Home Best of Guides How to Have a European-Style Summer in Montclair

How to Have a European-Style Summer in Montclair

by Danielle Farina
0 FacebookTwitterPinterestEmail

Trips to the shore, hikes in the mountains, BBQs in the burbs, there’s much to be said about New Jersey summers. But every now and then, someone you distantly know (if at all) takes to Instagram to reaffirm a cruel reality: that there are people summering in Europe, and you’re not one of them. Suddenly, open-window drives down the GSP feel like a collection of toll fees, while everyone else is collecting passport stamps. We’ve found a way to cure your cross-continent “FOMO” and resurrect your love for Jersey. Introducing The Montclair Girl’s guide to a European summer in Montclair — a.k.a., where to eat, drink, shop, and play to replicate a Euro trip without leaving Essex County. Complete with European-inspired restaurants, drinks, dishes, activities, and shops, each spot checks a different touristy dream off the bucket list, all within the borders of the Garden State. Keep reading for our guide to a European summer in Montclair + beyond.

How to Get There (Mentally)

There’s something undeniably magical about arriving at the airport before a long-awaited trip. Not even the longest or most intense security lines can dim the anticipatory excitement of a dream vacation — which is why a trip to Paper Planes Coffee Co., the Montclair coffee shop designed like an airplane, is the only way to kick off a New Jersey-style European summer. Grab your favorite iced latte, a little bite to eat, and stare out those faux airplane windows until you have mentally arrived at the European destination of your choice.

Read More: How to Spend a Day in Upper Montclair

Pastries

Those committed to the at-home-European-summer bit must make a pretty hefty sacrifice: swapping Jersey bagels for pastries. This isn’t to say that Europe doesn’t have its fair share of bagels (they originated in the Jewish communities of Poland, after all), but we New Jerseyans are too spoiled in options to crave a bagel on a European getaway. Instead, we opt for a mid-morning croissant run, and here are the local spots to get the job done.

Le French Dad Boulangerie | 10 Church Street, Montclair

le french dad boulangerie

The smell of this French bakery is enough to satisfy a craving but trust us when we say that the eats are worth every bite. Inside Le French Dad is a collection of homemade bread, pastries, and even lunch items. Our loyalties lie with the classic croissant, but we’d be remiss not to mention the almond croissant, Pain au chocolat, and Pain aux raisins. This spot also serves coffee from Montclair’s Paper Planes.

Jayce Baudry French Pastry | 17 Church Street, Montclair

If the word pâtisserie is unfamiliar, it won’t be after stepping into Jayce Baudry on Church Street. A French bakery specializing in upscale pastries and sweets, this shop feels like a little slice of France in Montclair. Croissant-wise, there are four options: traditional, Pain au chocolat, almond, and raspberry. We don’t give orders, but if we did, we’d say the raspberry — pink-striped and filled with 100% raspberry jam — is a must. Jayce Baudry additionally has ice cream, coffee, and tea.

Mattarello Bakery + Café | 254 Bellevue Avenue, Montclair

Being an Italian bakery, Mattarello takes a slightly different approach to the croissant, but as they say, some risks are worth the reward. Traditional butter is always an option, but customers can also level up by choosing between Nutella, custard cream, or apricot filling.

The Pie Store | 100 Watchung Avenue

the pie store nj

The Pie Store and its sister shop The Tea Store both serve up traditional British fare and are a hit with locals and those looking for a taste of Britain (or just delicious baked goods). The menu, unsurprisingly, features a vast selection of classic pies, like apple, Key Lime, coconut cream, and chocolate mousse, and savory pies like mushroom, cheese, onion, and pasties.

Art Museums + Galleries

Local art galleries and museums might not be home to the Mona Lisa (though the famous painting has traveled on the New Jersey Turnpike), but the North Jersey art scene is certainly home to talented artists, old and new, producing inspiring works of art. Since we can’t tour The Louvre this summer, here’s where we’ve been exploring instead.

Gold/scopophilia | 594 Valley Road, Montclair

art gallery gold scopophilia montclair

Tucked away in an alleyway on Valley Road, Gold/scopophilia features contemporary art in different media from up-and-coming artists. Shows rotate every few months and usually connect to the current time of year.

