Where BBQ and Pizza Meet

BbqruthsEric Kaplan is a man who embraces serendipity. Looking to open a true, slow-smoked BBQ joint in Montclair, the chef, a Manhattan transplant, went looking for space. What he found was the former Yum’s Pizzeria on Chestnut, across from Montclair Cooperative School and a stone’s throw from both Montclair High School and Rand Elementary.

"Working in restaurants as a chef, I’ve been used to making a menu’s worth of dishes, so the idea of having pizza ovens and not using them never entered my mind," says Kaplan. It wasn’t just pizza ovens that Kaplan found. There was also authentic equipment from Nathan’s for making hand cut fries from freshly cut potatoes. That inspired a menu item of hot, perfectly salted fries with dipping sauces like roasted garlic with rosemary, a creamy tarragon-Dijon, or if you prefer, Kaplan’s own BBQ sauce.

If thin crust is your passion, Kaplan, inspired by DiFara’s in Brooklyn, is creating thin, crisp, perfectly sauced Semolina pies (classic Neapolitan; a delicate tomato, basil and fresh mozzarella; as well as the usual suspects — sausage, pepperoni). A panini press is also on hand to make yummy combinations like a smoked pork loin with ham, Swiss and Dijon mustard and there are salads and burgers, too.

Drop in and get the brisket or pulled pork, contrasted nicely with red cabbage slaw with cider vinegar. In the works — a new dining patio behind the restaurant. Ruthie’s BBQ, located at 641/2 Chestnut Street in Montclair is BYOB. Hours are Monday to Thursday, 10-9; Friday, 10-10; Saturday, 11 am -10. Call 973-509-1134. — Liz George

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  1. I just drove past this a few days ago and laughed with my son about the unlikely combo of good pizza and bbq. Thanks for the tip, I’ll go back on my vow and try it soon. Is Eric part of the sadly missed Marc and Eric from Bloomfield Ave?

  2. Just had lunch there. Great pulled chicken barbecue sandwich. Best barbecue I’ve had since Slim’s Deep South Barbecue in Florida. Very reasonably priced. Saw a pizza with pesto go out the door with its salivating owner, who stated that the pizza is “great!”

  3. This is a tough location to sustain a business in but I wish them the best. And based on all this positive feedback, I’ll go try it out and report back!

  4. For the former MHS folks in the audience this is the old Calabrese deli.
    Drob is right, it is a tough place to make a business work, unless you cater to the high school crowd. But I hope they make it.
    I’ll give them a try.

  5. This is right on the corner of my block. Last year Mark and I saw a sign for YUM! a restaurant that was opening soon. For months we waited for YUM! How could a restaurant with such a delicious name not be good?! We were pretty disappointed that it wasn’t very YUM! afterall and they never kept their hours straight. Last week we came home and saw the place had changed to Ruthie’s. I will have to try it out, although, I am a vegetarian and I don’t eat pizza either (I got sick of it). Do they have fries?

  6. I live right down the street, and will definitely try it. It doesn’t surprise me that Yum! went under. I attempted to give it a try on multiple occasions, and never found it open. I am glad to see that the new place has hours that reflect the lifestyle of the area’s population.

  7. It should be pointed out, as a mere half-counter to those seemingly breathless announcements that this or that place has a panini press, that a George Foreman grill (or a grilled cheese maker if you remember that “oldie” in kitchens) always works just as well. Honest. You;ll even get the desired grill marks.

  8. a George Foreman grill (or a grilled cheese maker if you remember that “oldie” in kitchens) always works just as well. Honest. You;ll even get the desired grill marks.
    Yes, but will you make it for me?

  9. Just had lunch there yesterday and it was excellent. Best BBQ pork sandwich I’ve had in years. Pizza is out of this world too. Highly recommend it!

