Eat Your Way Through The Village

Join the “Roman Feast” tomorrow night, from 6:00 to 8:30 pm in our faire village.  The Lions Club and Montclair Village Association are co-hosting their fourth annual Montclair Village Restaurant Walk, an altruistic opportunity to eat non-stop.  As a local fundraiser, you can consume with abandon right here.

Besides food tastings at 19 different locations (see ’em below), there will be entertainment from our kids.  Montara’s band will perform outside the Safeway, while a Skyline High string trio will serenade everyone at Italian Colors.  This Tuesday fundraiser will benefit charities including Oakland Fund for the Arts, Boy Scouts, music programs at Montera and Skyline, and many more.

Here are all 19 of the grazing spots, so you can plan your journey carefully:

Amba – Colonial Donuts – Crogan’s – El Agavero – Farmstead Cheese & Wine – Flipper’s Gourmet Burgers – Flavors India Bistro – Grille One Carvery – Italian Colors – Kakui Sushi – Montclair Baking – Montclair Bistro – Montclair Malt Shop – Noah’s New York Bagels – Oni Sushi – Pagarung Thai – Taqueria Las Comrades 2 – Yogafina – U.S. Bank

Tickets are selling out, but we hear you can stop by the U.S. Bank and buy a $25 passport.  Then you’ll be armed with coupons which can be redeemed at each participating restaurant.  And consider parking as an offset, since the La Salle garage will be open and free from 5:00 to 9:00 pm.

Enjoy the stroll, the tastings, the music and your neighbors.  Be there.

Some Fresh Fish, Please

Remember when the Montclair Village Association (MVA) asked shoppers and merchants how to fill our store vacancies?  Well their results have been tallied, and everyone seems to want a fish monger or great butcher in the Village.  Our desires revolve around all kinds of food, dining and cooler shopping options.

Here are the top shopping desires:

  1. Hardware store – just left, we want and need it back
  2. Bakery – a good one, to augment donuts and bagels
  3. Organic grocery store – pretty please, there’s demand
  4. Butcher/Fish store – good stuff that we’ll pay for
  5. Fun restaurant with music – some hang-out for younger folks
  6. Improved Village look and events – a place to be, and spend

It’s not surprising that folks leave the Village to shop for food.  We conducted a everyday food survey years ago, which supported the lack of options here.  Current survey respondents cry out for an organic-type supermarket within spitting distance.  Since Lucky’s and Safeway seem fairly stable, there’s no obvious spot for that Molly Stones, Berkeley Bowl, Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods.

Looking over their shoulders at nearby neighborhoods, Montclarions also like the idea of having smaller shops featuring fresh fish, butchers and bakery goods. One respondent hit the nail on the head:  “I think every time I walk through the deserted Montclair Plaza building that it would make a great spot for a Market Hall-type setup, with fresh pasta, seafood, butcher, bakery, produce, etc.”

We all know the Village is pretty set in its ways, which can be a good or bad thing.  “People today want an excuse to hang out and spend time where they shop and can socialize in a trendy setting,” said one Montclarion.  Both the Sunday Farmers Market and new First Thursdays provide some draws, and are a nice start.

The Village should hereby be called the little engine that could.

Safeway Redwood: Impact On Montclair?

Safeway’s been slowly upgrading their Oakland stores.  They did renovate the Montclair location a few years ago, to give Lucky’s a run for their money.

Now the small, old Safeway on Redwood Road, at Lincoln Square, is getting its day in the sun.  Unlike other Oakland spots where potential upgrades would impact traffic and walking flows, this Safeway sits in the back of an existing parking lot.

Thus far, Safeway has asked for online supporters and their inputs.  Over 230 locals have already applauded the renovation news.  And now, let the quibbling over features and amenities begin.

Libby Schaaf, our District 4 Council Rep, is planning a meeting to gauge comments, ideas and concerns on a broader scale.  We think that’s a good move, given the hoopla with other Safeway renovations.

Montclarions probably don’t and won’t frequent this location too much.  Yet some of these new Safeway supporters, who live further East,  have mentioned they will stop heading to Montclair to shop.  We’re wondering if we should start getting concerned about how these improvements might impact our faire village.

Simcity Meets Montclair Village

Who should be occupying retail vacancies in Montclair Village?  Do you want more food, apparel, gifts or specialized services?  We made some fantasy picks a few years ago, and several ideas came true!  Now it’s your time to dream and speak up.

While Montclair Village retailers closed for different reasons, some spots have been vacant for a long time.  We believe that Score Education Center, the Movie Express and Argento Jeweler have been shuttered for well over a year.  Currently, there are nine storefronts to be rented, in these exact locations.

Roger Vickery, Director of the Montclair Village Association, has asked everyone for their thoughts.  You may leave them in the comments here, or email them to Vickery at

P.S.  Maybe Simcity’s creator could weigh in.  Will Wright lives in our hills, too.

