RAISING THE BAR
By Allan Borgen
I love going to coffee houses and gastropubs. I especially enjoy decadent baked goods usually found at specialty bakeries—but finding this decent coffee, gastro-food and baked goods in a single location is unusual. That is, until you visit Dolce Bistro and Bakery in Montclair.
As you enter the large interior of the place, you are greeted by glass display cases filled with gorgeously decorated baked goods. Everything from specialty cakes, cookies, macaroons, petit fours and other delightful goodies. But what was once just a bakery has become an all-out eatery. Dolce also houses an espresso bar, a newly decorated beer and wine bar area and a large open dining room that is the perfect setting for a casual and fun breakfast, lunch and dinner experience.
This hybrid gastropub/coffee house offers décor and ambiance that is both hip and inviting, with an enticing new menu. Starting with Dolce’s “snacks,” the Smokey Jalapenos offered three bacon-wrapped jalapenos stuffed with smoked chorizo and cheese, and served onto a cilantro and smoked paprika cream sauce. This treat definitely has spicy kick, but the marriage of the spiciness and calming crème sauce made for one delicious starter. The Spicy Maple Bacon Popcorn on the other is perfect for those who love popcorn as much as I do. The serving offers a nice portion of the buttery maple, bacon, cumin and chili powder dusted on top of fresh popcorn. Snack on this while enjoying one of Dolce’s 50-plus artisan beers—a culinary match made in heaven.
Dolce’s main entrees are equally impressing. I chose the Braised Short Rib, huge chunks of tender, short rib with shitake and button mushrooms sautéed in a rich reduced red wine sauce sat on a large bed of tasty garlic polenta. Short ribs are now quite popular item found on menus and for good reason—the meat soaks up lots much of the liquids, resulting in a satisfying cut of meat.
Switching gears, I also tried the vegetarian Bella Sandwich which features a large portobello mushroom cap, smoked mozzarella, grilled red onions, mixed greens, sundried tomato aioli on grilled sourdough bread. This masterful creation was absolutely delicious; each bite yielding a multitude of flavor. But there it’s hard to say no to short rib dishes! With the Short Rib Mac & Cheese Grilled Cheese Sandwich I was hoping for the winning tastes of my earlier short rib dish, with its shredded short rib meat, spiral fusilli pasta with cheddar, American and Monterey jack cheese sandwiched between two slices of grilled sourdough bread. However this one lacked the warm gooey melted cheese sensation that grilled cheese sandwiches have.
Now for Dolce’s hefty half-pound burger creations like the Fancy Schmancy Bleu—now that’s a burger. Just picture a large slab of blue and gorgonzola cheese, a sweet fig, date and onion compote, and arugula on a peppercorn bun with a side of port reduction dipping sauce. Or the Breakfast Burger with its amazingly crisp hash brown potato patty, topped with a thick slice of seared Spam and gently topped with a poached egg on a brioche bun and a maple aioli Sriracha ketchup.
There was no way I was walking out of the Dolce Bistro without trying a dessert. I highly suggest getting one of Dolce’s Croughnuts, which is the newest craze in the donut industry right now. Originally created in New York, this doughnut-like pastry is made of fried croissant dough and is light and airy. The only downside is that the bakery usually sells out quickly after being baked in the morning—so arriving early is a must.
Now that Dolce Bistro and Bakery is under new management, check out this exciting
dining option. It definitely shouldn’t be overlooked!
Dolce Bistro and Bakery, 8821 Central Ave., Montclair, (909) 399-3426; www.dolcebistroandbakery.com.
Follow food critic Allan Borgen on the Let’s Dine Out Television show on every Friday night at 6:30pm at KVCR Ch. 24-P.B.S. and on the Let’s Dine Out radio show every Saturday afternoon from 3pm-5pm on AM 590. You can contact Allan at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone (909) 910-3463. Visit his websites feedme411.com and letsdineoutshow.com.