A Montclair Must


Out in Vegas, my “office hours” (basically time that I devote to updating all my social media outlets, answering foodie questions, and creating recipes) always consisted of 9:30AM to 2:45PM Mondays at the Starbucks a mile and a half from my daughter’s elementary school. I’ve been going to this wifi cafe, if you must, for the past two years. It kept my schedule for a blog post and correspondence on point and it provided me with that black cup o’ joe or unsweetened iced green tea to keep me going. If anything the only complaint that I ever had was that there was an annoying cold draft at every single seat in the place. Makes sense, they don’t want us setting up shop for too long but shoot, didn’t I buy plenty of hot libations in exchange for the wifi connection?!

Anyhow, being back in New Jersey, I needed to find a great spot for “office hours” whenever it was available to me. It’s a little bit different out here. You get to drive a little further than 30 minutes and find yourself in a quaint town with a cute cafe or even a suburban Starbucks. Or you can take the train into the City and prop yourself up at a Starbucks in front of a park or see the organized chaos that is New Yorkers hustling to catch the next train, cab, or bus. I love the plentiful options my new home offered but I still wanted that special place that can play as my muse or sanctuary.

I was driving to Montclair State University where I’ll be taking some classes (not degree program, just classes) to spruce up my nutrition/healthy eating background. Anyway, I was in the area needing to post a quick blog on my latest trip across the country. I found myself on my Yelp app searching for a “wifi cafe.” And there it was, with 4 stars, 13 reviews, and the closest location to me. The top two reviews, both by amount of stars and recent post, excited me even more about this place.

Liz D. said, “This is what so many places in Montclair TRY to be…but just can’t. Or won’t. Or are just incapable of being, because the lady who owns this place is ‘genuine.'” 5 Stars 5/12/12

Per L. says, “This little cafe is a perfect spot for lunch – especially on a nice day when you can sit outside. Great for kids, great for adults. Really, really nice!” 5 Stars 4/1/12

This is exactly what I needed, so I checked it out!


I pull up to park on the street and see that I need to pay a parking meter. I thought, “Oh, heck no!” So I pulled up a little further then caught a glimpse of the Montclair Public Library. What?! I thought my GPS brought me to Terra @ The Isabel Rose Cafe. I kept driving and saw a side street, no meters and I can park here at the time without any time restrictions, score! I walk over to the library and wonder what was going on. Then, I look just to the left of the library entrance and saw it…Terra! This place is attached to the public library? This place just got cooler and I haven’t even gone in yet.

With a chalk sign on the front lawn and few patio seats adorning the front, it just keeps giving me good vibes. Walking in, I saw a circular nook with window table tops and four free standing tables with a counter and kitchen good to fit four team members comfortably to create all the orders. A young gentleman, who turned out to be the owner’s son (at least I think so), greeted me and asked how he can help me. Looking over the chalk designed menu behind him, I ordered an unsweetened green iced tea and a special, the Jersey Bowl Salad. I asked him if it was ok to have vinegar just on the side and no oil. He turned over to Grace, his mother and the owner of the cafe, and she obliged with a smile!



The young man (sorry brother, totally forgot your name) served me my iced tea first because Grace was making my salad, freshly cut, my favorite. Once the salad came, I couldn’t help but smile myself. It had local green leaf lettuce, so light and buttery I thought it was butter lettuce, apples, local strawberries, fennel, and thinly sliced Walla Walla onions (I think that’s how you spell it, like the city in Washington state) which at first I thought were leeks. She served it with a slice of lemon and small bowl of red wine vinegar. The salad was so fresh and the apples and strawberries were so juicy that I didn’t even need the vinegar. It was perfect! Totally Jersey fresh and local.


After eating my salad, I checked out what she had for sale other than the fresh food and libations. Terra featured Fair Trade teas and chocolates, fresh local strawberries, organic and natural coffee, tea, drinks, and specialty gourmet honey, syrups, and other pantry items. There were also a few products I recognized because we sold them at Whole Foods Markets across the country like Simply Organic bread and cake mixes. Don’t quote me on this but I believe they are Gluten Free as well. They also sold tea pots, coffee & tea cups, and a special display contained all-natural loose teas! The cafe was adorned with plenty of art, probably created by the local artists and maybe school children. Directly behind where I was sitting, there was an Opus One (some great wine) crate of locally made soaps and beeswax candles.






