My husband is from the great state of Texas and a huge city that is home to roughly 750-850,000 people. So, when he moved to New Jersey over a decade ago, the concept of all these little towns and communities was so foreign to him, and now it’s one of the things we like best about living in our area. There are small pockets of places that its people have a sense of belonging to; they are invested in where they live and it shows. Some of these towns have great school systems, clean parks, amazing restaurants and shops that are supported by the neighborhood. One of our favorite nearby towns and one that me and my girls probably frequent the most, is Montclair. It boasts a city-meets-suburbs kind of feel with pretty much everything you could want within walking distance of each other. We head there for breakfast a lot, and their farmer’s market on the weekend, and a little dessert shop we sneak away to for date nights without the kids. Here are some of our most frequented spots:
1. Montclair Bread Company. This teeny tiny space is packed on the weekends with people lining up for their homemade doughnut creations, like the Maple Bacon and the one with the nutella filling. My personal favorites are their Boston Cream and Apple Cider classics. But they specialize in baking some seriously delicious bread, too, with ingredients that are all-natural and sourced locally. If you make a stop there, definitely grab a box of assorted doughnuts to share, but get a breakfast sandwich all to yourself, like the egg souffle on one of their homemade artisanal breads. This is probably my daughter, Emma’s, favorite place in Montclair. As soon as we park, she grabs a coveted blue folding table outside where she gets to enjoy a mini-doughnut of her choice.
2. Osteria Giotto. This will forever be one of our entire family’s favorite places to head to with a bottle of our favorite wine (this is a BYO) and grab a homemade pasta dish or something off the list of specials that never seems to disappoint. If we want a good meal, and if the weather cooperates, a seat outside, this is our go-to ever time.
3. Red-Eye Cafe. This little cafe actually offers everything from breakfast, brunch, lunch and dinner to some really good coffee, but we usually stop in for their comfort food: their fresh, made-in-house brownies topped with ice cream and my all-time favorite, their oversized s’mores cookies. While we take the kids for dinner once and a while, we mostly go without the kids for a quick date night.
4. Raymond’s. This is definitely the place me and the girls come to the most. We go just as often for breakfast as we do for lunch and dinner, too. It is kid-friendly and the service is always great, and the large menu has something for everyone no matter what you are in the mood for. Although my favorite picks for breakfast have to be their omelet, breakfast burrito, large bowl of steel-cut oatmeal with fruit and their generous portion of avocado toast with eggs. Their salads are also some of my favorite picks for lunch and dinner and if you’re really hungry, they make a great burger.
5. Le Willow 83. We first stopped in this boutique because while parking along-side its storefront to grab our doughnuts one morning, we saw a pair of glittery, sparkly, shoes with a cream-colored bow on top that my daughter insisted we go take a look at and while we walked out with two pairs of those girly mary-janes for each of my daughters, we also got to see the other awesome picks they had inside. They had a great selection of unique jewelry and dresses, and great pieces for special occasions for the kids. This is a perfect place to check out if you are in search of something pretty to wear to a wedding, a fun pair of shoes or a new stack of accessories.
6. Fleet Feet Sports. If you drive through Montclair or are eating outside at a restaurant there one night or are just walking around the corner to grab your morning Starbucks, chances are, you will see runners. Everywhere. This is a great community for socializing and wellness and Fleet Feet helps to mix the two. The store itself has an amazing husband and wife ownership team who are a staple in the neighborhood and their staff prides itself on their customer service. You may stop in for a pair of running shoes or a new workout top, but you may also end up with a new training partner, new friends. A must-stop of your places to check out here.
There are so many other great places to check out in Montclair, but it would literally take forever to list them all. So, instead this is a short list of those places me and my girls continue to constantly visit. It is packed with bakeries, boutiques, and some really great antique shops, and has a few bigger name stores, like Urban Outfitters, Anthropologie and Blue Mercury. If you are in the area, stop by and try to aim for a sunny or at least dry day because it is a perfect downtown to walk around. Peek into all of the stores while you’re there to find some of your favorites and let me know what they are.