Coffee for Connoisseurs in Montclair


A new to Montclair reader wrote to Baristanet with the following question:

I am completely convinced that the food in Montclair is incredible, the antiquing is fun and a little too enticing, great shops, great frozen yogurt, incredible diversity, and more! But WHERE IS THE COFFEE?! And I mean the real stuff – coffee for connoisseurs.

There are coffee lovers and there are coffee connoisseurs. I fall somewhere in between. I love coffee and have since my dad would make me a Sanka every night before bed as a little girl. It’s my favorite flavor of all, so I took the challenge to find the best Cup of Joe Montclair serves.

For the true coffee connoisseur, I’m voting Le Salbuen‘s “pour-over” coffee, also known as “hand pour coffee,” as the winner. I had the pleasure of having the Executive Chef and Owner, John Salierno, demonstrate a pour over coffee using the only coffee Le Salbuen brews—Toby’s Estate Coffee, a local roaster from Williamsburg, Brooklyn. A “pour-over” involves perfect water temperature, exact measuring, and knowing how to pour the water perfectly over the grounds to get a cup of coffee that retains its oils and flavors. John explained that with this method, you could really taste the distinct flavors that make up the coffee. The brew he made us had lemon and honey notes.

We can’t talk about being a coffee connoisseur without espresso. My personal favorite cappuccino in Montclair comes from Raymond’s on Church Street. Always packed and a favorite for food, Raymond’s has made a big effort to serve up really good coffee. Owner Joanne Ricci told me that Raymond’s redid its entire coffee program about a year ago. They purchase their coffee from Red House Roasters, a coffee company in Union City, NJ, who roasts a special unique blend just for Raymond’s. Red House delivers its Rainforest Alliance certified coffee by order and nothing is more than one week old. The espresso machine is top-notch and the baristas went through a very thorough training. Just look at the cappuccino, you can tell it’s made with love.

Barista Kids food writer Lisa Davies says that her favorite cappuccino comes from Osteria Giotto on Midland Avenue. And if anyone is a coffee connoisseur, it’s Lisa. Her coffee would make this list if she brewed it up for the public. So trust her opinion. She describes Giotto’s cappuccino as having, “just the right amount of froth, strong Italian espresso – perfect.”

The last place on my list is Red Eye Cafe on Walnut Street, owned by Anthony Brinton, who was the former chief barista at Cafe Eclectic.

Over the summer I became addicted to Red Eye’s signature iced coffee drink called a New Orleans Sludge, which is a cold brewed French roast iced latte. The slow, cold method of brewing coffee brings out the natural sweetness of a dark roast without the bitterness.  Mixed with just a few spices and milk, it’s served on ice and is awesome. Red Eye uses several local roasters, such as Kobricks Cape Horn Blend,  and Intelligentsia Black Cat Espresso for the freshest coffee: Fair Trade espresso and coffee. Red Eye also serves a French Press cup. If I’m not drinking a New Orleans Sludge, I order a Caramel Latte, which is made with really good and strong espresso, steamed milk and topped with caramel sauce. Red Eye’s Caramel Latte is not syrupy sweet like one may get at the coffee franchise found everywhere.

So there you have it. My picks for the Montclair coffee connoisseur. Do you know of a place that should be on this list? Let us know in comments where you get a great cup of coffee.


  1. I have yet to try the Salbuen pour over coffee. Definitely on my list. I’m not into sweet drinks, so the NO Sludge is perfect for me – a hint of spice, but not sticky-sweet. And while it may not be for the coffee connoisseur, when I take my kids for a slice at Mr. Dino’s, I’ll often get an espresso to sip while they eat. It reminds me of the cafe solos I had in Spain – no frills, strong, does the job.

  2. I vote for the Cafe con Leche at Ray’s Luncheonette on Walnut St. Runners up, the regular cup of Joe at Raymonds and Bluestones.

  3. Tell me again what Red House delivers to Raymond’s. If that’s not a misprint, I may have them start delivering to my house.

  4. Red Eye has luscious coffee. The whole “pour over” thing, well I’ll have to give it a try, but it smacks of “wine tasting,” where folks act like they can tell the difference between cheap/expensive, but in blind tests can’t. Part of me is like: just brew the coffee and let me add some sugar/cream and stop with all the “teaching” me the “proper way”. The other part will give it a try.

    But like most meals/drinks, atmosphere plays a major part in our perception of good and bad. Red Eye is so beautiful inside that the coffee would really have to be TERRIBLE for me not to think it was great. I’d also include Starbucks on Church, every time I’m there I see a friend, have a nice conversation, which leads to a great cup of coffee.

    Conversely, I love Dunkin’ Donuts coffee, but the Formica seat/booths and all that raspberry and brown make it about the ugliest place to enjoy a cup of coffee (which is why they happily call it “Joe”), and why I rarely go there.

  5. The best coffee in this area is available at any deli, specialty shop or supermarket which carries Manhattan Special Espresso Coffee Soda. Really.

