Montclair’s 578 Grill: Think Middle Eastern Meets Chipotle

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Looking over the menu at 578 Grill, my first thought was “this can accommodate every one in my family with no problem and we’ll all be happy.” Not a small feat, considering we have eaters who are vegetarian, gluten free, dairy free, slow carb, and low fat. Of course, if none of those restrictions apply to you, you will just have that many more choices at this casual new Middle Eastern eatery.

Similar in concept to a Chipotle, each person builds his own platter combining ingredients from four food categories, and then some, to end up with a personalized meal for under $10 per person.

As a first timer, the challenge is what to choose.

Here’s the formula – belly up to the bar, and:

#1 Choose your base: salad, rice, bulgur wheat, flatbread or fries.
#2 Add the grilled entree: chicken (breast or sharama), steak, 578 Meat (two slider size patties of seasoned ground beef and lamb), fish, shrimp, veggies, lamb.
#3 Pick a couple of fresh, sautéed, or pickled vegetable sides.
#4 Sauce it up: from tahini to garlic to spicy pomegranate, there are six homemade sauces to choose from. The price of the grilled entree determines the price of your meal, $6.92 – $9.92.
#5 Sit down and be served.

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In no time at all, your meal comes out in a sturdy covered container ready for take-out, eat-in, and practical to bring home left overs. Given the ample portions of this fresh, homemade cooking, you probably will be taking some food home.

On my first lunch visit, I enjoyed a sample from the kitchen: Mixed green salad with onion, cukes, and tomatoes tossed in a lemon vinaigrette, chicken shawarma, braised lamb, 578 beans, and a couple of sauces – tried and true tahini plus the master “578 Sauce” which turned out to be killer (more later).

I would usually stop there – more than enough food. But I perused the rest of the menu of a la carte starters like soup, tabouli, and borak, plus familiar sides such as baba ghanoush, eggplant, and hummus

And just so I could report back to you, I sampled falafel, garlic kale and borak – tastilicious cigar shaped filo dough rolls stuffed with cheese.

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Each dish held its own in flavor, seasoning, and texture. Falafel passed the test: non-greasy, crispy outside, moist inside; borak – just order it and be amazed; garlic kale is sautéed in olive oil with large lashings of garlic and will convert anyone to a kale lover; the braised lamb is soft, mildly seasoned and satisfying while the chicken shawarma is what you expect, sliced off the spit. The standouts for me were the 578 Beans – ultra lemony stewed chick peas with tomato, onion, parsley and spices – and the 578 Sauce, which if bottled, would certainly become a craze like Sriracha sauce. It’s a homemade sauce of pomegranate and peppers – piquant, not hot, and good on everything, like on 578’s braised lamb.

On my second visit, I enjoyed a platter with 578 Meat patties – similar to Lebanese kofta – the closest thing on the menu resembling a burger – with sautéed mushrooms. My dining companions were completely satiated and satisfied with the mix of food and flavor – no complaints, and we topped it off with homemade rice pudding, like grandma would make, delicious with cinnamon and vanilla.

Overall, 578 Grill offers a family-friendly, well-seasoned, quality food experience at an affordable price. Kids’ American menu is available for the not so adventurous.

578 Grill, 578 Bloomfield Ave., Montclair, 973-744-1301 (Open 7 days, Delivery, formerly Mediterranea’s main dining room. Mediterranea’s entrance is now through the hooka patio.)

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