Montclair’s downtown area continues to offer a variety of restaurants for its large population of hungry customers. On 94 Walnut St., a friendly and welcoming atmosphere awaits those who wander into the warm and cozy cafe. The Red Eye Cafe looks like it belongs in the streets of Brooklyn with its retro interior and relaxed ambiance. Thankfully, it is in close proximity to Montclair State University, allowing students to have easy access to it.
On a busy Sunday afternoon, I walked into the cafe looking forward to a hot breakfast with my friend. Rush hour had just passed, and the place was starting to dwindle down in numbers. With breakfast as a meal I always look forward to, I was excited, and the Red Eye Cafe did not disappoint.
From Mondays to Sundays, the Red Eye Cafe serves its customers a diverse set of ethnically influenced plates in their breakfast, lunch and dinner courses. This was my first visit to the cafe, and I decided to order huevos rancheros (ranch eggs). It tasted amazing. Everything went together perfectly from the chorizo (pork sausage) to the black beans to the pico de gallo.
Usually I prefer my food spicy; however, the highlight of my meal came with something sweeter. I ordered pumpkin pancakes to my delight. Light and fluffy, I could taste the fresh pumpkin they used to make it. The icing on the cake was the whipped cream that they placed over the first pancake. Also, I enjoyed a refreshing black tea latte called Yogic Masala Chai.
During my visit, I had the pleasure of being formally introduced to the owner of the Red Eye Cafe. Anthony Brinton, a Montclair State graduate, took time from his busy schedule of cooking to talk to me about the unique interior of the cafe.
“I started [decorating the Red Eye Cafe] with a few pieces I had collected and it started growing around that,” Brinton said. “The chandelier is from the 1920s Newark train station. The brass on the bar and wood is from old-wood flooring.”
Brinton has more than 15 years in the restaurant industry as the former manager of Cafe Eclectic, a popular hangout on Bloomfield Avenue before closing in 2011. His experience in the restaurant industry clearly shows with his particular choice of location for the Red Eye Cafe.
“It’s off the beaten path [with] certain farmers [around us that] we do business with, so it’s convenient for that,” Brinton said. “[Also, it is right by] the train station.”
During my visit, Brinton recommended their standard pancakes. For those with a savory palate, the Highlander Vietnamese-style Banh Mi sandwich fills up an empty stomach. It comes with boiled eggs, fried pork, shrimp, sausage and much more. I ended up kicking myself for not picking the Highlander Vietnamese plate, so I am due for a second visit soon.