Best BYOB Restaurants in Montclair (2023 Updated List)

by Danielle Lane
byo restaurants in montclair nj

Montclair is a hotspot for some of the most adored restaurants in New Jersey with the standouts being the BYOB establishments. Here are some diverse, highly raved-about spots in Montclair that are sure to get your taste buds kicking and leave your wine glass empty. 

Nami Nori 

We’re starting off strong with Nami Nori, a Japanese restaurant that recently expanded with its first touchdown in New Jersey. The main feature on their menu is their open-style temaki— the hand roll sushi is a delicacy that has quickly taken hold of the tri-state region. This is their third location with the original being located in the heart of New York City’s West Village and another in Williamsburg. The design of the interior is an experience within itself. The white brick walls are contrasted by a pale wood that is used on all of the furniture. The menu is gluten-free, with several vegan options sprinkled throughout. The owners, Taka Sakaeda, Jihan Lee, and Lisa Limb, take inclusivity of diet and accessibility very seriously. They want to make sure that everyone, no matter the dietary restriction, can enjoy their delicious Japanese cooking.  

SLA

If you’re looking for somewhere totally out of the box and likely out of your comfort zone, choose to BYOB to SLA in Upper Montclair. SLA is a Thai restaurant serving primarily Northern Thai cuisine to an area that is in desperate need of a shake-up in the food scene. If you’re unsure exactly what you might find here, let me indulge you. Our Food + Drink Editor, Peter Candia, regularly praises SLA for their commitment to authenticity. One particular dish to note is the Gang Hung Ley: a curry-braised pork belly dish that is very comforting and has brought customers time and time again. This recipe is one that chef-owner, Meiji, has carried with her for 30-plus years and you can definitely tell by the love you feel while indulging in this dish. 

SLA

Chef Meiji at SLA | Photo by Arielle Figueredo

Turtle + The Wolf 

Turtle +The Wolf is a self-proclaimed American eatery that has a primarily protein-based menu with European roots offering dishes like chicken liver mousse, foie gras, and pork schnitzel. Located at 622 Valley Road in Upper Montclair, this restaurant, having only been conceived five years ago, persevered through the pandemic due to a loyal customer base who routinely used their take-out service. Since Turtle + The Wolf’s return to normal operations in 2020, they have begun to host their large format dinners they call “family style” once again. Their family-style meals give guests two choices:  Lo’s famous fried chicken which is an entire half a bird or their whole roasted suckling pig which totals 14 lbs. Each family meal is accompanied by side dishes such as crispy potatoes, buttermilk biscuits, blistered shishito peppers, and more. Not to mention, we named Turtle + The Wolf one of the best restaurants of 2022

Fascino 

Fascino is a restaurant focused on delivering high-quality Italian cuisine. They’re proud of their constantly changing menu that best reflects what fresh ingredients they can get in season. The dishes at Fascino are plated beautifully, really reflecting head chef and partner Ryan Depersio’s attention to detail. If you want a restaurant with the feel of a Michelin-star establishment but without the overhyped crowd taking up every night’s seating, this place has the best of both worlds. Fascino has gleaming reviews and the pasta dishes really steal the show. This spot is perfect for a date night, a wedding anniversary, and everything in between.

Samba

Samba is a spot that is hard to miss when strolling down Bloomfield Ave in Montclair, NJ. The interior shines from the outside, basically calling for you to come in and indulge in their cooking. And it doesn’t stop there. The dishes offered at Samba are unlike any other in Montclair. Their tagline is, “A Taste of Brazil” and that’s exactly what you’ll find here. Their menu is centered around Brazilian cuisine and follows a gluten-free restriction. One of their most notable dishes is their Camarão na moranga, which is a butternut squash soup with shrimp, fresh herbs, and parmesan cheese poured into a carved acorn squash. Samba also offers pastries in bundles of three with various fillings like king crab, cod, beef, or spinach. They’re perfect as an appetizer and ideal for the table to share. Finally, be sure to end your night with one of their many desserts like the pudim de leite which is their house-made flan and is adored by many. 

