At the urging of foodie friends, I dined at Upstairs in Montclair last night. At first, I couldn’t find the place on a street lined with shops and restaurants, but then a glass door with “Upstairs” stenciled on it caught my eye. Immediately after opening the street-level door, guests are led up a flight of stairs that look like they’re made of ice blocks glowing with soothing cool backlights. As I made my way up, I couldn’t imagine what I’d find…Upstairs. The space is a cross between a chic South Beach club and a trendy Manhattan hot spot. To put it simply – wow.
Off the bar area is an open kitchen with a team of hard-working chefs. It’s always fun to have a full view of the food being prepared and to get a nose full of aromas coming off the kitchen.
Our server, Mackenzie, was energetic, knowledgeable about the menu and helpful with drink and food selections. The menu is comprised of small and large plates and my party and I opted for several small plates to share. A special on the evening we visited was brown sugar-caramelized slab bacon. At Mackenzie’s urging, we selected it and absolutely loved it paired with ripe peaches. Another winner was the Sautéed Calamari ($12) prepared with basil, garlic, chilis and topped with breadcrumbs. The only negative about this outstanding dish is that I had to share it. Absolutely delicious and perfectly prepared to optimal tenderness.
We also sampled the Pork Terrine ($11) a “loaf” of melt-in-your-mouth slow cooked pork slathered with tangy barbeque sauce and served with grilled toast and pickles. The last dish we tried was the Housemade Ricotta Gnocchi ($12) with sautéed mushrooms, basil and sheets of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. One dish was better than the next and has me looking forward to my next visit.
The cocktails are creative and the wine list is outside the predictable with affordable options and several wines by the glass.
The place was hopping by 8PM on a Friday night, so arrive early for a prime table in the bar area. The dining room is somewhat more relaxed but has a hip vibe about it. I was told to eat in the bar area and am very grateful for that insider tip – fun atmosphere.
Beautifully designed place with solid food and a smart wait and kitchen staff. A must-try when in Montclair.
Veronique Deblois, Food & Wine Chickie
Veronique is a food and wine writer based in Morris County, NJ. As the author of the popular blog, Food & Wine Chickie Insider, Veronique shares recipes, wine and restaurant reviews and insight into the travel industry of which she’s a 15-year veteran. Follow Veronique on Twitter or like her Facebook page.
608 Valley Road
Upper Montclair, NJ 07043
Tuesday – Thursday: 5PM – 10PM
Friday – Saturday: 5PM – 11PM
Sunday: 5PM – 9PM
Closed on Monday
Veronique Deblois, Food & Wine Chickie: Veronique is a food and wine writer based in Morris County, NJ. As the author of the popular blog, Food & Wine Chickie Insider, Veronique shares recipes, wine and restaurant reviews and insight into the travel industry of which she’s a 15-year veteran. Follow Veronique on Twitter or like her Facebook page.