Less than a month ago, Uptown Bistro, on Valley Road in Montclair, saw a quiet change of hands. Former owner Susan Pinkwater sold the restaurant, but several familiar faces remained, for it was bought by four of her staffers – Ora Kemp (former manager and server), Emilie Kartika (server), Ruben Mora (former all-round help and ‘cheerleader’) and Cristian Quiros (chef). The restaurant’s name deftly switched to Uptown 596, and the clinical white former interior transformed to warmer shades of brick and golden yellow, with a slew of cheerful cushions adding splashes of color.
The crew of young and energetic owners are keen to keep the “good stuff” from the old Uptown, like customers’ favorite menu items. But they’re putting their own stamp on it too, and paying heed to feedback from patrons.
“When we went online and looked up Uptown, there were all these complaints from years ago which seemed to overwhelm the positive comments,” said Kemp. “So, one of the things we’re trying to do is to listen to feedback from everyone, and we’re making some changes based on that feedback, as well as other changes we’re excited about, like the menu.”
Among the features that will continue are Uptown’s brunch and dinner menus, with a focus on maintaining consistency. The new managers are also planning a tie-up with Magnolia Wine & Spirits, just a few minutes’ walk away. Diners who haven’t brought their own wine along will be able to choose from a list of options from Magnolia, and have their pick delivered right to their tables.
New items on the menu will include chipotle chicken with mushroom risotto and cilantro, enchiladas, and a whole ream of vegan and vegetarian dishes. The brunch menu will see huevos rancheros with homemade tomatillo sauce, and vegetarian sausages (from Morningstar farms).
The more sociable spring, summer and early autumn months will allow patrons to enjoy an outdoor seating area, made more inviting with plants, trees and music from Uptown’s live jazz evenings on Thursdays, which the new management hopes will be a more frequent occurrence.
Mora said Uptown will price its menu more competitively, too, in tandem with its toned-down formality. The new team is keen to support local businesses – as evidenced by flowers form the nearby Clores Flowers (wine from Magnolia), jazz by local musicians, and locally sourced artwork.
596 Valley Road
973 744 0915