Our Favorite Downtowns: Ridgewood

With elegant architecture and high-end restaurants all within walking distance, Ridgewood is both urbane and sophisticated.

The Town and Country Apothecary in Ridgewood.
The Town and Country Apothecary in Ridgewood.
Photo by Ron Wyatt

Young parents pushing strollers share the broad sidewalks with friends schmoozing at an outdoor café. Teens hunt for bargains, while grandparents treat their charges to a matinee at the Bow Tie Cinemas Warner Quad or a fresh-made waffle cone at Kilwins. Nearby, Memorial Park at Van Neste Square is an oasis of calm. Welcome to downtown Ridgewood.

“I love how walkable it is, and that everything is in one small area,” says children’s book author Ann Malaspina. “I can go to the post office and mail a package, get a coffee at Ridgewood Coffee Company, meet a friend for lunch—all while having my car serviced.” And the town is “family friendly,” adds Malaspina, who raised her two sons in Ridgewood.

East Ridgewood Avenue is the main artery, ending at the sprawling California Mission Revival-style train station, which dates to 1916 and is listed on the national and state Register of Historic Places. Over the past year, elegant way-finding signs—a joint effort by the Village and the local Chamber of Commerce—have sprouted on downtown corners, pointing visitors toward the many shops and restaurants on the side streets. More will come.

“I look at downtown as a destination,” says Village Manager Roberta Sonenfeld, a 19-year resident. “We have lots of people coming from different directions. It’s a small town feel that is also urbane and sophisticated.”

WHERE TO EAT: Foodies have long appreciated the varied and highly rated restaurants in the village, such as Latour, Café 37 and Due. Sakura Bana is the connoisseur’s sushi choice. Two noted newcomers are NJM Top 25 Picnic on the Square for New American, and Novo for Middle Eastern with a distinctive Israeli accent.

WHERE TO SHOP: Some residents bemoan the loss of mom-and-pop hardware and stationery stores in recent years, but other small shops remain vibrant. Among the favorites: Fox’s (upscale off-price women’s wear); Paris Jewelers, Arthur Groom & Co., Loft 41, and Pangea Coins & Jewelry (all manner of bling); Hillman Electric & Lighting; Town and Country Apothecary (cosmetics and gifts); Jekyll & Hide (leather goods); Bookends (autographed titles); Hot Jewelry Box (accessories); and Pazzazed (giftware). Kids can enjoy arts and crafts at Creatively Yours, the Bazaar Star Beadery, Color Me Mine and the Art Spot.

DON’T MISS: The downtown historic district (East Ridgewood between Maple Avenue and Broad Street). Here you’ll find architectural treasures like the late-18th century Archibald-Vroom House (160 E. Ridgewood). The oldest building in the district, it houses the Tea Tree Spa and Tina’s Nails, among other establishments. The recently opened Fish Urban Dining restaurant has maintained the Classic Revival look of the former First National Bank and Trust Building (54 E. Ridgewood).

THEN AGAIN: Parking is a pain, but a number of establishments introduced valet parking (Tuesday to Saturday) late last year. Paybyphone (an app for metered parking that alerts you as your time runs short) has been an option since July, and the Ridgewood Council is pondering two parking decks.

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