  10. The building and restaurant were recently sold to Eric and his team. Yum was the name given by Jorge, the former owner of the building, to the restaurant after he renovated it and put it on the market. Even though Yum Pizza had limited hours, Jorge rightly felt that keeping it open would be better for the new owner than a closed restaurant that had to be resurrected. Those who have been in Montclair more than 25 years know that this location was once really hopping. And it could be, again, given the crossroads of two vibrant schools, the nearby town pool and ice rink, Walnut St. Station, and the daily traffic on Chestnut. And, unlike many other locations in town, you can actually find parking along the block. It’s always fun when a deal you’re involved in as a real estate agent makes a difference in a neighborhood. Can’t wait til the garden behind the restaurant is open.

  11. I spent many a lunch hour sitting outside of Calabrese’s on the cement with my meatball or ham and cheese sandwich and packet of butterscoth krimpets. Memories…
    Those were good meatballs.
    Good luck to the new owners.

  12. Ah, Calabrese. They sustained me from 1971-1975 at MHS. Small cheese sandwich (on a delicious Nicolo roll), an iced tea and a Marathon bar.
    Good luck to new owner.

  13. The brisket is out of this world.
    Pizza is good but nothing to go bonkers over.
    It’s all about the brisket, brisket, brisket!!!

  14. When I lunched there with Liz, the bbq brisket sandwich won first place. Delish. Tarragon dipping sauce and fries are also a home run.

  15. I went in there today and had an amazing pulled pork platter. They also just put in a music system playing classic Chicago blues, which makes the BBQ taste even better. Ruthie’s is now the best lunch in Montclair, period.

  16. Just had a Ruthie’s classic pizza. It was very, very good. Loved the way it was finished with freshly cut basil and a drizzle of olive oil. Barista, you have overwhelmed Eric!(that’s a good thing!) He ran out of pulled pork. It was quite busy. The temperature inside the restauant had to be 95 degrees. And he is short on help so the service wasn’t what it should be. Please give Eric time to even out the kinks. This is good food and could become a destination.

  17. Brief mention in Baristanet and this place was overwhelmed with dinner to-go action tonight. Ruthie’s Classic pie (fresh basil, fresh tomatoes, fresh mozzarella) is a GRAND SLAM, and well worth the wait. Good luck, Eric!

  18. Ok, people, cmon.
    Neopolitan pizza? Inspired by DiFara’s? Please. It looks like any of the thousand pizzas that come out of ovens anywhere. Big round pies that are just normal pizzas. Nothing really remarkable about them at all. To use DiFara’s and this pizza in the same sentence has got so be some kind of joke. Unique great pizza in the area is Star Tavern and the like. Please.
    Haven’t tried the BBQ but that has to the focus here. If that aint real good, this place doesnt have a shot. From what I hear it is damn good.
    Last thing – was in a few days ago – owner/workers seemed pissed off, weren’t the least bit friendly (weren’t acknowledging customers waiting at the counter) and the service was atrocious. Get it together or don’t open until you have your ducks in a row. Be professional.
    My suggestion – wait a few weeks before you head in there so that you dont get so turned off by the service that you dont give the place a chance.

  19. i stopped in last night around 7:30. the poor guy behind the counter was overwhelmed.
    it did take him awhile to acknowledge me. he admits having to get more organized and i think he will. the food is great. i had the pulled brisket sandwhich- tender, moist, flavorful.. not too sweet.
    the red slaw also excellent. my only complaint is that for the money, the portions could be more generous…a bbq sandwhich should be busting out of the bun, and 1.50 for 4 bites of slaw is way too expensive. i’m going back to check on the progress and i wish them the best of luck!

  20. definately the best smoke d chicken i’ve had ever in this area. And i loved the pizza, blows all these other local guys away – Star? Please, that was good like 15 years ago.
    Looks like he was in the process of putting a resturant together and then the review, and now bam, he is gettiing slammed but that can be a happy problem. I’m sure he’ll work it out, looks like this guy is a pro annd is on to something awfully tasty..
    good luck

  21. A couple of the above comments are a bit snarky. Anybody know how difficult it is to run a restaurant? Like a 16-hour day. Here’s one that’s trying for something a little different, a little fresher, a little tastier. I’m sure the kinks will be worked out. The official opening, I hear, is a couple of weeks away. I’m happy to be a guinea pig as they figure out portion sizes and specials. The food is, in a word…tasty.