Montclair Art Museum | 3 South Mountain Avenue, Montclair

art galleries essex county montclair newark orange montclair art museum

Montclair Art Museum opened its doors in 1914 and was the first museum to focus primarily on collecting American and Native American art in the country. Today, upon visiting the museum, guests can expect to find over 12,000 works of art and countless exhibitions — plus the recent addition of an inside coffee shop called Cornerstone Cafe

*Please note the Montclair Art Museum is temporarily closed to the public until September 8th

Montclair State University Galleries | 1 Normal Avenue, Montclair

montclair state galleries

Photo Credit: Cary Whittier

Montclair State University houses multiple galleries including the flagship Segal Gallery, which includes work from professional artists with a focus on contemporary art. The Sculpture Garden has over a dozen outdoor works. University Galleries’ mission is to bring together ideas, perspectives, and dialogues to foster curiosity and shared understandings through art.

Newark Museum of Art | 49 Washington Street, Newark

Founded in 1909, this museum is the state’s largest museum. The quality of art and programs are first-rate. It holds major collections of American art, decorative arts, contemporary art, and the arts of Asia, Africa, the Americas, Europe, and the ancient world. Of course, the Montclair area has such a vibrant abundance of galleries and museums, so we’ve created complete + comprehensive guides for each respective category.

Drinks

If there’s one certainty in this life, it’s that alcohol will be consumed, and probably photographed, on a European vacation. Cocktails, vino, or beer, so be it: here’s where to raise a glass like you would on vacation.

Bar Franco | 5 Church Street, Montclair

Photo Credit: Rachael Grochowski of RHG Architecture

New to the Montclair drinking scene, Bar Franco comes from the owners of its neighboring + sister restaurant, Fresco Da Franco. The team behind Bar Franco describes it as a “bespoke aperitivo bar” with an opulent, old-world vibe. The drinks certainly are bespoke. The Mama Mia, for instance, exudes chocolate smoke from a base of bourbon and bitter reduction, while the Sambuchino — a blend of tequila, St. Germain, and lime juice — sits below a berg of shaven jalapeno ice.

De Novo European Pub | 275 Bellevue Avenue, Montclair

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by De Novo Montclair (@denovomontclair)

Perhaps a little on the nose, De Novo is a European gastropub located right next to the Montclair train station, and inside, there’s a bar centering the space with a 19-cocktail menu. Some options: the Pink Lady (gray whale gin, Pierre spark brut, St. Germain, strawberry Tahitian, vanilla puree, lemon juice),  Frose (rum, rose wine, cranberry, orange liquor), or the Cucumber Cooler (Wheatley vodka, fresh cucumber juice, lime juice, mint). There are also extensive wine and beer options to choose from.

Faubourg Restaurant + Bar | 544 Bloomfield Avenue, Montclair

Faubourg

This modern French brasserie has an eclectic but delicious menu and an elevated interior that boasts two bars. Some cocktails to try are the Elvis Parsley (vodka, watermelon, parsley, cucumber, lime) or the Fizz Bizz (Casamigos Blanco, Aperol, cantaloupe lemon grass, lime, and club soda).

Pharmacie Bar + Kitchen | 398 Bloomfield Avenue, Montclair

Pharmacie is largely inspired by the American music culture of the 1980s, but the interior architecture and Italian marble floors call to mind the aperetivo bars of Italy that are essential to any Euro trip. Although the cocktail menu is smaller, there are plenty of draft beers and wines to choose from.

Egan + Sons | 118 Walnut Street, Montclair

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Egan & Sons (@eganandsons)

Fancy cocktails are great, but across the pond is more than just spirits and spritzes. Gulping down a Guinness at an Irish pub in Dublin is a major dream for many of us beer drinkers, and Egan + Sons in Montclair is a close local second. Inside are TVs, a beautiful outdoor dining area, brews, and delicious Irish-inspired fare.

Tierney’s Tavern | 138 Valley Road, Montclair

Another Montclair staple is Tierney’s Tavern, a go-to Irish dive bar in town. Everything we know and love about a classic pub can be found at this local watering hole, including a jukebox, live music, darts, and your favorite brews.

Beer Gardens

We’ll be the first to admit that the Montclair area is lacking in the authentic, open-air biergartens one might find in Germany — but there are two local beer gardens that come close to the literal and figurative buzz of these German fixtures.

Village Hall | 101 South Orange Street, South Orange

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Village Hall (@villagehallnj)

Located in the historic Village Hall building, this restaurant + beer garden of the same name has a 40-seat bar, fire pits, and over 40 beers on tap. You won’t find pretzels or bratwursts here, but instead, upscale French cuisine.