They were from Tassot Apiaries, Inc. out of Milford, NJ which is only 60 miles away. Talk about LOCAL!



Need I say more?! Ok I will! Sitting there, I got to see a true local cafe do what it does best, take care of its community. Parents came in to pick up their pre-ordered local strawberries, probably like a co-op program. A mom and son came in to pick up a catering order of sandwiches decorated with edible pansies, if I’m mistaken. I overheard them talking about the nice platter the sandwiches were placed on and that instead of throwing it away or keeping it. They were going to return it to Grace so that they can reuse it. The mother was exposing being ‘green’ and reusing things to reduce waste. I swear I thought I was in a global warming commercial and I was happy!


I finally flagged the owner over. She introduced herself to me and I quickly thanked her for an amazing experience. I told her who I was and what I do and extended another “Thank You” for being there for the community. She told me that she’s been in business for six years but recently moved into the library. She was on a location on Church Street prior to the library but moved over when her lease ended. I think she made an amazing decision. Greetings from library employees and frequent community members said it all to me. The community was thankful she was there and Grace was only humbled by the gesture. Just like what Liz D. said on Yelp, the owner is “GENUINE!”


There are so many businesses these days that claim to offer an experience as genuine as this one but they are definitely far from it. A lot of current and future business owners need to take notes from Terra At the Isabel Rose Cafe. Being genuine and simply humble goes a hell of a long way. A true business not only offers services and goods but must offer a sense of community and quality in its interactions with it’s patrons. Grace, her son, and team does just this!

Do me a favor, if you are in the Montclair area or if you are parched searching for true sustenance in a great cup of tea and customer service, come and visit Grace at Terra. They’re located at the Montclair Public Library on 50 S. Fullerton Avenue in Montclair, NJ. It’s in the heart of Montclair just minutes from Montclair State University and the town center. You won’t be disappointed just incredibly pleased! Tell them King sent you!


Journey to the Garden State

I enjoyed my last two days in Vegas in style! Accommodations by the Red Rock Resort and Casino, I got to indulge in a favorable, however empty, past time! Kind of ironic if you ask me. My daughter and friends enjoyed some fun in the sun by the beautiful Red Rock Casino pool. I tried to absorb much of the desert sun and its dry heat as I could before I left for the humid heat of the east coast. With the help of some friends, I was given a couple of memorable Bon Voyage parties most of which I can’t recall. (Again ironic) Friday night, Sean, a co-worker and friend, was dropped off by a few “unique souls” and joined us for another farewell celebration. I didn’t expect us to have much fun that my goal of departing Vegas at 3AM PST turned into 6AM PST after 3 hours of sleep. All in all, great friends sent me off making sure I’ll be sure to return. By the way, Lily, a dealer at the BJ table we played at was awesome!
With a refreshing 32oz Peach Blossom Iced Green Tea in my hand and a large Iced Coffee in Sean’s, we hit the 15 North revved and ready for this epic trip! My fourth and his first time around, we had the sunrise blinding our view of the road ahead with the excitement of reaching our first destination. As soon as our first 3 hour leg was finished, we realized this desert was larger and more boring than we had imagined. Where are the mountains of the Rockies? We definitely couldn’t wait until we saw that “Welcome To” sign and the elevation begin to rise.

Conversations were definitely had to pass the time and when you have endless dry land and rocky formations, there was plenty of it to go around. We also tried to keep our tunes going but with having only a tape deck and am/fm radio to entertain us, it wasn’t the easiest thing to do. Before we left, I jumped over to Best Buy across from Red Rock and purchased an AM/FM Radio Transmitter for my iPhone. It was more of a good idea than a reasonable solution. The thought was there. Basically, it only works on stations that doesn’t transmit current radio shows. But with us traveling 100 of miles in one day, every thirty minutes the station frequency changes. It was hard trying to keep the Beatles and Pink Floyd in the sound system for more than a handful of songs.