Zeugma

Hopping back in our imaginary plane flying over Montclair we now find ourselves in more Mediterranean territory. Zeugma grill is serving Mediterranean cuisine with expertise from trusted head chef Can Alp who has collected years of experience from family members and his roots in his hometown of Mardin, Turkey. Chef Alp fuses both European and Mediterranean cuisine to create his fabulous menu. You can tell he puts his heart and soul into the imagination of these dishes; each plate looks like its own piece of artwork that you want to take home and display on your walls. Plating techniques like placing a full pepper on the dish prove Alp’s commitment to allowing ingredients to shine in their own light. He is allowing the ingredients to speak for themselves and the greater part they play alongside the other components of the dish. Chef Alp is staying true to his style of cooking while adding his own personal touch to each course. 

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Zᴇᴜɢᴍᴀ (@zeugmanj)

La Rocca

Another gem is La Rocca Osteria, a casual Italian dining restaurant located at 21 Midland Ave in Montclair, NJ. This BYOB establishment has a heartwarming story about chef Robert who crafted these signature dishes that have stood the test of time 25 years later. With ties in Italy, it’s clear to see that Robert takes his family roots very seriously. The dishes at La Rocca are hearty and will fill your plate from corner to corner. It’s not your posh, minimal-type establishment and you can tell their number one priority is to make sure you leave satisfied and full. They offer all the classic dishes like a rack of lamb with a herbed bread crumb, tagliatelle bolognese, cacio e pepe, and spaghetti tossed in with a multitude of seafood. This place is the epitome of Italian soul food. 

Mesob

Let’s hop back into our private plane and head to our next destination. We make our way over to try some Ethiopian cuisine at Mesob restaurant. This establishment caters to meat lovers and vegans alike with both dietary groups being able to enjoy the cooking here. Interestingly enough, this restaurant has the majority of the spices used in their dishes exported directly out of Ethiopia. It shows how they’re willing to take things a step further by not only serving this genre of food but committing to making it as authentic as possible. The style of eating here is more family style so I recommend ordering a couple of dishes with a group to get a taste of everything. All of their entrees are served atop injera: a sour fermented pancake-type flatbread. Injera is composed of teff flour and water and is a crucial part of the dining process like bread or rice in other regions. It acts almost like a plate with the rest of the components of the meal sitting on top. They are very transparent to the fact that their goal is to make the experience as true to Ethiopian dining traditions as possible. 

Laboratorio Kitchen 

Laboratorio describes its menu as, “special dishes, representing regional, progressive meals that balance the natural flavor of food in a healthier, down-to-earth lifestyle,” and I couldn’t think of a greater set of words to do so. Chef James De Sisto is the owner of Laboratorio and has worked under household names like Emeril Lagasse. Laboratorio Kitchen is constantly changing its menu. Pop in during the winter months and you might be served something completely distinct from what you tasted in June or July. His menu features an array of light fish dishes like rainbow trout and scallops mirrored by a short but meaningful display of fresh pasta like pappardelle and hand-rolled ricotta cavatelli. The small dishes section is what caught me by surprise; dishes like freshly made tagliolini, mussels, and organic chicken sounded like entrees but were carefully placed within the appetizers section. Something about sharing appetizers that could also be considered main dishes is so ideal to me, everyone gets a taste and the chance to bask in a star-worthy dish. 

Le Salbuen

Breakfast has never looked so good until Le Salbuen. Chef Christina and John Salierno pull inspiration from their respective Portuguese and Brooklyn roots. They also spin in some French, Indian, and Mediterranean styles as well. Some of their morning meal options include a Croque madame empanada which is a spin on the classic Croque madame from French cuisine with a Portuguese twist. Another gem is their Portuguese french toast which is their brioche toast topped with an egg (your style) accompanied by figs, sausage, and drizzled with honey. The blend of sweet and salty in this dish is just perfection. But their knock-out menu options don’t end at the breakfast menu. The Moroccan lamb skillet found on the lunch menu is the whole nine yards. Roasted potatoes and caramelized onions are seared to perfection at the base. The lamb sausage wraps around the entire circumference of the skillet and is topped with an egg sunny side up. Le Salbuen delivers from the start to the end of their menu. 

da Pepo

da Pepo la cucina del nonno is the full name of our next restaurant. It means “from Pepo – grandfather’s kitchen”. Chef Carlo Orrico, the owner of da Pepo named it after his father to commemorate his long journey traveling from Southern Italy to New Jersey to make a better life for his family. The story behind this restaurant is heartwarming and what makes it even better is that their food is astonishing. The menu is short and sweet but it exhibits chef Orrico’s efforts in perfecting the dishes he serves to his guests. Something charming to note about this restaurant is that the seating area blends into a bookstore. As you sit and enjoy the comforting cuisine you look up and see the charming interior that makes the restaurant feel familiar like you’re in someone’s home eating their mom’s cooking. The cooking and the decor combine to create an environment that transports you.

