In a town where all the restaurant news seems to be “bigger, bolder, Bravo,” Chef Bryan Gregg brought us Escape, where the chef takes a step back, and he allows the farmers to take the spotlight.
A native of Pittsburgh, the “Steel City” and a graduate of the Pennsylvania Institute of the Culinary Arts, Gregg came to New Jersey years ago waving the banner of local farmers and artisans . As Executive Chef of the historic Ho-Ho-Kus Inn & Tavern he changed the farm-to-table menu to reflect local market availability and in the process created on of the most talked about dining experiences in Bergen County. He created a similar buzz in Jersey City’s Newport district at Michael Anthony’s.
With Escape, located on Bloomfield Avenue in Montclair Center in the space formerly occupied by Osteria North, Gregg is calling all the shots and waving the local banner higher and with even greater fervor.
I’ve dined at Escape several times since opening day, and like a farmer tries who a new crop this year, and rotates his usually plantings regularly, the space, and menu have changed to reflect his customers desires, the seasons, as well as his success.
Escape is about Low Country Cuisine. Low country is the Carolina style cooking from the region that runs between the Piedmont and the sea. Still not sure? Think Charleston South Carolina, a city nestled between magnificent swamps and low plateaus and the sea. Bryan is inspired by that region’s cuisine, accents it with modern (Yankee) flavors and techniques to create Escape. The mark of the best Southern establishments is the hospitality. Don’t pay attention to the people on TV, Southern Hospitality is not loud, it’s all about feeling like a guest combined with a sense that you’re at a family gathering. Add Gregg’s mellow Northern demeanor to the equation and you’ve got a restaurant that represents the Garden State in ways about which we can all be proud.
Escape isn’t about being famous. Bryan doesn’t play the look at me, look at me card by any stretch of the imagination. He’s a chef who is passionate about his craft, passionate about the farmers, and just wants to have a good time doing what he loves while taking his patrons along for the journey.
Just to give an idea of how Low Country and Montclair sophistication come together, consider the basics. Iced tea is the house wine of the South, Foie Gras is northern sophistication. Where else would you find a chef who encourages enjoying a peach tea with foie gras! At lunch the soft drinks are served in mason jars!
That combination, of the feeling evoked by the suggestion of it, would not be possible if it were not for the carefully developed relationships Escape has with all of the farmers who supply the restaurant. His dedication to local farming is emphasized by his being a pick up location for the Bracco Farms CSA.
The burger is a big deal at Escape at lunchtime. Imagine full flavored grass fed beef from Hunterdon County with Bacon & Onion Jam. Yeah, I wrote Bacon & Onion Jam. Bacon. Onion. Jam. Vegetarians and vegans need not fret. Produce is key to the flavor profiles at Escape but their offerings are be more than just a plate of sautéed vegetables.
Oh, and brunch, on Sundays. It’s fantastic. Details on Sunday Brunch will be shared soon.
In the meantime, call Escape, wish Bryan and his team a happy second anniversary of being in business, and make a reservation for dinner for tonight!
345 Bloomfield Ave.
Montclair, NJ 07042
Monday – Closed
Tuesday – 11:30 am – 09:00 pm
Wednesday – 11:30 am – 09:00 pm
Thursday – 11:30 am – 09:00 pm
Friday – 11:30 am – 10:00 pm
Saturday – 11:30 am – 10:00 pm
Sunday – 11:30 am – 08:00 pm
John Lee is Black Tie and Flip Flops Raconteur-In-Chief, the World of food is his playground ~ the whole world! Having a Navy Dad gave John the passion to discover the world. Whether in one of Mr. Boeing’s flying machines, as an armchair traveler with a great book, or a plate beaming with the exotic flavors and fragrances, his day is all about discovering the world and sharing the stories with everyone he meets.
John cut his teeth in commercial kitchens starting in high school and continued into his undergrad years, then the media bug bit. After University he spent time at the Washington Post Company before jumping on the first internet wave in the 1990’s at some of the major players of the era. John also established himself as a culinary instructor where his style of cooking was first called “Comfort Food Remixed.” Don’t get him started on Disney Dining, but yes, he tried “the grey stuff” and it is delicious. John jokes that he’s staying in NJ because he didn’t have enough miles to trade in for a return ticket home to San Diego, but we think he likes it here.