Pineapple Express Barbecue | 1 Lackawanna Plaza, Montclair

pineapple express bbq montclair nj

Despite serving up delicious barbecue eats, Pineapple Express has all the beer hall vibes with its large, open space right on the Lackawanna Plaza. There are plenty of tables with bench seating and stools lining the bar, which has a selection of rotating craft beers. Be sure to stop by on a weekend for the full experience.

Wine + Wineries

A major bucket list item for any self-proclaimed sommelier is to visit a winery or vineyard in the mountainous regions of a European country: Portugal, France, Italy, etc. Given the geography of New Jersey, we can’t provide you with that, but we can provide you with a few local wine bars and wineries that, by the end of your visit, will have you believing you’re on the European coast (though we always promote drinking responsibly!). 

Amanti Vino | 30 Church Street, Montclair

amanti vino montclair nj

This wine shop has free tastings on Saturday afternoons, which is a great way to start off a date night or an evening with friends. Everything in the shop is hand-selected by the owner, with many specialty options from small and organic vineyards. In the summer, Amanti Vino has outdoor seating so guests purchase + enjoy a bottle pre or post-dinner (which, feels very European to us). Just remember to BYOC (bring your own cup). It also sells cheeses, charcuterie, and other small snacks.

Fox Hollow Vineyards | 939 Holmdel Road, Holmdel

A bit of a drive from Montclair, this sprawling 94-acre property in Holmdel is family-owned and operated, and strives to produce wines that “work well in pairings and can also stand alone.” Plus, this spot is dog-friendly, which isn’t really relevant to our European summer, but is always an added bonus.

Grape Collective | 620 Valley Road, Upper Montclair

grape collective montclair nj

This beautifully curated wine and cheese shop sits in Upper Montclair. Although there are no in-store or outdoor drinking options, a fun alternative is to purchase a few bottles, with the help of the shop’s knowledgeable attendants, and host an at-home tasting. Charcuterie boards are encouraged, too.

Make Wine With Us | 21 Curie Avenue, Wallington

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Make Wine With Us (@makewinewithus)

At Make Wine With Us, guests can, surprise, make their own wine. The process is long, and depending on how long makers want their batch to age, it can take anywhere from nine months to two years. This means a few trips to the facility are necessary: once to crush the grapes, once to press the grapes, and to bottle them. It may seem a little tedious, but we’ve never complained about having pre-set future plans.

Views

As a collection of peninsulas, Europe has a rich geography that goes pretty unparalleled in terms of views. Even so, Montclair isn’t without some beautiful natural spaces to explore. Here are a few local gardens and parks that reaffirm Jersey as the Garden State and simultaneously feel a world away.

Verona Park | Porcello Lane, Verona

verona park nj

Right off Bloomfield Avenue, Verona Park boasts picturesque lake views and some stunning walking paths. To really crank up the European fantasy, there are paddle boats available for hourly rentals, which we won’t say is equivalent to taking a gondola along the canals of Venice, but we will certainly pretend all summer long.

Van Vleck Gardens | 21 Van Vleck Street, Montclair

van vleck

In the center of Montclair is the old Van Vleck estate, a historic structure that now hosts non-profit events and organizations. The grounds are open to the public every day and are home to azaleas, lush greenery, and wisteria blooms. It’s perfect for a picnic or just a tranquil walk.

Avis-Campbell Gardens | 60 South Fullerton Avenue, Montclair

avis campbell gardens

Around the corner from the Montclair Public Library is a hidden, 70-year-old garden property dutifully cared for by The Garden Club of Montclair. Tulips, yarrow, azaleas, lambs ear, ferns, and alliums decorate the garden’s path, and in the center is an urn-like fountain. It’s truly a splendor to take in. 

Eagle Rock Reservation | Eagle Rock Avenue + Prospect Avenue, West Orange

This 408.33-acre forest reserve and recreational park in the First Watchung Mountain of New Jersey is our local version of the Swiss Alps (that’s a joke). The park has numerous walking trails and probably the best views of New York City from the area. There are hiking trails too, which are pleasant and easy to navigate.

Pasta

The reality is, most of us summering in North Jersey are eating pasta regardless of trying to fulfill a European fantasy, so we won’t bore you with a list of all the pasta spots you need to try (we’ve actually already done that, and you can read it here). Instead, we’ve rounded up a few local restaurants that have European-inspired vibes and good pasta, because the vibes are really what we’re after here.

