Ten minutes before the event opened, the line of people waiting to get in was growing rapidly.
An officer signaled the cars on the streets to slow down and made a head gesture letting me know it was safe to cross the street.
I joined a group of neighbors who were standing outside the Taste of Bloomfield event at Oakside Bloomfield Cultural Center. We were all eager to get in. It was my first time attending the event and I had one mission in mind: Find which restaurants in the area had plant-based and vegan options available. Since switching to eating mostly plant-based I am always curious to see which restaurants have been adjusting to this growing lifestyle.
Plus, let’s be honest, eating salads every time I go to a restaurant, adding lots of modifications to my order can be tiresome-not only for me but also for the waiters and kitchen staff.
The Best of What I Found
This new restaurant located on Glenwood Ave in Bloomfield offers a “fast-casual” eatery style so many of us have become accustomed to.
I got a chance to speak with Valentino La Rosa, one of the owners, who was greeting everyone with a delicious sample of Piadina (flatbread) and an ancient grain farro sample bowl with some grilled cherry tomatoes, garbanzo beans, and a fresh pesto sauce. All their ingredients are organic, locally sourced, and the menu definitely caters to those looking for a gluten-free Italian meal or vegan/plant-based option. It is Mr. La Rosa’s first venture as a restaurateur and he couldn’t be more excited about their current success.
For those familiar with the Bloomfield-Nutley area, you may remember this place as the Nutley Pub. In 2014, according to their website, this place “transformed to honor its past, while adapting it for modern day.” Although they were not serving any vegan or plant-based samples, I spoke with one of the managers present at the event. She mentioned they had just revamped their menu to include more options for people looking to eat vegan and vegetarian. Their brunch menu does not offer as many options as their dinner menu, but I jumped in to review their new menu and was happy to find some good alternatives for dinner, as well as a generous beer selection.
The Barrow House
This two-year-old Clifton restaurant sits on Van Houten Avenue, close to Route 46. A beautiful barn-style space, the Barrow House has a farm-to-table menu that will engage your imagination and awaken your taste buds.
I had the pleasure of speaking with the chef, Frank DeGruttalo, about his inspiration for their menu. One of the things that attracts customers to The Barrow House is that they carry the Impossible Burger. “We can’t keep it in house,” he says.
This is a burger that is made with mostly plant-based ingredients but has the flavors and texture of a regular beef burger. “If people are willing to try this, then they are willing to try other things” plus “it helps reduce your carbon footprint.” These are some of the things Chef Frank mentioned about the burger. Another interesting fact I learned while speaking to one of the managers from The Barrow House is that their freezer is only large enough to hold ice-cream, referring to how important it is for them to carry a farm-to-table menu made with the freshest ingredients that is updated continuously to adjust for the season.
Additional well-known restaurants in the area, such as MishMish Cafe, in Montclair, and Spice Thai Cuisine, in Bloomfield, were also present at the Taste of Bloomfield. These restaurants also offer great options for those looking to eat more vegetarian, vegan, or plant-based meals. I walked away from the Oakside Mansion feeling giddy about all the new restaurant options I had discovered in the area. I can’t wait to try these places and pick out new favorite dishes at each one.
–by Lennis Perez