Doing Montclair's Mountain Boulevard
Where to Shop, Eat and Play
By Keri Hayes Troutman
Photography by Aaron Olson
Montclair’s charm can in part be attributed to the fact that the area has some real history—it dates back to the early 20th century, when the area bustled with new homebuyers after the Northern Pacific Railroad came to town. That railroad line was laid right next to the small shopping district that’s now known as Montclair Village. Situated at the base of Montclair’s forested hills, next to state Highway 13, the village’s main artery is Mountain Boulevard. Mountain winds up off the highway from Moraga Avenue into the heart of the shopping and dining hub. The village is immensely walkable, even if you venture off Mountain onto some of the smaller side streets (which also abound with great eats and shopping).
Where to ShopLe Bonbon: Don’t walk into this store if you’re trying to curtail your sugar intake. Just the rich chocolate scent wafting from the open doorway is enough to make a weary shopper swoon. Inside you’ll find a wall of sweets on one side and a case of all the chocolate concoctions you could dream of on the other. Le Bonbon carries lots of hard-to-find confections like a very fine licorice bridge mix and a variety of marzipan sweets. Small gift items and a selection of greeting cards make this a great place to drop in for a last-minute present.
2056 Mountain Blvd., (510) 339-2962.
Wheels of Justice Cyclery: This isn’t just your ordinary bike shop. These guys are committed to your cycling satisfaction. The staff will help you find the bike that’s right for you. And if these bike gurus don’t, they give you 30 days to bring the bicycle back for full credit toward a different one. The shop has a great selection of kids’ bikes and a kid-friendly staff. Best yet, all the WOJ 12- and 16-inch bikes (for kids 2 to 6) can be traded in when your child outgrows it for 100 percent of the original value. WOJ also carries an array of cycling footwear, clothing and gear. A toy basket next to the comfy couch might even buy parents enough time to shop for themselves.
2024 Mountain Blvd., (510) 339-6091, www.wojcyclery.com.
The Knitting Basket: Even if you’re not a knitter, this is a great place to just browse the amazing samples and projects hanging around the shop. Perhaps you’ll be so inspired that you’ll want to sign up for one of the many knitting classes offered. If you’re shopping for a specific color of yarn for your next project, you’ll appreciate the fact that the store is organized by color. Each section contains a dizzying array of shades and textures. Though the more exotic selections are quite pricey, in the back there’s a wall full of more basic yarns that are reasonably priced. The staff is helpful and knowledgeable, and the store carries a nice selection of knitting books and patterns as well.
2054 Mountain Blvd., (510) 339-6295, www.theknittingbasket.com.
What to DoMontclair Village Wines, Spirits n’ Brews: Each week the well-informed staff at this lovely wine shop puts together a daily flight of tasting samples. Stop in any time to try the day’s offering before you buy. Or chat with one of shop’s wine buyers about what you’re looking for. Though the store has changed ownership recently, the staff, selection and services remain the same (and the new owner promises it’ll stay that way). Montclair Village Wines also carries a good selection of imported beers and spirits.
40 Medau Place (corner of Mountain Boulevard and Medau Place),
(510) 339-8405, www.montclairwines.com.
Montclair Park: After you’ve had your fill of shopping along Mountain Boulevard, pick up some coffee and a snack or full picnic fare and keep on walking up Mountain past Albertson’s on your left. Look down the hill, and you’ll spy a green oasis … Montclair Park. Next to the tennis courts on Mountain Boulevard, you’ll find a set of stairs that lead you down the hill. Below there’s a duck pond, two large climbing structures and lots of grass and park benches for a relaxing break.
6300 Moraga Ave. (accessible via a set of stairs off Mountain Boulevard near Colton Boulevard).
Montclair Barbers: For a real old-fashioned barbershop experience, stop in for a trim at Montclair Barbers. Complete with the old barber’s chairs and red and white poles, this tiny shop looks like a piece of old Montclair. There are no fancy prices, products or cuts; just some friendly, down-to-earth guys who’ll give you a straightforward haircut and talk about how the Raiders are doing this season. These pros do kids’ haircuts as well, and any parent knows that a quick, straightforward cut is ideal.
2050 A Mountain Blvd., (510) 339-8962.
Where to EatNelly’s Java Organic Coffee and Tea: Nelly’s java isn’t just organic; it’s delicious. With cafe walls adorned with artwork by local artists, Nelly’s is a great place to stop in for a cup of tea or coffee and a light lunch or snack. Soup and sandwiches, muffins, bagels and pastries make up the menu, along with a full selection of coffee drinks, teas and Italian sodas. If you’ve got some work to do, Nelly’s is a great place to break out the laptop (they offer free wireless Internet service).
1952 Mountain Blvd., (510) 338-0388.
Juice Appeal: Friendly service, reasonable prices and delicious juice and fruit combinations make Juice Appeal a great place to get a healthy energy boost as you wind your way along Mountain Boulevard. If you’re eyeing the donut shop down the street but know you need to get your fruit intake for the day, this is your place. There’s the usual multitude of fruit flavors that you find in smoothie shops, but the final product is a cut above most. The friendly owners even offer delivery to schools and events.
2075 Mountain Blvd., (510) 339-9400.
Grinders Submarine Sandwiches: As Mountain Boulevard curves up and to the left through the village, take a few steps to your right onto a tiny stretch of Antioch Court to get to the most interesting sandwich shop you’ll ever frequent. Actually, before you step in, take a look at the lengthy menu posted outside the shop, because you’d better have a good idea of what you want before you head up to the counter. The owner of this shop has been likened to the Soup Nazi from Seinfeld, and with good reason—once you start ordering, you’ll be inundated with a barrage of choices that you’d better have a quick answer about. Your first order might seem intimidating, but the good news is that your sandwich selection will be stored in the Grinders’ database. And the sandwiches are excellent and well worth the effort.
2069 Antioch Court (a couple steps off Mountain Boulevard), (510) 339-3721.