MC Hotel’s Allegory Restaurant Is a Peaceful Respite From Montclair’s Bustling Dining Scene

Smack-dab in a competitive dining market, the hotel restaurant has struggled to fill its seats. But it actually offers many perks that even Montclair's best eateries don't!

Allegory restaurant at the MC Hotel in Montclair

A new menu and sleek interior can be found at Allegory restaurant at Montclair’s MC Hotel. Photo: Courtesy of Jahn Aners

Since the MC Hotel opened in 2019, it’s been a lively addition to Montclair’s downtown, with a hopping, high-ceilinged lobby bar with dramatic artwork and a popular rooftop bar with New York City views. But Allegory, the hotel’s spacious restaurant just off the lobby bar, is usually anything but lively. “It’s always been a struggle since we opened, putting bodies in seats,” says John Polkowski, the MC’s director of food and beverage.

It’s a problem the MC shares with many other hotel restaurants, especially those located in towns with a high-profile dining scene.

“Hotel guests have so many options in Montclair,” Polkowski says. “They set up dinner reservations, be it at Faubourg or Ani Ramen or elsewhere, before they even get here.”

Solo business travelers are usually more comfortable eating dinner at the bar than sitting by themselves in the restaurant, he says.

Drop-ins rarely happen, either. “If you’re walking down the street and see six restaurants and a hotel lobby, you’ll walk into the restaurant every time,” he says.

John Polkowski, MC Hotel’s director of food and beverage.

John Polkowski, MC Hotel’s director of food and beverage. Photo: Courtesy of Jahn Aners

Another problem, Polkowski says, is that it’s easy to miss the restaurant, and even the hotel. Nevertheless, he says, “we’re happy to be a part of the culinary scene in Montclair and part of the cultural dynamic here.”

And now, with a new menu and sleek, spruced-up interior, the Allegory team is aiming to create buzz around the restaurant and fill the seats with happy diners.

On a recent Wednesday evening, there was only one other couple in the restaurant—not usually a good sign. But the fact that Allegory wasn’t buzzing with customers turned out to be a delightful thing. The restaurant is an oasis of calm and privacy, a welcome antidote to the bustling restaurant scene. Dining there is an almost Zen-like experience, all the better to savor the food, much of which is on a par with the best restaurants in town.

The restaurant has a practice of sourcing products from local vendors. Among the Montclair-centric products available at the MC are pastries from Jayce Baudry and, at the bar, Misunderstood Whiskey, Ironbound cider, and Jersey beers such as Kane, Magnify and Ghost Hawk.

The space is light and airy, with a clean, mid-century modern look and huge windows that brighten the space during daylight hours. In the evening, candles flicker as low, soothing music plays, and you can sit back in the comfy chairs and hear your dining companion without straining. As the waiter approaches to take your cocktail order—yes, cocktails in a BYO-town!—you can feel the day’s tension seep out of you. A French martini and a sangria, please.

The solicitous, unhurried waiter brought our drinks promptly, along with the salumi and formaggio appetizer. The wooden board fairly groaned with piles of sliced meats, soft and hard cheeses, and bowls of olive tapenade, spiced nuts, honey (from the beehive on the roof, the waiter said), and golden, fruity olive oil for dipping the thick slices of crusty sourdough.

We could easily have stopped there, but went on to order the delectable shaved Brussels sprouts and pear salad with quinoa, toasted almonds and a tahini-maple vinaigrette. Even shared, it was so generously portioned and filling that, on top of the salumi board, there was no need for an entrée. Still, we couldn’t resist ordering dessert, settling on the pumpkin whoopie pie with cream cheese frosting and the chocolate pecan pie à la mode, both decadent and delicious.

Allegory has another advantage over other local eateries: The evening doesn’t have to end with your meal. Ride the elevator to Alto, the rooftop bar, with indoor and outdoor views of New York City, or move to the lobby bar and catch a game or linger with a drink in the stuffed leather chairs.

Whether you want to make a night of it or just pop in for a drink and appetizer, Allegory is easy. There’s no stress over scoring a reservation, no need to lug a bottle, no waits for a table or for your server to bring your food, no feeling rushed, and every reason to feel relaxed and pampered. Montclair could get used to this.

Allegory is open seven days a week (bar menu only on Mondays and Tuesdays), with a weekend brunch with live jazz music on Saturday from 11 am to 2 pm. Alto is open seven days a week in the spring and summer, and Wednesday through Saturday in the fall and winter.

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