Sure, Montclair has plenty of coffee shops where you can grab a cup, relax with a sweet treat, get work done and maybe enjoy some entertainment. But sometimes you find yourself in outer Baristaville in need of one or all of the above. We found three great choices in nearby Passaic County that are worth the trip.
Today, it’s all about The Fine Grind – A Coffee Bar, on Route 23 in Little Falls. Next week – Pallazone 1960 in Wayne (just adjacent to Willowbrook Mall); and finally, we’ll visit ANT Bookstore and Café in Clifton.
At The Fine Grind, the mellow earth tones, spacious setting and delicious flavored drinks are only the beginning. With seating for nearly 40, during the day, you are almost always able to claim a sturdy, good-sized table all to yourself, or you can relax near the fireplace in the comfy easy chairs. The friendly but low-key, no-pressure staff will be happy to keep you supplied with Joe while you use the free wifi.
I’ve been a fan of TFG since they were located around the corner in a cozy but too-small spot, across from the church I attend. When they moved about four years ago into the Farnese Piazza, where there’s plenty of free off-street parking, it became my go-to place for away-from-my-dining-room-table business meetings; so I’ll admit I’m a little partial.
The atmosphere is friendly and the ambience muted and easy on the eyes; and during the day it’s quiet enough to work, read or have private conversations at normal decibel levels. At TFG, they serve only one size coffee mug: famously huge at 18 ounces (refills are discounted), though varied sizes are available for to-go orders.
The café also hosts special events including free business seminars, Penny University for Writers, and other writing get-togethers (The Writers Group, which also meets in the Montclair Public Library, hosts weekly morning free write sessions). Evenings, live local music is often featured; this month on Wednesday nights and Saturday afternoons, and you can take the floor yourself during Sunday night open mic for musicians.
Owner Rhonda Mallek offers everything on the breakfast and lunch menu at any hour, so if you fancy an Egg in a Mug with tomato and onion at three in the afternoon, you’re in luck; or go for the year-round bestselling Panini, the Thanksgiving, with turkey, cranberry sauce and gravy on focaccia. I’m a fan of the cream of tomato soup with couscous, the grilled veggie wrap and the hearty cranberry orange oatmeal.
The bakery case holds about a dozen different muffins each day, along with bagel sticks, cinnamon rolls, brownies, and blueberry crumb cake, stuffed cupcakes, chocolate-iced biscotti, and cheesecake. You’ll also always find fresh fruit cups, Greek yogurt and baked-on-premises scones and chocolate chip cookies – which the staff will be only too happy to heat.
The flavored coffee and other unique hot and cold drinks are a specialty at TFG, where Mallek changes the line-up seasonally. Now, for example, you could try the Menorah Mocha, a peppermint mocha latte topped with whipped cream and Chanukah sprinkles; the satirically named New Year’s Resolution, an overboard confection of chocolate and caramel latte with whipped cream, marshmallows and Oreo cookie crumbs. Others on the menu this month are the Gingerbread Cookie Latte, Eggnog Latte, Gingerbread Hot Chocolate, and the Fro-Ho-Ho (frozen hot chocolate). Why you may ask, would one want a cold hot chocolate, maybe even one with peanut butter blended in? Taste it, my friend.