Brick + Dough

Brick + Dough is not your ordinary pizza joint, and I’ll tell you why. They obviously serve their classics: the Margherita, cheese, vodka style, and even the buff chick. And let me just say they kill it on that front. They take those Instagram-worthy pizzas you see on your explore page and make them a reality right there on your plate. Apart from the classics, Brick + Dough is bringing you something new, a creative edge. I’m not talking about the gimmicky slices like the pizza topped with pizza or the pizza pie with tacos on top. I’m talking about real ingredient mashups that most wouldn’t even consider but are mind-blowing when pulled off correctly. For instance, take their confit duck poutine pizza they served this summer as a special. They used confit duck made in-house, covered it with cheese, and popped it in the oven. When it was cooked they put on crispy potatoes, drizzled some house gravy, and finished it off with fresh mozzarella and chives. Just wow. Another killer is their kimchi and sesame pizza. They take a white pizza, put kimchi on top after baking, and drizzle a spicy aioli on top. Not much more can be said other than you need to check it out yourself. 

Pizza leaving the oven at Brick + Dough

Pizza Leaving the Oven | Photo by Sabrina Palko

Daikichi

If you’re looking to change things up from your current, everyday sushi “home base”, check out Daikichi, a BYOB Japanese restaurant in Montclair. The exterior of the establishment is something in itself to admire. The lanterns lining the roof of the awning are adorable and give the restaurant an appealing and inviting exterior true to the cuisine. Then when you enter the restaurant, you are greeted by these long, brightly lit steps taking you directly to sushi heaven. Some of their more notable specialty rolls include the fantastic roll with yellow tail, tuna, and masago wrapped in white seaweed. They also serve these adorable sushi sandwiches. The sandwiches have tuna, super white tuna, avocado, tempura crunch, spicy mayo, soybean seaweed, and masago. They are cut and served in bite-sized triangles perfect for sharing. The tuna here is bright red on every roll indicating how fresh it is and how well-preserved the fish is. If you want to change things up from your usual sushi spot, give Daikichi a try, it might be your new favorite. 

Ani Ramen 

“Capturing the essence of Tokyo” is the motto for this ramen house. With the tagline “slurp, sip, repeat,” it’s hard to turn away from this gem. Ani Ramen House has narrowed its ramen selection to five variations that they believe take the cake. Their most highly reviewed ramen is their spicy miso ramen. Between the spicy broth that is almost creamy and the noodles, which are glassy and packed with flavor, it’s clear why it’s their top contender. Another fan favorite is the pork buns. They offer four variations with two in each order: pork belly, panko shrimp, fried tofu, and soy-glazed chicken. The menu is packed with other delicious goods aside from their main ramen dishes yet the ramen and the bao buns seem to be the winner. This is the second location for Ani Ramen with the first one located in Jersey City. However, the Montclair location follows the rules of BYOB. It’s definitely worth checking out if Jersey City’s too far or if you’re just a fan of the first location.

Ani Ramen

Ani Ramen | Photo taken from @aniramen

About the Author/s

Hi!
My name is Danielle Lane and I am a student at Penn State University starting my junior year. WE ARE!! I'm majoring in Political Science and Communications. I've lived in New Jersey my whole life, specifically in Bergen County, and I intend to return once I complete my education.. I enjoy painting, baking, and spending time with my aussie puppy, Wolf!

Related Articles

2 comments

CHARLES CIANI A.K.A. CHALUTCH January 18, 2023 - 11:15 am

Nice informative article, we love BYOB ,do you have list of any other NJ cities. Ridgewood and Rutherford, two dry towns would be great also any that you may be aware of in Hoboken? I have a Bergen County list I could send you if you like?

Reply
Luck January 20, 2023 - 11:00 am

Solid list!

NOTE- Ani Ramens first OG location is in Montclair 🙌

Reply

Leave a Comment

SIGN UPFOR OUR NEWSLETTER

Stay up to date with all things Digest