Eric 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