Café Giotto | 42 Church Street, Montclair

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Café Giotto (@cafegiottomontclair)

This small, cozy restaurant in Montclair is a trattoria in the truest sense, with just one green sign claiming the historic building as Café Giotto’s home. Inside, guests will find plenty of exposed brick and rustic wood furnishing, evoking the feel of a side street in a quiet Italian town. The menu draws inspiration from the cuisine of Northern Italy, so pasta options are plentiful. The lasagne bolognese is a favorite, but the linguine + white clams is a great summer dish. 

Luigino’s Parmigiana | 173 Glenridge Avenue, Montclair

luiginos parmigiana montclair

Photo Credit: Cindy Blanco

Luigino’s Parmigiana is a new “funky traditional” spot bringing a taste of the Amalfi Coast to Montclair. With big open windows, fake fruits hanging from the ceiling, and olive wood furnishing, the space is light and organic, reminiscent of a restaurant in Southern Italy. As is the menu, and in terms of pasta, there are six options to choose from. We recommend the carbonara or the stuffed gnocchi (porcini, cream, truffle, pramigiano butter).

da Pepo | 54 Fairfield Street, Montclair

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by da Pepo (@dapepomontclair)

The Montclair Girl’s best pasta winner in the “Best of Montclair 2021,” da Pepo not only has an impressive menu of pasta — and we’ll get to those in a moment — but it’s also connected to local book store Watchung Booksellers, creating an atmosphere that’s hard to find in North Jersey. The pasta is made in-house, with traditional dishes like Penne Arrabiata (red onion, olives, hot cherry peppers, San Marzano tomato, and cream) and Orrechietta Barese (sausage, broccoli rabe, EVOO, garlic, chilis).

As we said before, this only scratches the surface of Montclair’s incredible pasta spots — be sure to check out this list for a more comprehensive guide to local pasta offerings.

Traveling Beyond Italy + France

Europe is not just Italy, and New Jersey is not just Italian food, despite it feeling that way sometimes. In Montclair and its neighboring town, there are a variety of other European cuisines to enjoy, and we’d be remiss not to highlight some of them in our pretend travel itinerary.

Efi’s Gyro | 521 Bloomfield Avenue, Montclair

Avra

This family-owned Greek eatery is perfect for a casual, cafe-style dining experience. The food is fresh and authentic, and the menu packs a heavy punch of flavor. The gyros and bowls are customizable with sauces and toppings to satisfy all palates, and the fries are seasoned to perfection.

Le Salbuen | 97 Walnut Street, Montclair

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Christina Buenano (@lewillow83)

The cheery yellow umbrellas signaling Le Salbuen’s storefront are the first clue that diners are about to escape the hustle and bustle of the city or even downtown Montclair. Le Salbuen also has a market that serves fresh produce, meat, and more. This generally European-inspired cafe is a quintessential farm-to-table eatery — the husband and wife chefs take pride in the seasonal, local, and organic menu.

Sayola Restaurant | 38 Valley Road, Montclair

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Sayola Restaurant (@sayolarestaurant)

Sayola is a celebration of Spanish culture, with an expansive menu of traditional dishes and a space categorized by its distinctive tiles, fabrics, and exposed brick. In the past, Sayola has hosted Flamenco Nights with live musical performances from Flamenco artists. It’s worth noting though, that Sayola’s Montclair location is temporarily closed, though it’s unclear at this time if that closure is permanent. 

The Pit | 178 Broad Street, Bloomfield

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by The Pit BBQ (@the_pit_bbq)

Broad Street in Bloomfield is home to many a foodie gems, but this Portuguese BBQ spot earns a spot on our fake travel itinerary with its large menu of meats, sandwiches, salads, and appetizers. To get the complete experience, start with the beef, chicken, or cheese empanadas, paired with the BBQ Portuguese Sausage. There are a few seats inside for dining, but we recommend take-out at The Pit.

Zeugma Grill | 44 South Park Street, Montclair

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Zᴇᴜɢᴍᴀ (@zeugmanj)

Top-quality pita and hummus, savory main dishes, and tempting desserts are the epitome of delicious Mediterranean cuisine here at Zuegma. The menu draws inspiration from the Mediterranean regions of Europe and the Middle East, and the interior space is worth noting too: Doric columns, cozy bench seating around the perimeter, and mosaic art on the walls. 

