The 21 Best Restaurants in Montclair

The range of dining choices available in Montclair is striking. Here are our top picks for where to eat.

Montclair, always a major restaurant destination, is unusual in that it has three “downtowns”—north (Upper Montclair), central (Watchung Plaza) and south. The latter is the biggest, consuming a mile of Bloomfield Avenue, with restaurants on or just off the avenue, and along Walnut Street, which runs parallel to Bloomfield Avenue a few blocks north. Dig in. The range of choices is striking.

Here are our 21 top picks for the best restaurants in Montclair, in alphabetical order.

Pizza at Bivio. Photo by Erik Rank

Bivio Pizza Napoletana

Tomasso Colao plays three instruments: alto sax, flute and wood-fired pizza oven. He is an artist on all three. His delicate pies are as close to the Neapolitan ideal as you’ll find anywhere, and they pair well with his detailed salads. They’re so good, in fact, that Bivio appeared on our list of the state’s top pizza places. With just 24 seats in this lovely old storefront, waits are not uncommon. But worth it. BYO
107 Pine Street, 973-941-9602

Tiradito Nikkei and ceviche at Costanera. Photo by Morgan Ione Yeager

Costanera

Chef Juan Placencia’s Peruvian restaurant is uniquely handsome, its walls covered in disc-like cross-sections of trees. Peru’s signature ceviches and baked empanadas are standouts at Costanera, and the pollo a la brasa (rotisserie chicken) is one of the juiciest and most flavorful around. Portions are generous; the spicy prawn soup could make a meal. BYO
511 Bloomfield Avenue, 973-337-8289

Spaghettoni chitarra with crab meat; behind it, a bowl of gnocchi Telefono at Da Pepo. Photo credit: Laura Baer

Da Pepo

One of our 2019 hottest new restaurants, the Italian home cooking at Da Pepo is as authentic and compelling as the space is a bit, well, tight. There are 19 seats, including three at a narrow counter. But after a career cooking in big Italian-American restaurants, chef Carlo Orrico is living his dream, cooking time-tested family recipes from Southern Italy. BYO
54 Fairfield Street, 973-655-8825

Scallops. Photo courtesy of Fascino

Fascino

Since chef Ryan DePersio and his family opened Fascino in 2003, they have kept it Montclair’s go-to for modern Italian food. Fresh pastas are a strength, and main courses are substantial. You don’t have to be a vegetarian to find the three-course vegetarian menu sensuous and satisfying. (Fascino is one of our top 30 best restaurants in New Jersey.) BYO
331 Bloomfield Avenue, 973-233-0350

Koreander

The dining room is simple but pleasant and the cooking is good. The classic Korean rice bowls–bibimbap and bulgogi, among others–can be ordered in a sizzling hot stone bowl for $1 extra. There are soups, vegetable dishes and a kids’ menu to bolster the selection of spicy grilled meat entrees. BYO
128 Watchung Avenue, 973-509-7800

Laboratorio Kitchen

Several restaurants failed to win a following in this space on Montclair’s main drag until chef James DeSisto took it over in 2014. His decision to retain the name of the failed place that immediately preceded him seemed questionable at first. But he has clearly made the name his own and has earned a loyal following. And why not? His New American food, with highly credible French and Italian dishes, are delicious and well-executed. His prices are eminently reasonable (all entrées $29 or less, except the $30 New York strip steak au poivre); portions are generous and the space is soothing and comfortable. BYO
615 Bloomfield Avenue, 973-746-6100

Lamb shank. Photo by Natalie Chitwood, courtesy of Laurel and Sage.

Laurel and Sage

Chef Shawn Dalziel’s New American cooking is flavor-forward and generous in portion. In response to customer requests, a number of his menu items have no gluten, dairy or animal protein (though you can add the latter). For riotous richness, it’s hard to beat his shrimp and chorizo risotto, pomegranate-molasses braised short rib, or Moroccan orange tagine with eggplant relish—which surrenders nothing for being vegetarian. (Laurel and Sage is one of our top 30 best restaurants in New Jersey.) BYO
33 Walnut Street, 973-783-1133

The Moroccan Lamb Skillet at Le Salbuen. Photo by Jason Varney

Le Salbuen

The storefront is tiny, the rustic interior packed with small wooden tables, antiques and an open kitchen run by chef/owners John and Christina Salierno. Opening in 2012, Salbuen first won fans for boosting breakfast and brunch staples to flavorful new heights (using organic ingredients, with gluten-free options). More recently, the Saliernos have added dinner, applying the same flavor-forward ideas to a range of European and New American dishes. BYO
97 Walnut Street, 201-622-8473

Marcel

Growing up in Israel, Meny Vaknin learned to cook from his Moroccan Jewish mother. His Mediterranean influences, and skills in baking, have made Marcel a community hot spot since it opened in 2017. It works as a grab-and-go cafe or a schmooze fest at its community table and two-tops. Hits include shakshuka, hummus or rice bowls topped with meat or vegetables, shwarma chicken tacos and a variety of smoothies and coffee drinks. BYO
631 1/2 Valley Road, 973-842-4088

Check out our other town dining guides:
The 12 Best Restaurants in Princeton
The 16 Best Restaurants in Morristown

