You won’t find a knight in armor at the Red Eye Cafe, which opened last weekend on Walnut Street. Although we all loved Cafe Eclectic’s, um, eclectic decor, former chief barista Anthony Brinton has fashioned a much more visually striking environment in his new space. Gone are the mismatched sofas. Instead, there are salvaged chairs and tables made from old countertops, all sanded, stained and buffed by Brinton himself to a fine uniform shine. A wall of subway tiles provides a Raymonds-worthy entrance, and around the perimeter of the room are bookshelves stocked with Brinton’s own impressively-curated collection of reads, from Salman Rashdie to Jonathan Lethem. And there are electrical outlets everywhere so that laptop users don’t have to climb over each other to get a charge. Both the books and the outlets are there to send a signal: pull up a chair and sit a while. “I want them to know it’s the same sort of vibe where you can relax and not get the bum’s rush or the hard sell,” Brinton says.
The soft-spoken barista has quite a loyal following, and the Red Eye was busy yesterday morning, the kind of place you’ll likely run into people you know. I didn’t sample the food but the iced coffee was perfect — a result, Brinton revealed, of an overnight cold brew process. Coffee is really Brinton’s thing and one of the Red Eye’s motifs is a Venn diagram showing how various brews overlap. The Red Eye, for which the cafe is named, is a cup of coffee with a shot of espresso — more intense than a dark roast brew — and Brinton’s favorite drink. Other specialties of the house include New Orleans Sludge Coffee and Dirty Chai.
As for food, our correspondent Kristin Wald, who had visited the Red Eye three times in as may days, recommended the hummus and hot sauce sandwich and says that her carnivorous husband enjoyed The Highlander, a Scotch Egg Banh Mi. The Red Eye’s menu is considerably more eclectic than the one at the old Cafe Eclectic, and includes choices like the Blue Velvet (roast beef, picked blueberries and shallots, cream cheese and arugula on ciabatta $8.95) and the Fat Elvis (banana, peanut butter, honey and bacon on toast, $6). “I love it when people try the weirder things,” Brinton says. Bigger plates, ranging in price from $7 to $10 and including pancakes, can be had during the Feel Better Brunch on weekends.
The Red Eye Cafe, which is considerably smaller than Cafe Eclectic, features a lovely outdoor space in a small shaded alley. Literary and music events are planned.
Red Eye Cafe
94 Walnut Street, Montclair
Open 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. on weekdays and 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. on weekends.
Free delivery to Montclair, Glen Ridge and Bloomfield until 6 p.m. on orders of $15 or more.