  22. Just got several pies from Ruthie’s and wow. By far the best pizza in Montclair and some of the best I’ve ever had. The tomato, basil, and mozzarella was all hand cut fresh in front of me. Met the owner Eric and was real nice guy. Good luck to them, but I dont think they will need it. When word gets out hes gonna be slammed.

  23. Wow! I hope this place remains a secret, so that my friends and I can get the most amazing pulled pork sandwich without having to wait. I really enjoyed that sandwich. It was also refreshing to have fresh cut french fries.
    This place is definitely worth a try! I am happy that Ruthie’s has arrived to Montclair. Nothing pretentious, just good eats! Trust me, you can’t go wrong.

  24. Just ate their last night. The place does not have a prayer. Pizza was lousy (I think Star Tavern pizza is inedible). It is not thin crust as advertised. Pulled chicken sandwich was good. Service indifferent. Drink selection Kirkland cans from costco.
    Good Luck but I predict it wont last long.

  25. Diner,
    Anyone who thinks Star’s pizza is inedible is obviously a top notch judge of pizza specifically and restaurants in general. Do us all a big favor and stick to Elios and Mr. Dinos.

  26. dk – love it –
    these people who think ruthie’s has good pizza or that star is inedible or only good 15 years ago (aka suzie)should not be permitted to post their comments on this website.
    i vote for a screening process for good taste before a posting is allowed on this site.
    dk – i’m sure you’re on board with that, yes?

  27. Had the pulled pork and brisket tonight – very good!! Got the roasted garlic and rosemary dipping sauce for my fries, mmmm – very impressed! Will return to try the pizza and ribs soon!

  28. just came back from Ruthie’s, ordered take out pulled pork bbq sandwich platter. the taste is very good plus the garlic rosemary dipping sauce for the fries is delicious. the red cabbage slaw is also excellent. plus Eric and the other owner are both very friendly and took time to talk to us even though they are almost closing. i want to come back and try the ribs and their pizza.

  29. My husband brought back a pulled pork sandwich for me which was smokey, generous and delicious.
    The hand cut fries needed to be a little bit crispier for my taste, but I didn’t get any of that fancy dipping sauce, which might have been just the complement needed.
    I would definitely go back and am anxious to try their pizza and brisket.

  30. OK…
    The food here is excellent and non-pretentious. The staff is friendly, even if they are still working out some kinks. They play great blues music all day, which always goes well w/ BBQ & Pizza and the Fresh Mozz Pizza is def NOT TO BE MISSED!!
    THe BBQ is def the best in Montclair or surrounding area!
    Stop in you wont be dissapointed.

  31. Yes Star Tavern Pizza IS like 15 yrs ago.. It’s greasy oily and soggy if left to sit more than 5 minutes..
    will be anzious to try this place…soon…

  32. Walked over there today. Good food. I agree about the fries, need to be well done (just ask, it can be done)and the pulled pork was perfect for that mid afternoon hangover

  33. had the ruthie’s classic pizza and it was amazing! it reminded me of the pizza i had in Tuscany. we also had the ribs, a pork sandwich and the slaw. everything was amazing.

  34. I just had the fries and wow are they good! Great dipping sauces too, had the Sweet Chili sauce and the tarragon sauce. Oh man I might just have to go back for some more tomorrow.

  35. I’ve been there twice now, and the food is good. There was an individual there the last time I went who appeared to be the owner. He came off like a real dirt-bag.
    A friend of mine and I walked over there and ordered two BBQ Pork sandwich platters last week. After waiting for about 15 minutes (which seemed like a long time for a simple order), this guy yelled over to me that he’d ring me up. So, I went and paid for my order and didn’t even get a thank you. Turns out, our order wasn’t ready at that time. So, we waited for another ten minutes. Our sandwiches came out, but without the fries and other things that came with the “platter”. After bringing this fact up, our sandwiches sat on the counter for ten minutes while the fries were cooked. Once everything was finally ready, I didn’t even get an apology from the guy, just a gruff, “So you have everything now?”.
    I walked out thinking, “wow- this guy is a real piece of dirt”. I hope he reads this and has the common courtesy to give me a proper apology should I decide to give them another shot.
    Again- good food, jack-ass for an owner.

