Our Favorite Downtowns: Maplewood

A village bursting with charm, Maplewood is home to various galleries, street events and–most impressive–free parking.

Italian fare like delicious thin-crust pies are available at Arturo's in Maplewood.
Italian fare like delicious thin-crust pies are available at Arturo's.
Photo by Ron Wyatt

Commerce thrives in this little village with nary an empty storefront. The main drag—Maplewood Avenue from Durand to Baker Street—can be walked in five minutes or less. That is, if you don’t stop at any of the galleries, boutiques, restaurants or other establishments you encounter along the way.

“The word we hear most is charming,” says Julie Doran of the Maplewood Village Alliance. It remains charming despite all the commerce, including several antiques, home-furnishings and accessories stores, a movie house (with retro, bulb-lined marquee), a performing arts venue, and the cutest little Kings supermarket. There’s also a train station with service to Manhattan. Oh, and free parking.

Potted plants outside doorways add to the friendly ambience, as do the understated storefronts with their colored or striped awnings and the lantern-style street lamps—reminiscent of the gas lamps in neighboring South Orange.

WHERE TO EAT: St. James’s Gate is the popular Irish pub, with corned beef, shepherd’s pie, fish and chips and American fare, plus lots of beer on tap. At Arturo’s, you’ll find Italian eats, such as delectable thin-crust pies—and a line out the door. For fine dining in the village, the choice is Lorena’s, a perennial on our Top 25 restaurants list. Coda Kitchen offers red-curry mussel pots, Korean short-rib tacos and a lively bar scene. There’s Wild Ginger for Thai food; Bill and Harry’s for Chinese; Mt. Fuji Sushi for Japanese; and the Maplewood Deli for sandwiches, panini and more.

WHERE TO SHOP: The many independently owned shops include the Tenth Muse, a drool-worthy gallery-cum-boutique filled with fine and designer jewelry, paintings, and wood, glass, ceramic and metal accessories; and Perch, where you’ll find an eclectic mix of home accessories, wall art, women’s clothing, jewelry and gift items.

DON’T MISS: The annual sidewalk sales, as well as Rent Party, a periodic live-music series that raises funds for hunger relief. Art Walk is a juried fine arts and crafts show (this year, September 27). In December, the annual Dickens Village event transforms tiny Ricalton Square into a village of miniature houses outfitted with traditional furnishings and holiday decorations. In the summer, the town stages Maplewoodstock, a two-day celebration of music, food and fun at Memorial Park, steps from downtown.

THEN AGAIN: The town is working to assure that redevelopment of the old downtown post office doesn’t disrupt the village’s charm.

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