Lance Knowling, chef and owner of the just-opened Indigo Kitchen, warns lunchtime customers to use a knife and fork to eat his sumptuous beef brisket sandwich.
"Just because it has two pieces of bread doesn't mean you have to pick it up with your hands," he said.
He's absolutely right. The sandwich is so large—packed with thin layers of tender beef—that it's nearly impervious to the maneuvers of fumbling fingers.
The sandwich is just one of many nice surprises on a pleasantly unique menu. There's what one might expect, baby back ribs with fries and slaw for $12. But there's also fried chicken and waffles—buttermilk marinated chicken over crisp waffles with maple syrup—for $10.
Small plates include a Louisiana corn and crab soup for $6. It's perfectly creamy with a nice helping of scallion bits.
When it comes to dinner, the menu includes wood-grilled catfish with vegetarian dirty rice, grilled scallions, and a lemon tartar for $15, as well as pot roasted short ribs with skillet potatoes, sauteed spinach, and a pan sauce for $19.
Knowling, as the chef and owner behind the Indigo Smoke Kitchen in Maplewood, is a familiar name in the restaurant business and it's obvious he knows his stuff.
Having watched his mom cook as a young boy, Knowling previously served as Saucier at Enjolie, the four-star restaurant in The Four Seasons hotel in Dallas. When Marriott Corp. purchased the Las Colinas property, the Executive Chef invited Knowling to New York City for the lead role, Chef de Cuisine, in the fine dining restaurant of its flagship hotel Marriott Marquis on Broadway.
Wearing a white apron, he said Thursday that he's happy to be bringing his style of Kansas City BBQ/soul food back to Montclair with the opening of Indigo Kitchen just over two weeks ago at 615 Bloomfield Avenue, formerly home to The Southern Belle and, before that, Table 8.
Previously Knowling also operated Indigo Smoke at 381 Bloomfield Avenue in Montclair, which closed in 2010.
And that's why, on the menu at Indigo Kitchen, a handful of items are designated as "Indigo Classic" dishes, or customer favorites from Knowling's 10-year history running Indigo restaurants.
One of those dishes is the company fried chicken for $14. Knowling said the entree, a family recipe, is one of his most popular, served with buttermilk marinated herbed mashed potatoes, grilled asparagus, and a white gravy.
"Our fried chicken is asked for a lot and so is our catfish and BBQ," he said, quickly adding that "everything is good."
If the main dishes aren't enough to entice you, the so-called "other stuff" includes Helen's pull-apart bread—mom's famous recipe—for $5 as well as cabbage & collard greens and three-cheese mac, for $5 and $6 respectively.
There's also a nice range of desserts—which isn't always the case at Montclair restaurants—that includes a key lime tart, a sweet potato pie, and a warm red velvet cake.
The restaurant, located next to , is spacious, with seats for at least 70 people. Original art adorns the walls as do warm deep shades of blue.
The restaurant is BYOB; bring a bottle of wine and the waiters will whip up a nice sangria. There's also a full take-out menu. To find out more, go to the restaurant's Facebook page here.
All in all, if you like BBQ or modern soul food or just a different take on the typical restaurant fare, you'll love Indigo Kitchen.
615 Bloomfield Avenue
Montclair, NJ 07042
Monday through Saturday 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
Monday through Thursday 5:30 p.m. to 10 p.m.
Friday and Saturday 5:30 p.m. to 11 p.m.
11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Sunday Supper 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Closed on Tuesdays