    And as a bonus, adding ice cream to Manhattan Special also makes for the greatestr imaginable ice cream soda. This is serious stuff.

  6. Aahh coffee! I usually have it at home using the pour over method. Getting good fresh(up to a couple of days old) roasted beans for relatively reasonable price is the difficult part. Red House Roasters 3 month subscription, where they send you a different selection each month is one alternative. It’s consistently good quality from different parts of the world. Plus it’s a “local” business. Bluestone’s local roasted beans are also a frequent selection for me. So far I haven’t had great success either at Whole Foods or Fairway though I haven’t tried most of their extensive selection. Online orders to Intelligentsia or Stumptown are expensive but I try to pick them up when nearby in NYC (Stumptown at 29th and Broadway). Intelligentsia beans are also sold in Ridgewood. Thanks for the tip on Toby Estate Coffee. Good coffee, good chocolate, and good beer–my new holy trinity.

  7. Aside from Manhattan Special, I can also attest to the efficacy of the Kona cofee Jess Colin Young (yep, THAT Jesse Colin Young) vends via his namesake website. Lion brand coffee from Hawaii, which is available in various blends, is also nice to order via computer.

    The most expensive coffee in the world, however, is usually Blue Mountain from Jamaica. I once got a ride there in the center of the island from a guy, who had two armed guards in his jeep with him, who described himself as a “farmer.” When I asked him what he grew, he drawled “Ganja or coffee, it just depends ion the market price. And you know, mon, sometimes the coffee wins out.” He giggled to himself over that one.

  8. Much depends upon your taste, but I’ve tried Red Eye twice for basic joe and each time it was swill. For basic coffee, LaSabuen is strong & smooth, but for some reason it costs more, $2.50, and is in a smaller cup than Bluestone ($2). Bluestone is consistently just about as good and much better value. Even a better value is the basic coffee at Bonjour Montclair – cheaper than Bluestone, and they steam your mild for you. For any espresso based drink, Raymond’s can’t be beat. They have a true coffee nerd running that machine. This side of Stumptown, he/it can’t be beat.

  9. Words to live by: “Ganja or coffee, it just depends ion the market price.”

    Forget all that “Life is Good” crap… I see t-Shirts, bumper stickers, mouse pads, tumblrs, flash sale sites, etc.

    Let’s MONETIZE!!!

    Though like Sean Parker’s simple suggestion to a young Mark Zuckerberg, loose the comma, and capitalize the “i” in “It,” as in:

    “Ganja or coffee. It just depends on the market price.”

    Remember: … a Million dollars isn’t cool. What’s cool is a Billion dollars.

  10. John & Christina, at Le Salbuen, are the handsomest/sweetest couple, and they make great coffee, including the slow-drip pour-overs and an 18 hour cold brew for iced!

  11. I have to go with Le Salbuen. I am a sucker for Nutella and they make a nice cup. For espresso I buy it in bulk from Starbucks and make it at home in a peculator with some sambuca.

  12. Raymond’s for a cappuccino, Matt makes the best. Sat. mornings to see Pete over at the Red eye for coffee with a shot of espresso.

  13. Walleroo, this is one topic you should not have a comment. SANKA???? D&D????? That’s like Hersheys being the best chocolate!!!!

  14. Can’t leave out our cafe inside the lobby of Bay St train station nor our ChaiCycle serving Walnut station. Although our specialty is our Award Winning Chai, we do serve a freshly brewed, freshly ground, Organic coffee from Jim’s Organic Coffee. Jim actually was born and raised in Montclair, where his parents still live, prior to moving and setting up his roasting facility in MA. We have folks that don’t take the train, yet still stop by us for coffee and/or Chai 🙂

  15. Dunkin’ also has a subscription service — 5 lbs. of whole bean comes out at about $8 per lb. including shipping. But for years I found that the original Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company’s “Eight O’Clock” brand made the best cup for me. As Waleroo said, nostalgia plays a part here. As a child in the 40’s I remember going to the local A&P with my mother, where they ground and bagged the coffee for her. To this day, when I grind my own beans at home, the aroma takes me back there. I still drink my coffee like I did as a kid: with lots of half-and-half and sugar (Splenda, these days). Ole for Au Lait!

  16. Tried the pour-over this morning at Le Salbuen. Excellent! Had the Kenya coffee and it was
    delicious! Toby Estate coffee…which they sell as well. A great kick start to my morning!

  17. “Coffee for Connoisseurs”, by definition probably excludes “Coffee Based Drinks”. Just like when one talks about “biking”, we don’t mean “biking with training wheels”.

    I am definitely going to try Le Salbuen. So far I have liked drip coffee at Blue Stone and Red Eye (they have French Press too).

    I like the Clover at Starbucks (only at Valley Road). Jamaican Blue from the Clover machine is really good.

  18. I read on the internet that Dunkin Donuts uses Jeb Bush Jr’s bong water to make their coffee, and you know they are not allowed to put anything on the internet that isn’t true. 🙂

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