The storefront of Villalobos has come a long way from the newspaper and Mexican flag covering the windows in April. And the inside has been transformed to a chic, warm, and welcoming space to enjoy what owner and chef Adam Rose calls “Traditional Mexican with a modern technique.”

villalobosNutley native Rose has worked at Restaurant Passione (former Montclair restaurant of Chef Michael Carrino of Pig & Prince) and Bin 14 Trattoria & Wine Bar in Hoboken, where Rose  earned an “excellent” review from the New York Times. Since October 2011, he’s been Executive Chef at NICO at NJPAC. Rose’s creative partners are VJ Moscaritola, another Nutley native who currently owns Gumdrop Hairdressing in Montclair, and Ashley A. Rose, Adam’s sister, who worked as interior designer of Villalobos. 

Talking to Rose, you can feel how passionate he is of Mexican cuisine. Though not formally trained in the food, Rose said he came to admire the cuisine while working in various kitchens with Mexican staff. His travels took him to Oaxaca and Mexico City where he tasted and learned how to make what he calls “a rich and true cuisine.” Rose chose Montclair to open his first restaurant because he feels its the food destination in Northern, NJ.  He gave a shout out to El Matador in Bloomfield for offering great and authentic Mexican. 

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villalobosVillalobos has a strong taqueria influence, offering eight taco options served on house made organic corn tortillas ($3-$4), which I had the pleasure of tasting last night at a press party. These are all really good tacos, but the stand outs for me were the Lengua (beef tongue, chipotle, pistachio), the Carnitas (cola braised pork belly, corn, cotija, ancho), and the Al Pastor (adobo roasted pork, pina, cilantro, onion) — the latter roasted on what Rose called “El Trumpo,” which is basically a vertical spit to grill meat just like a Greek gyro or Middle Eastern shawarma.


Vegetarians will enjoy the Verduras taco, made with maitake mushrooms, poblano, corn, and queso fresco, and some sides and salads. But Villalobos is heavy on meat, seafood, and fish.

Dinner entrees such as braised rabbit, grilled brook trout, black bass, and smoked chicken range from $18 – $27.


Other standouts:


  • Ostras en media concha, or Oysters on the half shell, made with a mezcal minonetta, green apple, and lime. ($19)


  • Two types of perfect guacamole, the traditional style ($9) and the “Villalobos” house style ($13) with smoked tomatillo and sea urchin for the more adventurous foodie.
  • The Esquites, sweet succulent corn off the cob with crema cotija cheese and ancho raises corn to a level that would make you need to go get a fix.
  • Chiccaronnes, which are crispy pork skin, lime, morita chile, and queso fresco, are the perfect snack to pair with a cold glass of Negro Modelo.

And do not leave without ending your meal with the Churros, long sticks of fried dough dusted with cinnamon and served with a chocolate dipping sauce.


6 South Fullerton Avenue, Montclair, NJ, 07042

Lunch: Tuesday – Sunday from 11 am – 3 pm
Dinner: Tuesday – Thursday from 4:30  – 10 pm / Friday an Saturday from 4:30 – 11:30 pm / Sunday from 4:30 – 8 pm / closed Mondays




5 replies on “Villalobos: Rich and True Mexican Cuisine in Montclair”

  1. I am very excited to see them open…We tried them out at the Food & Wine Festival at the Art Museum earlier this year, what a treat! Congrats on the opening, can’t wait to stop in!

  2. Holy cow, I am drooling already. I could eat that entire bowl of guac all by myself. I’ll have to pass on the sea urchin, however…although the smoked tomatillos sound mighty fine. Esquites and Verduras tacos… oh my!

    If we have any nickels left after we take The Girl off to college… this will be the first place we go.

  3. we ate dinner here last night. a party of 6 and everyone was impressed. This place is a hit. The Villalobos guacamole is stellar. The battered fish taco is out of this world. There wasn’t a thing anyone ordered that we were not happy with. The staff is very nice and for it being their second day in business they ran a pretty seamless operation.

    We’ll definitely be back!!

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