Through our travels we definitely made sure we caught a glimpse of each state’s “Welcome To” sign. Utah, Arizona, Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, Indiana, Illinois, Ohio, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and finally, New Jersey were the 11 new states we entered on our way from Las Vegas. By far, experiencing different parts of the country always reminds me of how small I am when it comes to the rest of the world, let alone our country. Kansas was, by far, the most boring state in the country. The same views of rolling plains and wheat fields border to border. Snoozefest is the best way I can describe that state.

Each day we drove at least 800 miles and 13 hours a day. This trip must’ve been the most unhealthy trip I’ve ever taken during my plant-strong journey. Not because I ate crap but because I hardly ate. By the time I ate at night for dinner, I couldn’t help but eat whatever I could and it usually was far from PLANTiful! 🙁 I tried which is all that matters. Remember, making the best decision possible is all that I can ask of anyone trying to live and eat this way. In reality, without proper preparation and 100% sacrifice, we can’t stay strong but it’s about making the best possible choice of food is what counts.

In Denver, we “had” to stop at the Buckhorn Exchange located downtown. The restaurant was featured on Travel Channel’s Man V. Food and was more of a novelty stop than a true dinner experience. So while we were there, why try steaks and lamb, let’s go for the Rocky Mountain Oysters, Alligator Tail, and Buffalo Sausage. Three appetizers and a great bottle of red wine for about $64 with tip. Needless to say, I regretted jumping ship from my plant-strong journey for these delicacies. The bulls balls and alligator were both deep fried and served with dipping sauce. What a special treat…fried food! Ugh! Made the experience a lot worse. Maybe they could’ve served the bulls balls tenderized and stewed in a light white wine broth and the alligator sautéed scampi style. The deep fry of offal and reptile was not easy to stomach.

In St. Louis, we enjoyed three tourist hotspots. Arriving late and starved, we stumbled upon St. Louis Q, probably one of the most unique bbq spots ever. A small shop that bbqs everything on a aged grill in the garage adjacent to the store. Inside we walk into a small counter-style BBQ storefront featuring some authentic eats. What made it unique were the cardboard pieces written with movie titles plastered and scattered all around the store and tv display. What was playing on the tv, you ask? A pirated DVD of Men In Black 3 adorned the screen. Order and watch a movie while you wait. Amazing concept! Just in case, $3 for one and $5 for two. For only $27, we bought a slab of ribs, green beans, baked beans, sliced white bread, and a copy of MIB3 and the Avengers. What a deal! Quite simply, ribs were fall-off-the-bone perfectly cooked and the BBQ sauce perfectly spiced. True St. Louis style BBQ done right! The DVDs weren’t a bad copy either. 😉
In the morning, we planned on getting up at 6AM and leaving at 7AM. By that time, Sean and I thought, “When in Rome…?” We went to visit the “Gateway to the West,” the St. Louis Arch! It was a purely amazing site. Futuristic architecture of the past. It was exactly what was envisioned by President Jefferson for his National Expansion Memorial. For only $10, you can travel 630 feet up into the clouds and view St. Louis from small slits at the top-center of the arch. Totally worth it just as long as you aren’t, “claustrophobic, afraid of heights, and nauseous.”


For lunch, we thought, “Let’s YELP it and find a great eatery! I’m hungry!” I was directed to the Soulard Coffee Garden, a family-owned restaurant in a chic neighborhood with a backyard and patio to offer a great ambience of St. Louis. It was the first restaurant I was excited to enjoy a plant-strong meal at. Check it out if you’re ever there, I promise you won’t regret it!
Well finally by 12 noon, we started our final leg and headed towards New Jersey. Let me start off by saying, “Bad move!” We had a 17 hour drive ahead of us and there was no way we would make it before the start of the next day. But at least we enjoyed what St. Louis had to offer. Again, “When in Rome…!” I didn’t enjoy the drive through Pennsylvania and New Jersey due to the rain and pitch-black road. But we were almost there…New Jersey…home!

4:30AM and we arrive in Lyndhurst, NJ! After 40 hours and 2,520 miles later, we get to our destination. Phew! I never thought ‘Dodgy,” my 2002 Durango would make it but she surprised me the most! Finally, the start of my new chapter in life. New opportunities, new networks of friends, rekindled friendships, and a better life for my beautiful daughter and her gay, single father…we need a reality show! Haha!