An Update on Uptown

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.

Uptown 596

596 Valley Road

973 744 0915

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10 COMMENTS

  1. Great update. I never would have known that it had new owners and that they were now focused on healthy food, value prices, and outdoor dining. The wine delivery is a neat idea. Best of luck to the new owners.

  2. Good luck to the new owners. I just hope they add a dose of friendliness to everything! The atmosphere every time i’ve been there in the past has been snobby and unwelcoming…as if they are doing you a favor by seating and serving you. Unbelievable! I have told many people that it’s not worth spending your hard earned dollars at a place that has no interest in providing a friendly atmosphere…let’s hope this has changed!

  3. We live in walking distance of Uptown and have frequented it many times. We even spent a new year’s eve there once. We really like the restaurant, but the one complaint would be ‘spotty food.’ Some things were very good, some not so good. Service at times hectic and hard to get waiter’s attention.

    This is great to hear new owners with enthusiasm and fresh ideas. My advice would be to take many cues from Raymond’s — eat there if you haven’t because it’s the best family restaurant in town in my opinon by far. Have little extras for the kids to keep their hands busy (crayons &/or little bendy sticks) If you provide consistently good food, and win over the parents, you will continue to have a steady flow of business, guaranteed. Good luck & we will be there soon I’m sure!

  4. I’ll have to give it one more shot. I went there a number of times in the first year, each time hoping for a little friendliness, and more than that, decent service, and I left each time having only reinforced all my earlier negative experiences. I did go once midweek this winter, but it was closed despite hours saying it should have been open. But unless everyone associated with the place now is new since I gave Uptown many tries before, or magically changed behavior upon becoming an owner, I’m not sure why things would be any different.

  5. Thanks for this write up! I havent been there for over a year and would love to give it another chance perhaps when its warmer on a thursday night!

  6. Ordinarily one would hope that new management would lead to better things.

    However sadly not in this case.

    They scalp with their pricing. Recently I was charged per individual cup of coffee ($1.50 each) for breakfast and they charged for a soda refill. They offered an apology when confronted and blamed the previous owner and the set pricing in the cash register, and beyond that nothing.

    The food was iffy at best and given my experience with the way they they charge I will not be going back.

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