If you’re willing to travel a bit beyond Montclair, Newark, NJ has a reputation for having some of the best Portuguese food in the state. A little while back, we compiled a list of restaurants worth trying, which you can check out here.

Desserts

We’re never in the business of denying ourselves dessert, but on vacation, following dinner with a little something sweet is practically mandatory. On this mental vacation, we’re indulging in all the European goods — lots of gelato, Belgian waffles, macarons, the list goes on.

Benvenuti Montclair | 20 Church Street, Montclair

benvenuti montclair nj

Two first-generation Italian-American families — the Browns and the Mazzeos — bring an authentic Italian gelato and café experience right here to the heart of New Jersey. They were inspired by the quintessential Italian experience of strolling through town, after dinner, enjoying gelato. The gelato is made in-house, and flavors change regularly.

Calandra’s Bakery | 244 U.S. Highway 46, Fairfield

Luciano Calandra founded this bakery in 1962, and his family has operated it ever since. With three locations across the state, Calandra’s has traditional Italian desserts including cakes, cupcakes, and cookies — the Italian rainbow cookies are top-notch. It also sells macarons, with flavors depending on the day and the location.

Grid Iron Waffle Shop | 12 South Orange Avenue, South Orange

Students and residents flock here because of its seriously creative Belgian + brioche waffles. Since we’re mentally in Europe, the Bad Boy — a cinnamon Belgian waffle stuffed with peanut butter chunks and topped with butterscotch ice cream and caramel drizzle — is our recommendation, but the bacon, brie, and basil served over a brioche waffle isn’t a bad choice, either.

Guerriero Gelato | 571 Bloomfield Avenue, Montclair

This local franchise originally started in Caldwell and has made its way to Montclair providing locals with dozens of gelato, hard ice cream, and Italian ice flavors. The shop even represented New Jersey in the 2021 Gelato World Masters. There are vegan and gluten-free options, and patrons can pre-order treats online.

il laboratorio del gelato | 598 Valley Road, Montclair

il laboratorio del gelato montclair

Originating in New York, this gelato shop specializes in creamy gelato available in a variety of flavors. It follows the original artisanal Italian method of gelato-making in order to create exceptional gelato and sorbet which includes dense texture, superior consistency, and pure flavors. There are of course the classics — chocolate, vanilla, etc. — but for a unique flavor experience, there’s an entire savory selection with options like cheddar cheese, cream cheese, olive oil, and ricotta.

Vesta Chocolate | 598 Valley Road, Montclair

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Vesta Chocolate (@vestachocolate)

Vesta Chocolate is a craft factory and café that churns out a variety of bars, bonbons, and baked goods as well as chocolate and coffee beverages. The menu includes a variety of bean-to-bar chocolates, chocolate bark with combinations like apricot and pistachio, fig and hazelnut, and the famous bonbons — and on the shelves, guests can find hot chocolate mixes, cacao spreads, and chocolate-covered fruits and nuts.

Where to Find Macarons

If there’s a dessert worthy of its own section in this itinerary, it’s macarons. These tiny cookies are similar to whoopie pies but with a crunchier/flakier outside. You can find them at the three aforementioned French + Italian pastry shops (scroll up to the section “Pastries” for reference), but we’ll list them here again:

  • Le French Dad Boulangerie | 10 Church Street, Montclair
  • Jayce Baudry French Pastry | 17 Church Street, Montclair
  • Mattarello Bakery + Café | 254 Bellevue Avenue, Montclair

See More: A Weekend Getaway To Portland, Maine

Clubbing

porta montclair nj

Study abroad students aren’t the only ones who dabble in a bit of nightlife while bopping around Europe. The Montclair area isn’t exactly bustling with club options, but Porta Montclair can certainly fill that void. Each weekend, this local bar + restaurant at 499 Bloomfield Avenue hosts late-night dance parties on its upper floor. Plus, something to look forward to, the space is expanding to have a second-floor outdoor deck.

Of course, this list is for editorial purposes and is not a complete guide to all of the amazing Montclair business — European-inspired or not — worth visiting in the summertime. New Jersey is an amazing place to live, work, and play, and while Europe is full of rich culture and history, there’s really no place else we’d rather be.

read more lifestyle button

Become a local expert in no time.
Enter your email address to stay in-the-know. No spam, promise.
Thank you for subscribing!

also appears in

0 comment