Tuesday September 02, 2014SUBSCRIBE
New Jersey Monthly Magazine
Restaurants
| |     

Bloomsday

Upstart Bloomfield is nipping at the heels of über-dining-destination Montclair.

Posted March 18, 2009 by Jacqueline Mroz

Do you like this story?

Holsten's Ice Cream in Bloomfield
Holsten's Ice Cream in Bloomfield.

Until now, it took the finale of an HBO series to put a Bloomfield eatery in the spotlight.

Weekends on Broad Street, people still stand in line to get a table—not at Holsten’s ice cream parlor, where Tony Soprano sang his swan song, but just down the block at Stamna, the hugely popular year-old Greek taverna.

In the last three years, Bloomfield’s venerable diners, luncheonettes, and under-the-radar ethnic joints have been joined by a new wave of restaurants, upscale in quality if not in price. Improbable as it once seemed, a restaurant rivalry is emerging between upstart Bloomfield and its prestigious neighbor, Montclair. A mile and a half south of Holsten’s and Stamna, a restaurant row is budding on Broad Street between Warren and Pitt streets. Within two blocks, choices include Bohemia (Peruvian), Brookside Thai, Kira Kira (Japanese), Pandan (Asian fusion), and Vinnie’s (Italian). All told, the range of options in Bloomfield approaches that of Montclair, even if the latter maintains the edge in quantity and overall quality.

“We are getting our share of restaurants that certainly rival the ones in Montclair,” says Bloomfield mayor Raymond McCarthy. “The nice part is, I see people from all different areas coming to eat here.”

The owners of Stamna, Alexios and Vagelitsa Nissirios, also own Bloomfield’s Nevada Diner, among others. A year ago, they opened Stamna to bring a taste of their home island (Karpathos) to the town. Bloomfield natives are behind two other fine arrivals, the brand-new Orange Squirrel (see review, previous page) and Senorita’s, a Mexican grill that opened in 2005. Ricky Cascante, Senorita’s executive chef and co-owner, had spent the previous seven years as chef of Montclair’s Mexicali Rose.

“We typically would have been in Montclair, but it’s gotten way too expensive to rent there,” says Cascante’s cousin Andre Quesada-Cascante, another co-owner. “Here we were able to get a liquor license, which means our profit margin is higher.”

Last year, Natraj Palace, a modest but long-lived Indian restaurant, moved from Montclair to smaller quarters on Broad Street after its rent was hiked. Restaurateurs wanting to open a place often start looking in Montclair, but, finding rents high and liquor licenses sky-high (not to mention unavailable), happily cross the border. The last liquor license to change hands in Montclair sold in February 2008 for $750,000 to the buyer of the Wellmont Theater, Jonathan Rosen. The seller was Montclair developer Steven Plofker’s Marlboro Loft Partners, which bought the license in 2004 for $250,000. In the most recent Bloomfield transaction, in 2007, the license for the club Heartbreakers was sold to new owners for $150,000. (The club was sold separately.)

New Jersey law ties liquor consumption licenses to town population (pre-Prohibition establishments were grandfathered in at repeal). Montclair (pop. 37,052) has twelve such licenses, none currently available; Bloomfield (pop. 47,683) has 21. At press time, two were for sale.

One restaurant that opened in Bloomfield in 2007 after searching in Montclair is Bohemia, which despite its name serves Peruvian food. In Bloomfield the owners found more space at lower rent—plus a liquor license, enabling them to offer South American wines as well as Pisco Sours, a typical Peruvian cocktail made with brandy.

“People are surprised to find that we have a license,” says Olga Loo-Diaz, the manager and co-owner. “People from Montclair come in and say, ‘You should be in Montclair,’ but we also get a lot of customers from Bloomfield, and they see it as a great convenience to have us nearby.”

Bloomfield’s new luster has imbued even some of the old guard with new confidence. When Willie’s Diner, a fixture of old Bloomfield, burned down a few years ago, the owners decided to rebuild. Perhaps sensing which way the aromas were blowing, they undertook an upmarket makeover. Bye-bye Willie’s, hello State Street Grill. Opening in 2008, the new place has chandeliers and plusher booths. Less chrome and more wood. You can still get a Reuben and slice of cheesecake; it just seems to taste better.

Click here to read a detailed review of The Orange Squirrel in Bloomfield.


