Often when you think of traveling, you imagine exotic places, fancy meals, and magical excursions. But what if that’s not an option for you? As I’ve mentioned in my very first post, traveling isn’t always about going far, far away to a mythical place. Traveling is about exploring new places and meeting new people, no matter what form that occurs in. With that comes my 1st Hometown Heroes post!
Normally, I take one large travel trip a year with 4-5 smaller trips sprinkled throughout. Last year I took two large trips and six small trips. This year I’ve already got one large trip planned for April, plus a bachelorette trip to Florida, and a wedding in Dallas in the summer. All these preplanned things have my pretty travel-starved as of late. Because of this, I’ve been making an effort to explore my own town a bit more.
About a year ago, I moved to a tiny little apartment with a gorgeous view of NYC in Montclair, New Jersey. Originally from the greater Philadelphia area, I had been bouncing from apartment to apartment in North Jersey since graduating from college. I’d had my eye on Montclair for a while and last April, the stars (plus a few events out of my control) aligned and I landed my dream apartment in my dream town.
Montclair, New Jersey is one of the most desired towns in northern New Jersey to live in. Its town center has countless restaurants and little shops, direct transportation access to New York City, and is welcoming of all people of all backgrounds. Prior to moving here, I found myself in Montclair as often as I could possibly make happen. Since then, I’ve discovered tons of fun things to do and some of the best restaurants around.
My first hometown hero is, hands down, Leone’s Pizzeria & Restaurant. One of my first restaurant stops after moving to Montclair, it’s been a consistent go to of mine (and a true favorite of my mom’s I might add). The service has always been top notch; they truly make you feel like a member of their family when you dine here. On top of that, the food is always amazing; I’ve tried a few different dishes at this point as well as the dessert. I would highly recommend the Chicken Savoy and Oreo cheesecake. From what I’ve been told, Leone’s was on Kitchen Nightmares a few years back and it clearly made a huge difference. Leone’s is also BYOB, so don’t forget to stop by my second favorite stop in Montclair, Amati Vino, before making your way there.
**A cute photo of my favorite guy (my Dad, of course!) telling me stories over delicious Leone’s dessert
I first stopped in Amati Vino with my mom while we were out exploring the main strip of town. It was an early Saturday afternoon and there weren’t many people around. We walked into an empty store after instantly being lured in by a sign outside that read, “free wine tasting.” How could anyone say no to that? Upon walking in, we find the store to be much larger on the inside than what it appears to be on the outside. My mom and I made our way over to the wine tasting counter and were greeted by a pleasant young gentleman who walked us through four different want samples. After deciding upon our favorites, my mom and I each bought a bottle, a set of plastic cups and went outside. Amati Vino is wonderful in the warm weather. They have tables and chair outsides, each with a wine opener attached. It’s a perfect way to enjoy a Fall or Spring afternoon, especially as there are always either street performers or festivals taking place.
My last and final Hometown Hero for this post is a little place called Toast. With two locations, one in Montclair and one is Asbury Park, New Jersey, Toast is only open for breakfast and lunch, making it a brunch hotspot on the weekends. Another BYOB (Montclair is notorious for not giving out liquor licenses), Toast provides carafes of orange juice for those looking to bring champagne for mimosas. But get here early; the wait for a table can be as long as 2 hours. But boy is it worth it. Toast serves the best all-American breakfast around, from fluffy pancakes (with cool specials all the time like Cap’n Crunch Berry Pancakes or S’mores pancakes) to the best omelets; everyone leaves Toast satisfied and super happy. This is a favorite of everyone I know and is my top breakfast spot in my hometown.
Now, as I mentioned above, Montclair isn’t my original hometown, just my current one. There is truly nothing like the city of Philadelphia. I’m thinking my next edition of Hometown Heroes should cover some of my favorite Philly spots. Let me know if you agree!