamore, Villalobos, Costanera, and Plum on Park—the good news is that the area’s brilliant food and drink scene remains. Some restaurants are even making a triumphant comeback. So we’ve compiled a list of the top 20 Montclair restaurants, as well as some iconic establishments that have served as community anchors. In addition to some newer places worth visiting.
1. Ani Ramen
Before Ani Ramen had a half-dozen locations across the state, ramen fans would crowd into its one and only Montclair location. Ani has become a local gem for Essex County diners, as evidenced by the constantly bustling space (they’ve since moved to 511 Bloomfield Ave). The restaurant specializes in a variety of ramen styles but strives to capture the true essence of Tokyo.
The spicy miso with kakuni, cabbage, chives, scallions, and roasted chili oil is a local favorite. Or, if it’s on the menu, the ultra-rich short rib ramen. You won’t find better bao buns in town, with everything from pork belly and chicken katsu to fried tofu, panko shrimp, and kimchi. They will not let you down.
2. Brick + Dough | Best Montclair Restaurants
Jason Rosenthal’s wood-fired venture, Brick + Dough, has relocated from Union City to Montclair. Rosenthal partnered with Luisa Bakery owner and “Chopped” alum Menny Vaknin to restart his pizza business after closing his Hudson County storefront in 2020. This Walnut Street eatery now serves the baked goods that Luisa’s was known for, as well as Rosenthal’s specialty pies and other savoury offerings.
Each pizza begins with a 48-hour fermented dough and is baked in a wood-fired oven. Because of the high cooking temperature, the exterior becomes extra charred while the interior remains light and chewy. While there isn’t a huge selection of pies (check out their daily slices), the toppings here can sometimes be unexpected.
3. Da Pepo
Chef Carlo Orrico knew he wanted da Pepo to be all about family when he first imagined it. So he named it after his father and displayed his Southern Italian recipes. If you’ve never eaten at da Pepo, you’ll be surprised to learn that it’s located inside Watchung Booksellers. Yes, it is as endearing as it sounds.
While the menu isn’t extensive, the rustic, Italian comfort food offerings are delicious. What? You didn’t expect a charcuterie board with your paperback, did you? Meatballs with whipped ricotta, mozzarella in Carrozza, spaghetti carbonara, penne arrabbiata, and six or so different paninis are available if you’re in the mood for a pressed sandwich.
4. Dai Kichi
Dai Kichi on Valley Road is one of Montclair’s oldest Japanese restaurants, having first opened its doors in 1988. While this isn’t exactly breaking news, it does represent something given the area’s reputation for great sushi. But here’s the catch: if you want to eat at Dai Kichi right now, you can’t.
There are several sushi and sashimi platters available, but you can also order a la carte. They have the basics covered as well as specialty rolls for those who don’t stray far from the California roll. Hot entrées include teriyaki, tempura, donburi bowls, and bento boxes in a variety of proteins.
5. De Novo European Pub | Best Montclair Restaurants
De Novo’s mingling of European-style plates helped carve out its identity in the Montclair dining scene. Demetri Malki, the owner and restaurateur, deserves special recognition. There are moules frites available (steamed mussels and fries). Octopus grilled with chorizo and potatoes Sea bass with Moroccan glaze. Steak with peppers.
You can sip your way through their beer and wine list or go straight to De Novo’s craft cocktail menu. Their beverage menu includes seasonal offerings such as the passion fruit Creamsicle Frosé. A martini with Pina colada. Or try habanero tequila, pineapple-ginger-mint shrub, lime, and agave at the farmer’s market.
Ryan DePersio, one of New Jersey’s most influential chefs, is at the helm of this beloved fine dining establishment. Fascino, his artfully modern take on Italian cuisine, opened its doors in 2003, when he was 25 years old. (With the support of his family.) While their dinner service remains traditional, with a focus on locally sourced ingredients, they’ve recently added weekend brunch to the menu.
If you’re a first-time visitor, you can’t go wrong with any of Fascino’s house-made pastas. The pillowy ricotta gnocchi and seasonal agnolotti are favorites. The crispy-creamy mascarpone polenta fries with gorgonzola fonduta are another highlight. And the insanely tender buttermilk baked chicken with a black truffle pesto crust for entrées.
When Faubourg first opened on Bloomfield Ave in 2019, it was clear that it was more Manhattan than Montclair. Owners Dominique Paulin and Chef Olivier Muller are French, but this Parisian-style eatery is undoubtedly inspired by their longtime mentor and renowned New York restaurateur, Daniel Boulud.