Related Articles:

Montclair Goes to the Movies
D'Floret
Village Green
Agricola
Pesce Out of Water: Rustic Italian Food in Spring Lake
Cafe Picasso
Millie's Old World Meatball & Pizza


If you like this article please share it.


Comments

Let’s not forget the Orange Squirrel on Bloomfield Ave... It is as good, and perhaps better than the top-rated Montclair eatery!

Posted by: Teri G, None | Mar 31, 2009 16:44:42 PM |

Bloomsday

Sometimes when we dine in Montclair, we get the feeling that they are really doing us a favor by serving us. In all of the places in Bloomfield -- plus Aki for superb sushi and Aroma for Indian -- we get the feeling that we are doing them the favor by being their customers. And -- listen up Montclair -- parking is free and plentiful in Bloomfield in the evening.

Posted by: Conan the Epicurean, None | Mar 31, 2009 16:59:16 PM |

Shhhh...

...don’t tell everyone! Then all the snooties from Montclair will take our parking spaces and we’ll have to wait for tables.

I like all the places mentioned, especially Stamna & Aroma, and I would give Spice Thai higher marks (Belleville Ave near A&P) and Casa Turano is better than Vinnie’s. That said, most all the Italian food in Bloomfield is fantastic.

Posted by: Pete of State Street, None | Mar 31, 2009 18:23:27 PM |

We also enjoy Cosimo’s on Broad Street. Their salad is large enough for 4 people with all sorts of fresh fruit and other healthy things (I think candied walnuts are a health food) and the pizza is delicious!!

Posted by: Mary Tetzloff, None | Mar 31, 2009 19:23:44 PM |

bloomfield

And don’t forget Calandra’s on Bay Ave. (a cousin to the dynastic Essex cty. eateries). Pizza is great...soups are consistently delicious. I love them.

Posted by: Jomama, None | Mar 31, 2009 21:24:21 PM |

I’ll never forgive the Orange Squirrel for displacing the GOAT Bloomfield Restaurant Pat Thai...

Come back pleeese! Glad you&re doing great all the way out in Lake Hiawatha but we miss you dearly...

Posted by: Joe M, None | Apr 01, 2009 01:24:37 AM |

Aroma

Sadly, Aroma is moving to Montclair -- near the Wellmont. Goodbye easy parking for tasty Indian food.

Posted by: Jim, None | Apr 01, 2009 02:31:56 AM |

Toscana

Too bad this article was published a few years ago, before that snazzy little Italian place Toscana on Broad Street was sold to new owners.

They had some of best (and most original) Italian food you could fine, and a really fun and different all Italian wine list with all different weird Italian wines you could sample by the carafe (something you usually only find in New York).

I think the owners moved on to open up something in New Brunswick, as they never really got the business they deserved, and the new owners have basically turned it into a sports bar.

Oh well, for now I’ll keep going to Giotto in Montclair for good Italian food, and maybe something will make its way back to Bloomfield one day.

Posted by: Charles, None | Apr 01, 2009 08:41:28 AM |

Toscana

Too bad this article was published a few years ago, before that snazzy little Italian place Toscana on Broad Street was sold to new owners.

They had some of best (and most original) Italian food you could fine, and a really fun and different all Italian wine list with all different weird Italian wines you could sample by the carafe (something you usually only find in New York).

I think the owners moved on to open up something in New Brunswick, as they never really got the business they deserved, and the new owners have basically turned it into a sports bar.

Oh well, for now I’ll keep going to Giotto in Montclair for good Italian food, and maybe something will make its way back to Bloomfield one day.

Posted by: Charles, None | Apr 01, 2009 08:42:56 AM |

Great Vietnamese

Binh Duong in the East/West Market strip on Belleville Ave. in Bloomfield is a consistently great Vietnamese place. Fresh flavors and fast, friendly service. Eat in or take out. As good or better than the much-touted Little Saigon in Montclair.

http://www.yelp.com/biz/binh-duong-bloomfield

Posted by: Wm., None | Apr 01, 2009 20:00:14 PM |

Umm Charles....

Too bad that this article actually appears in the April 2009 PAPER copy of the mag. I’ll agree that their research is outdated (Michi is gone, replaced by Kira Kira, for example) but that doesn’t equate to the article being old. Besides, how old could it be when the Orange Squirrel only opened in December.

Oh, and as an off-the-boat Italian, I gotta say, Giotto is WAY overrated.

Posted by: cristina, None | Apr 02, 2009 21:42:16 PM |



Web Analytics