  36. Brian-
    A team of 50 employees inspected your silverware and polished them to make
    sure they were in the best possible condition before serving.
    Our packing specialist from italy lit a candle and a hush fell over
    the crowd as he put your food into the finest gold-lined box that money
    can buy.
    We all had a wonderful celebration afterwards and the whole party
    marched down behind the counter where the entire town of
    Montclair waved “Bon Voyage!” to your order, and dropped rose petals in front of your feet.
    I hope you had a wonderful time dining at Ruthie’s. We sure did. Your picture is on our wall as “Customer of the Year.” We’re all
    exhausted but can’t wait for you to come back.
    -Ruthie’s BBQ 🙂

  37. Seems like an owner that can’t take any heat. Honestly this place has okay food. The BBQ is much better at indigo smoke. Service is miserable at both places but that’s expected in Montclair. There are only a handful of places in this town that actually care about service. Most of them just want to overcharge you for an average meal in order to compensate for their unability to sell alcohol. I have been to Ruthie’s and the owner was very awkward and rude to me and my guest. He was so caught up in a conversation about jazz with another coustomer he negelcted the rest of us. Drop the rock and roll fantasy and learn hospitality. It takes more than average pizza to run a restaurant…maybe not in this overrated food town.

  38. katie-
    you are correct. I was just imagining what type of service one would expect from a counter style pizza joint. I felt that sometimes people in this town expect a lot from the service industry. patience is a virtue. Judge a restaurant on the meal first; after all, that is what brought you there. Had he called in the order, his review would have been more supportive of Ruthies

  39. I’m not sure how the manner in which I placed my order would change the fact that they forgot to make half of it, then let the first half get cold while they played catch-up. Also- I would have been fine with this mistake, if they had expressed even the slightest bit of concern about the situation.
    I ran a retail establishment with multiple locations for several years, and saw income increase significantly by doing simple things like treating customers with respect.
    Jimmytown, maybe you should spend more time thinking about the issue at hand, and less time looking for opportunities to make yourself feel better at others’ expense. If you have an issue with me, or the statements I’ve made, be man enough to address them in open and honest dialogue or keep your mouth shut. Alternatively, if you do want to act like a ten year old I would be more than happy to oblige in kind.

  40. Mmmm, my husband and I went to Ruthie’s a few weeks ago and, while the BBQ was good, I can’t say that the help at the counter – who I am assuming were the owners – was partiularly friendly. It gave the place an odd, unwelcoming vibe. Nothing I want to see in any restaurant, let alone a neighborhood BBQ/Pizza place.
    However, after the couple at the counter sat down with a friend/acquaintance to have a conversation, they left the counter in the charge of two women from the kitchen. They were lovely – warm, personable, seemed to take an interest in whether or not we actually enjoyed the food.
    I would get BBQ at Ruthie’s again, but only as take-out.
    If the owners were smart, they would stay out of sight and let those two women run the place.

  41. We LOVE this place! We found Eric and his wife (owners) to be very enthusiastic and welcoming. Eric pushed us into trying his pizza while we waited for our take out BBQ, and WOW! It is hands down the best pizza we ever had. It was the ruthie’s special (romano cheese, sliced tomatos, etc). Don’t both with the regular pizza, get the special and you will be addicted. The BBQ was also incredible. Eric told me about his research he had done before opening, and boy did it pay off. He has a real smoker in the back…which translates into REAL SMOKED BBQ. The best BBQ we have ever had. We have been back atleast once a week for both bbq and pizza. Can’t get it off my mind. Hopefully the restaurant will do so well the owners will be able to change it into a real restaurant where you can sit down and really eat. So glad to welcome ruthie’s to Montclair. A must try!

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