When the weather begins to cool as the summer morphs to fall, a noticeable food culture shift occurs. People trade in their fruity drinks by the pool for rich fireside lattes and warm apple cider. Light salads and barbecues become heavy soups and hearty stews. And most noticeable of all, fall baked goods and coffees have a distinct taste of pumpkin spice.  

However, in the “foodie” town of Montclair, filled with culturally rich eateries, restaurants are going beyond pumpkin spice and cooking up their own fresh, sophisticated takes on the meaning of fall cuisine. 

“The food is changing,” said the chef and owner of Montclair’s Laboratorio Kitchen, James De Sisto. “The color on the plate, the different types of produce, different proteins, like the steak and seafood, that all changes. All the colors change, like bright oranges, reds, light greens, pinks, purples – all ‘fally’ colors – that kind of trickles down into the plate. So when people sit down, when we bring up that first initial fall dish, it's just big and beautiful.” 

At Laboratorio Kitchen, the New American and Italian Cosmopolitan eatery, both a weekly specials menu is offered and an a la carte, recurring menu. For both menus, De Sisto embraces the seasonal produce readily available to his restaurant. 

On the current summer menu, lighter fare, like basil, berries and tomatoes, dress different dishes. But in the autumn, a variety of heftier produce, like Brussels sprouts, beetroot and sweet potatoes, become a staple, and are often featured as star dishes. 

“We have a beautiful kale salad with maple dressing in the fall that sells out a lot,” DeSisto said. “We're going to feature our duck dish. We use a duck breast that's with lavender and honey and with local turnips. It's a nice fall dish that we use.” 

De Sisto also takes the incoming fall harvest to reinvent a popular, recurring item on his menu – scallops. Laboratorio Kitchen sources their scallops from South Jersey. On its current menu, the restaurant features a dish called “Day Boat Scallops,” which is served with cauliflower puree, chive oil and spring micro greens. When Laboratorio Kitchen readjusts its menu for the fall, De Sisto plans to feature a scallop dish with warm flavors of butternut squash and cinnamon oil. “We switch it up a little bit here,” he said. 

Another local Montclair restaurant known for its consistent seasonal menu offerings is Faubourg. Like Laboratorio Kitchen, this modern French brasserie takes inspiration from the fall harvest season and reshapes its menu each year, multiple times a year, creating a diverse flavor experience for every visit. 

For Faubourg’s chef and owner, Olivier Muller, the beginning of autumn, like the start of all seasons, is a time to look forward to new ingredients.  

“We all look for the next season to come,” Muller said. “I think it's a feeling that you have before each season. Each season is dear to my heart, but for different reasons and different produce.” 

Muller finds specific seasonal food pairings appealing to the palette. Instead of bringing back the same recipes each year, he said, he tries to reconfigure the way in which he presents the fusion. 

“I always liked the combinations of cauliflower and grapes for example,” Muller said. “We often do a dish with that preparation, but I think every year, we have a new version of the combination of flavors.” 

Another combination Faubourg is looking to add to its menu this fall, and a pairing that Muller enjoys, is duck and quince. “I think it works very well together,” he said. 

While welcoming these fall flavors, Faubourg will also continue to provide its popular outdoor dining. Faubourg’s outdoor space has a roof and adjustable heat, allowing for an enjoyable experience, even as the temperature drops. “The outside feel of our restaurant is now a yearlong affair,” Muller said. 

Also embracing the outdoor dining experience this autumn is Montclair’s Irish gastro-pub Egan & Sons. Last year, Egan & Sons was closed for the entirety of the fall season after Hurricane Ida. 

“We lost all our stuff,” owner Sharon Egan said. “We had also lost all our Halloween and Christmas decorations. We have to start from scratch.

“We were closed for all of fall pretty much last year, so, we're gonna really make it our best fall ever, that's for sure.” 

Egan & Sons has adapted its outside seating area for the cooler weather with the installation of electric infrared heaters across the patio area. To further jump into the season, the restaurant is in the process of purchasing autumn-themed and spooky decorations for a Halloween party. 

In the coming weeks, Egan & Sons plans to bring back its traditional Tuesday night trivia, which hasn’t been held since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.

“So yeah,” Egan said. “We're totally getting ready for fall, and we're really looking forward to a good fall season.” 

When it comes to the fall flavors to soon hit Egan & Sons’ menu, the restaurant couldn’t be more at home, Egan said. The cool temperatures of the Montclair autumn are similar to the weather that Ireland experiences all the time. Therefore, the fall menu is the time for traditional Irish cuisine to shine. 

“It's kind of autumn in Ireland all year round,” Egan said. “That's pretty much the season there. So our food – our staples, like our cottage pie and chicken pot pie – are super for the fall or winter months.” 

A featured menu item that often makes the autumn menu at Egan & Sons is a traditional Irish lamb stew, which includes seasonal root vegetables, like parsnip and carrots, and bold herbs, like sage and thyme. 

In an effort to diversify its menu, Egan & Sons is also working on developing some hearty vegan options. While that menu is still a work in progress, the restaurant is thinking of adapting its popular vegan rice bowl to include fall squash, pumpkin and sage. 

Right now, the restaurant is working on adjusting the flavors of its bread and butter pudding. In the summer months, it has strawberries, but as the fall approaches, Egan & Sons will be switching to apple cinnamon. 

“I do tend to stay away from pumpkin spice flavors, because I feel like it's pretty contrived,” Egan said. “I know people look forward to it, but I don't like it. I love things like spicy curry, you know, those flavors that kind of just heat you up right away, those spices to heat you up when it's freezing.”