Home LifestyleCareer An Interview with Lauren Hirschberg, Owner of Turtle + the Wolf in Montclair

An Interview with Lauren Hirschberg, Owner of Turtle + the Wolf in Montclair

by Alexa Martin
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Montclair attracts quite the crowd of residents who want a more suburban feel with easy access to the city while still being able to enjoy five-star and diverse dining experiences. Enter Turtle + the Wolf, a hot spot located on Valley Road and while it’s not a name that screams southern comfort, there is one particular southern dish on the menu that is well-known to anyone who has been before: Lo’s Famous Fried Chicken. Read on to learn more about this Montclair eatery and its owner Lauren Hirschberg who has taken the town by storm.

We spoke with owner Lauren Hirschberg about his journey in creating this popular spot with an even more popular menu and also indulged in some takeout of our own. While the restaurant is not currently open for indoor dining, they are doing a strong takeout game.

Wondering what to order? We recommend the Lo’s Famous Fried Chicken dinner for two featuring ten pieces of fried chicken, a simple green salad with shallot vinaigrette and feta, baked BBQ beans, buttermilk biscuits, mashed potatoes, and brussels sprouts coleslaw. And juuuust in case that doesn’t seem filling enough for you, adding the brioche doughnuts onto your order from their a la carte menu is *chefs kiss*. 

lauren hirschberg turtle and the wolf montclair

Montclair Girl: Tell us a little bit about yourself. Did you grow up in the area?

Lauren Hirschberg: I grew up in Montclair and lived here all through my high school career. I followed the typical path of going to a traditional four-year college without a major in mind but found out that Syracuse had a hospitality program after being there for a bit.

MG: Did you always have an interest in the restaurant industry?

LH: I grew up in a household that entertained a lot and my mom cooked a lot so it was definitely of interest to me. Going out to restaurants was always interesting and exciting. In college, a buddy of mine came back from class in a chef’s coat which intrigued me so I went and talked to his teachers about a hospitality and nutrition program that Syracuse offered.

Read More: Dai Kichi: a Must-Try Sushi Spot in Montclair

MG: What did your career look like before opening Turtle + the Wolf?

LH: After college, I moved back home and had a summer job at a local sushi restaurant as a prep cook. After that, I went down south and worked front of house at a resort restaurant. While I was there I decided I’d rather be cooking than working front of house so I made arrangements to come back to the area and did a 6-month program at the French Culinary Institute {now known as the International Culinary Center}. I then took a job at Craft with Chef Tom Colicchio which turned into more than 12 years of working through various levels of responsibility.

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MG: Your menu offers food that people crave and want to eat. What was the process like in selecting menu items and creating the voice of Turtle + the Wolf that people have now responded so well to?

LH: I cook things that I want to eat so I think the menu is reflective of dishes I’d make at home or aspire to make at home with family and friends. There’s not really a process but going to a classic French restaurant is one of my favorite things to do so I think there’s a lot of that which I lean into with cooking. There was also a barbeque competition I started doing about 10 years ago in the south that opened my eyes to a different part of the culinary landscape we live in. I grew up eating BBQ but it wasn’t true BBQ. On this trip we went to a particular restaurant and after a week of BBQ and drinking beer, we sat down and the chicken came piled on in the middle of the table with the sides all around and it brought so much joy to us. That’s where the kind of accidental love of fried chicken came from, with a simple and social meal. 

MG: Our personal favorite item on the menu is Lo’s Famous Fried Chicken. Where did the name come from for this dish?

LH: It’s one of my monikers. One general manager at a restaurant I was working in just started calling me Lo and it stuck. I never set out to name it Lo’s fried chicken, though. That was from a regular customer who texted me asking if she could get some of Lo’s Famous Fried Chicken.

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MG: As a small business owner, how did you have to pivot your business plan due to the pandemic?

LH: I didn’t really have to pivot a plan but there was so much unknown with the pandemic being thrust upon us and all of a sudden the entire world just shifted. The week going into the shutdown I was questioning if we were even doing the right thing. We went through a Saturday night service and it just didn’t feel like we were doing what was right so we took the following week off to figure it out and that Monday it was mandated that everything was to be shut down. My intuition was going hand in hand with public opinion and how officials were coming to terms with things. Then we took another step back to reassess and just started doing the fried chicken meal to keep it as simple as possible while we were feeling things out. As things became clear we brought back our cooks and one of our service staff to help run curbside service.

See More: Montclair Bread Company: A Chat with Doughnut Mastermind Rachel Wyman

MG: Any reopening plans for indoor dining or exciting new things coming up in the future for you that you’d like to let our readers know about?

LH:  It’s all open-ended. Vaccines are being rolled out and people are feeling better about navigating social spaces and public places so we’re itching to get people back in. We don’t have a set timeline but considering what we’ve been able to do with special holidays and whatnot for takeout, we’ll do a special menu for Passover and Easter and then focus on getting our outdoor seating back up and running. We’ve been able to make it a bigger space for once we get back into the groove of things. 

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For more information about Turtle + the Wolf, visit the website and be sure to check out the Instagram page. To place an order for yourself, email takeout@turtleandthewolf.com

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