Having said that, the food here lives up to its French brasserie reputation. Chef Muller’s Alsatian-inspired offerings are a welcome, if slight, departure. Most notably in tarte Flambee, Barbajuans, and coq au vin served unconventionally with spaetzle. If you’re a vegan, they have an entirely vegan menu available upon request.
8. Fresco da Franco
If you go to Fresco da Franco, you might run into a local celebrity. This well-known spot is known for hosting a diverse clientele, including Teresa Giudice and Jonathan Cheban. It’s all because of the food.
Their well-known eggplant stack lives up to its name. It’s basically a cross between eggplant parm and a Caprese salad. There are inventive takes on Mediterranean classics, such as grilled octopus with a port wine reduction. Alternatively, try the pan-seared branzino with shaved fennel and cherry tomatoes. Traditionalists will enjoy the veal chop Milanese, Zuppa di Pesce, and any of their homemade pastas. Fresco is also a popular brunch spot in town, serving items such as Nutella waffles and crunchy croissant French toast, as well as truffle eggs and chicken and waffles.
9. Halcyon Brasserie
A raw bar is hard to come by in this town, but Halcyon makes it simple to slurp down a satisfying dozen on the half shell. Alternatively, do yourself a favour and order the entire seafood platter. Halcyon has long been a favourite hangout for locals, but it recently received an upgrade with the addition of an outdoor oasis adjacent to Egan & Sons. It has a very summery feel to it.
Green coconut curry mussels and paella are on the menu, as are kimchi fried rice and roasted cornish hen.
10. Kai Yang | Best Montclair Restaurants
This neighborhood restaurant’s signature dish is a whole marinated rotisserie chicken similar to what you’d find in Bangkok. And, if nothing else, that is exactly what you should order when you visit. Chef-owner Sheree Sarabhaya based the concept for her restaurant, Kai Yang, on a popular Thai street food. Which literally translates to “grilled chicken.”
The marinade and its ingredients, as well as the method of preparation, distinguish the signature dish. The chicken is first coated in a herby rub made from crushed garlic, lemongrass, black peppercorns, palm sugar, and coriander in a mortar and pestle. The meat is then slowly cooked on the grill. Every order comes with a papaya salad, Moo Ping or Nuea Yang, sticky rice, sweet chilli sauce, and tamarind for dipping.
Jersey diners may be interested to know that Sarabhaya is also the owner of Spice II in Montclair, Boon Thai Kitchen in Livingston, and the mother of Ani Ramen owner, Luck.
11. Laboratorio Kitchen
Laboratorio Kitchen’s dishes are inspired by ingredients sourced locally. Chef James De Sisto’s food is French and Italian-inspired, and he only uses grass-fed meats, fresh seafood, and seasonal produce. The proteins are the stars of the show here, with dishes like Idaho rainbow trout with crispy potatoes and paprika butter sauce. Au poivre-style New York Strip. Scallops on a day boat with cauliflower purée
Chef De Sisto’s culinary philosophy, which he credits to his grandmother, is to let high-quality ingredients speak for themselves. Every plate is the ideal combination of flavors, textures, and technique. Try the house-made burrata with capers, olives, tomatoes, and aged balsamic vinegar. No dish feels overworked here. Each time I return, the execution is flawless.
12. La Rocca Osteria
When chef-owner Robert Pantusa announced that the former Osteria Giotta on Midland Ave would reopen as La Rocca in 2020, patrons rejoiced. Pantusa moved his business to Church Street with Café Giotto after the well-known Montclair eatery closed its doors in 2016. While he’s since moved on, La Rocca provides Pantusa with an opportunity to revisit Osteria Giotta classics while also bringing something new to the neighborhood.
La Rocca, named after a castle in Northern Italy, is a tribute to Pantusa’s early love of food. It’s also a culmination of his Michelin experience (three years at Il San Domenico) and over two decades of restaurant experience. The majority of the recipes on this page are tried-and-true favorites, such as the lasagna with homemade pasta sheets, béchamel, and Bolognese. We recommend the Spaghetti alla Chitarra with clams, mussels, shrimp, scallops, and calamari for seafood lovers.
13. Le Salbuen | Best Montclair Restaurants
Can we entice you with pulled duck tacos topped with pickled purple cabbage and a cilantro-lime emulsion? A Portuguese take on French toast with Balthazar brioche, caramelised figs, farinheira (pork sausage), local honey, and a fried egg. That’s just a taste of what you’ll find at Le Salbuen, a European cafe and market.
This restaurant, run by husband-and-wife team John and Christina Salierno, takes pride in its global influences as well as its organic, farm-to-table dishes. As a result, the menu will change with the seasons depending on what is harvested. Every plate, whether for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, features local ingredients such as honey, cheese, eggs, and meat.