Grazing Through Montclair: Restaurant Walk 2011

Don’t miss the Montclair Restaurant Walk!  You have the opportunity to graze through 17 restaurants, contributing to your faire village as well as the Lions Club’s charities.

There’s an official video introducing the Restaurant Walk, which takes place later this month:  Tuesday, April 26th, from 6:00 – 8:30pm.

Ready to salivate?  Here are the Montclair Village places serving morsels:

  • Colonial Donuts — Tasty Treat
  • Crogans — Clam Chowder
  • El Agavero Mexican Cuisine & Bar — Mexican Cuisine & Drink
  • Farmstead Cheese & Wine — Wine and Cheese Tasting
  • Flavors of India — Indian Cuisine
  • Grille One Carvery — Greek & American Cuisine
  • Italian Colors Ristorante — Seasonal Treat
  • Kakui Sushi — Finger Food: Assorted Sushi
  • Kotobuki Japanese Restaurant — New Menu Item
  • Metro Montclair — Spicy Tuna Poke
  • Montclair Baking — Sweet Treat
  • Montclair Bistro — Award Winning Pork Loin
  • Montclair Malt Shop — Soup of the Day
  • Pagarung Thai — Basil Veg Tofu with Rice, Mango with Sticky Rice
  • Taqueria Las Comadres 2 — Soft Taco, Small Aqua Fresca
  • Toshi Sushi — Toshi Sushi Surprise
  • Yogofina — Taste of Yogafina
  • U.S. Bank/Lions Club — Treats from Safeway and Lucky Stores

Ticket books cost $25/person and must be purchased in advance.  We suggest you stop by Montclair Book Tree, Safeway, U.S. Bank, Viewpoint, or Wheels of Justice soon.  Realtor Laurel Strand is also selling tickets (  Or buy your books through the Montclair Veterinary Hospital (Tracy Neal, c/o, which will donate half the proceeds to the Pet & Wildlife Fund.

Update:  Procrastinators may still may attend the Restaurant Walk, after all.  The Lions Club will sell (remaining) ticket books on Tuesday evening, right at U.S. Bank.

Tapas in Japanese

Two (fairly) new establishments have joined the venerable Toshi Sushi in catering to Montclair’s yen for Japanese food. One might ask if that’s more Japanese food than one small village requires. But it only makes sense to ask if Montclair needs three Japanese restaurants if one thinks of Japanese food as a single, unvarying cuisine.

The Characters Spell Izakaya

The Japanese kitchen is as varied as any other of the world’s great food traditions. And, once a cuisine reaches the United States it evolves. The two new(ish) Japanese restaurants in the village represent different types of Japanese fare as well as different adaptations to the American influence.

Think of Koto Buki as the traditional sushi restaurant with plenty of entrees from the classic Japanese-American repertoire. Koto Buki just moved up the hill from Piedmont Avenue where it had been a neighborhood staple for nearly 20 years. It hopes to establish itself in Montclair with the help of fans from the old location.

Kakui Sushi’s owner, Yingji Huang, describes his already popular restaurant as Japanese fusion in the izakaya tradition, that’s a place where hearty nosh meets sake. Yingji says a Japanese tapas bar is a fair description. Kakui specializes in sakes imported from Japan. Yingji says he serves brands that are difficult to find outside of Japan. The restaurant’s signature dish is gindara: That’s sea bass glazed in a miso/sake reduction. “It’s a sweet miso that goes perfectly with the salt water fish,” says Yingji.

Now’s the time to visit Kakui. Yingji says he’s just got hold of some heirloom tomatoes and Hokkaido scallops that go great with a particularly smooth sake from the Masumi brewery.

Grille One Looks Delectable

Grille One looks delectable.  We stopped by to take a quick peek at the offerings, which included an array of grilled meats, veggies and salads displayed for all takers.  This newest dining option opened yesterday – and what an improvement for Montclair Village!

What’s there?  You’ll see a upscale food line with all the juicy roasts ready for slicing, and hugely mouthwatering.  It’s a bit hard to come up with comparisons, but this place reminds us of a very (repeat very) upscale version of Boston Market.

On the menu, the grilled selections are served as main plates or carved sandwiches.  There are also excellent salad options.  I think it will take five visits to do the place justice, and pass judgment completely.

The dining room looks lovely and has vanquished any memories of the prior tenant serving Mexican chain restaurant food.  The tables and flooring are now dark and sleek, with an urban-metropolitan feel.  Things were quiet when we stopped by in the mid-afternoon, though the owner and her team were getting prepared for the evening rush.

We also noticed that Grille One bought one of those Valpak ads offering 50% off any carved sandwich or lunch/dinner plate through July 5th, as a grand opening offer.  That’s a decent incentive to try out the Grille – and we hope they do well in the Village.