Mesob

Despite never having worked in a restaurant, sisters Berekti and Akberet Mengistu fearlessly opened Mesob in 2003. They’d grown up in an Ethiopian family of 10 children; with relatives dropping by all the time, cooking dinner for 40 on little notice was no big deal. They figured they could handle it. And they were right. Mesob today is busy most nights, and people have taken to the Ethiopian way of eating–scooping up subtly spiced meat and vegetable stews with hand-torn strips of cool, spongy injera, Ethiopia’s uniquely absorbent sourdough crepes. BYO
515 Bloomfield Avenue, 973-655-9000

At Montclair Social Club, an orange peel is flamed to release oil. Right, a deviled egg. Photo by Michael Barr

Montclair Social Club

Opened in late 2018 in a long-dormant space, Montclair Social Club immediately created one of Montclair’s liveliest bar scenes. The renovated space is attractive and the menu of time-tested popular items is well executed. There’s a small corner bandstand where combos hold forth on certain nights. (Montclair Social Club is one of our 2019 hottest new restaurants.)
499 Bloomfield Avenue, 973-436-4200

Photo courtesy of Pig and Prince

Pig & Prince

With its brick-lined vaulted ceiling, the renovated former waiting room of the Lackawanna train station makes a sensational setting for the dining room and bar of chef Michael Carrino’s restaurant. His wide-ranging New American menu includes his house-made charcuterie. P&P boasts an excellent bar program, and its mixologists have distinguished themselves in the annual Iron Shaker competition.
1 Lackawanna Plaza, 973-233-1006

Photo courtesy of Raymond’s

Raymonds

One of Montclair’s most popular meeting places, and for good reason. The built-from-scratch interior could be the set of a luncheonette from a 1940s Hollywood movie. The menu is basically all the American favorites people love to eat. And the prices are reasonable. Plus outdoor seating in warm weather. BYO
28 Church St, 973-744-9263

Photo courtesy of Samba

Samba

Brazilian native Ilson Goncalves opened Samba in 2011, and ever since has been showing people there is more to Brazilian food than steak (though his sirloins are very good). Grilled salmon with passion fruit sauce and baked acorn squash filled with shrimp, squash and Parmesan is another. You don’t have to be gluten-free to feel greedy about the warm cheese biscuits. On Fridays and Saturdays, Samba serves feijoada, the national dish. It’s one of the world’s great meat stews, combining beef, pork ribs, bacon and black beans with sides of collard greens, chopped vegetables and seasoned yucca powder to dump into the stew and multiply its flavors. BYO
7 Park Street, 973-744-6764

Scala del Nonna

Chef Michael Cetrulo made his name with Scalini Fedeli in Chatham. Scala del Nonna (“steps of the grandmother”), which he opened in 2014, serves sumptuous Italian food under a vaulted ceiling that adds a touch of elegance to the warm hospitality, which is overseen by Cetrulo’s sister, Sally Gildea. BYO
32 Church Street, 973-744-3300

Photo courtesy of SLA Thai

SLA Thai

The initials stand for Simple Love Authentic. Owner Meiji Pattamasingchai radiates the L word. She grew up in northern Thailand and learned the local cuisine (the A word) from her mother, a caterer. Her menu, prepared by her husband Paul Phaisanyakit, is too rich in flavor and varied in texture to be summed up by the S word. Spice levels are adjustable on request. BYO
38 Upper Montclair Plaza (off Valley Road) 973-509-0111

Photo courtesy of Turtle + the Wolf

Turtle + the Wolf

Montclair native Lauren Hirschberg rose to a high level in Tom Colicchio’s Craft organization. In 2015 he and longtime friend Matt Trevenen fulfilled their dream of opening their own New American restaurant in their hometown. The food is hearty and contemporary, the atmosphere hip but relaxed. BYO
622 Valley Road, 973-783-9800

Photo courtesy of Vanillamore.

Vanillamore

Don’t get hung up on the name. Vanillamore sounds like a dessert café. While there’s no shame in making a meal of its extensive sweets menu, Risa Boyer’s restaurant deserves to be known as a savory destination as well. The menu offers a host of salads, dips, grain bowls, cured meats and a handful of entrees such as roast chicken and red wine-braised short ribs. BYO
349 Bloomfield Ave, 973-707-5373

Vegetarian enchiladas with kale “chicharron.”

Vegetarian enchiladas with kale “chicharron.” Photo by Morgan Ione Yeager

Villalobos

Chef Adam Rose’s take on modern Mexican keeps Villalobos busy. His passion for salsas has produced a list of seven noticeably individual ones, and he also offers four different elaborated guacamoles. Tortillas are handmade in house daily. There are eight different tacos and five entrees, including one that’s vegetarian. BYO
6 South Fullerton Ave, 973-337-6667

At the Beard House’s Waste Not dinner, Kwame Williams prepared Jamaican pepperpot—a traditional meat and vegetable soup “that is a great way to make use of leftovers.”

Kwame Williams. Photo courtesy of F. Martin Ramin

Vital

Chef/owner Kwame Williams, a sustainability activist, serves traditional Jamaican dishes such as jerk chicken, braised oxtail and curry shrimp as well as more modern takes like avocado with almond stuffing and arugula and rasta risotto, made with brown rice, peas, mushrooms and coconut milk. BYO
387 Bloomfield Avenue, 973-655-9500

Photo courtesy of Zeugma Grill

Zeugma Grill

Chef Can (pronounced John) Alp trained in Turkey and brings a fanciful, modern take on Mediterranean food to Zeugma, which he opened in 2017. Think crunchy beet falafel delicately flavored with cumin and calamari ringed with miso aioli. BYO or wine from California’s Domenico Winery.
44 South Park Street, 973-744-0074

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