Mesob, which has been open since 2003, is a crowd favourite for Ethiopian cuisine. Berekti and Akberet Mengistu, sisters, took a risk despite having no culinary experience. It has paid off 18 years later, as their restaurant is still thriving.
If you’re unfamiliar with Ethiopian cuisine, know that it’s meant to be shared. This is why injera is frequently served with dishes. A spongy, crêpe-like bread with a distinct sourdough flavour intended for eating and using as a utensil. Mesob’s menu is heavy on vegetables, beef, and lamb, which are usually piled high in the form of spicy stews or curries.
Raymond’s is where old meets new in the best way possible. This Montclair institution began as a luncheonette in the late 1980s before Raymond Badach and former manager Joanne Ricci decided to team up and open a larger version in 2004. It is still the place to go for elevated versions of all your favorite comfort foods, whether for brunch, lunch, or dinner.
Raymond’s menu is chock-full of comfort foods like baked mac and cheese, buttermilk fried chicken, club sandwiches, and hot chocolate with homemade marshmallows. You can sit inside and admire their diner-inspired décor, or in the spring and summer, enjoy their alfresco setup on a tree-lined Church Street.
16. Samba | Best Montclair Restaurants
Samba and its owner, Ilson Gonçlaves, have come a long way since first introducing Montclair to Brazilian cuisine in 2010. To begin with, the restaurant began as a deli and even has its own cookbook. In the midst of the pandemic, Samba recently doubled the size of its Park Street location and went gluten-free. None of this is by chance. It demonstrates the tenacity required to run one of Montclair’s most coveted restaurants.
It would be a mistake not to order feijoada, Brazil’s national dish, here. Black beans, pork sausage, pork ribs, bacon, and dried beef are among the ingredients in this 24-hour stew. It is traditionally served with collard greens, orange slices, and farofa (a toasted cassava flour). Because this is a “weekend dish,” it is only available on Fridays and Saturdays. Don’t be afraid to order something out of the ordinary here. We haven’t had a single dish from Samba that we didn’t enjoy.
17. Salute Bistro
This charming trattoria on Glenridge Ave serves Italian dishes from Tuscany, Umbria, and Le Marche. Consider a setting inspired by rolling hills, vineyards, and olive groves. A menu that pays homage to rustic cooking traditions by utilising seasonal produce, aged meats, homemade bread, and other ingredients.
Salute specializes in handmade pasta in a variety of ways. Rigatoni with fennel sausage crumbles and Ceci beans Long fusilli all’Amatriciana Crabmeat, lobster, shrimp, mint, and lemon zest on strozzapreti. Order the rice balls, the eggplant parm appetizer, and, of course, a pizza or two. The pies here are not an afterthought; they are baked in an authentic brick oven.
SLA in Upper Montclair specializes in Northern Thai cuisine, with dishes that are unlike anything else available in Thai restaurants in New Jersey. This, was opened in 2015, is led by Meiji, her brother Yanin, and her husband Wanat. This family affair has shaped SLA into what it is today, just as much as the generations-old recipes they use.
Having said that, the entire SLA menu is worth exploring. Wanat used to cook for the Thai Royal Family, so the braised short rib in Massaman curry has a velvety texture. Whole fried snapper with shallot slivers, coarsely chopped mint, cilantro, and fish sauce is a sight to behold.
19. The Corner | Best Montclair Restaurants
Tables at this gourmet cafe have been in high demand since its inception in 2015. Something about the neon “Good Vibes Only” sign entices brunchgoers to stay a while. The Corner’s pastry board alone could easily serve as a meal. Consider flaky scones, buttermilk biscuits, and homemade marmalade. But we won’t judge you if you choose a heartier (or healthier) option.
One of their standouts is their dressed-up breakfast sandwich with house-cured bacon, garlic aioli, greens, and pickled red onion. Alternatively, a stack of the fluffiest pancakes you’ve ever stabbed with a fork, served with poached apricots and cream. A fresh-pressed juice or a look at their daily specials would round out any brunch here.
20. Turtle + The Wolf
Lauren Hirschberg and his partner Matt Trevenen left their culinary jobs in 2016 to open Turtle + The Wolf in their hometown. The menu emphasises seasonal ingredients with a New American twist. Oh, and a little Southern twang. Lo’s fried chicken, baby back ribs, brisket, and duck confit pot pie are all must-orders.
While these comfort food classics warm the soul, other offerings demonstrate that the kitchen can do more than just homestyle cooking. Roasted beets with goat cheese ranch and burnt crumbs, for example. Mousse of chicken liver with quince, mustard seed, and pickled onions. And fried Brussels sprouts and charred onion soubise with local burrata.