Muscle Maker Grill Opens in Montclair

by Melody Kettle

Black Bean SoupAfter a long weekend of beer, burgers, and barbeque Montclair can recover by indulging in good-for-you food at Muscle Maker Grill!

Muscle Maker Grill was started in 1995. With roots in Colonia NJ the company now boasts over 200 franchises across the country. Everything that’s cooked is either grilled, or sauteed, there’s not a fryer to be found. There’s also a huge compliment of salads, juices, and protein shakes. But the most important thing about the menu is that everything is filling, satisfying, and leaves guests wondering why they never realized healthy food could taste so darn good.

 A health and fitness enthusiast for over 20 years, owner Tom Trilivas, who also works as a kitchen cabinet designer, often had a difficult time finding healthy choices to eat between appointments. We’ve all been there, the day gets crazy and healthy options that fit our schedule are few and far between, and often include the phrase “would you like fries with that”. Knowing that he was not the only one with this problem he bought a Muscle Maker Grill franchise in Lyndhurst. Nutley soon followed, and at 2pm today Montclair will discover what everyone else knows.

Okay, so let’s get to the scary stuff first. Those unfamiliar with Muscle Maker probably think the place is filled with Arnold wannabes whose catchphrase is “I pick things up and put them down.” WRONG! I had that first impression too – but it’s really created for regular people. Put another way I’m a food writer and culinary instructor, well let’s just say I still have a very long way to go to have a beach-ready body.I feel totally at home at both the Nutley and Lyndhurst locations and Montclair will surely have the same environment.  

So enough about healthy and fitness, what’s it taste like: “OMG! OMG! OMG! Can this really be good for me.” The Rocky Balboa Wrap at $7.99 is a meal and a half! Grilled chicken, turkey meatballs, reduced fat mozzarella, marinara all in an herb wrap. The secret ingredient was decadence – having had this a few times at lunch I found myself having very little for dinner – it’s that satisfying. And it’s not just healthy and filling, it’s decadent, you know that artery clogging food you get at a street fair in Newark? It’s more a more decadent experience than that! Also noteworthy is the Barbeque Chicken and Sweet Potato wrap. Friends know I am very particular with barbeque, especially when it’s made by Yankees, and this passes the test. As a side the Cajun Pasta hits all the right notes.  It gets better. Shrimp and tilapia are on the menu as substitutions, and there are vegetarian and vegan options to round out the menu. 

The Cheeseburger Salad has been getting a lot of press lately. At $6 I guarantee the first reaction after YUM will be “you mean I could have driven over to Nutley and had this before.” The chicken Caesar salad is a feast for the eyes and the Black Bean Soup is so good you can pass it off as homemade.  And since they deliver and cater you can!

Running really late with no time to eat with a fork? The Big Protein Shakes come in flavors like Chocolate Peanut Butter, Snappy Apple, as well as the more traditional chocolate and vanilla. Treat yourself to the sugar-free cheesecake, trust me on this one.

Given the fitness theme that inspired the restaurant the coolers include protein shakes and power drinks as well as more traditional fare like Honest Tea and Fuse. Instead of a candy rack often found in diners, Muscle Maker has a wide assortment of power bars. A juice bar and protein shake café will be  a part of the Montclair experience – something not found at either the Y or NYSC.

Starting tomorrow at 7am Muscle Maker offers a healthy way to start the day. Breakfast includes Protein Pancakes, Omelets (egg white or whole egg), turkey bacon or sausage, b’fast wraps, and unique breakfast items like turkey chili.

Muscle Maker Montclair is in the space formerly occupied by Mexicali Rose on Park St, across from Samba, and a stone’s throw from the World Famous Montclair Rooster. It will be the perfect post-YMCA place to nosh. The restaurant is open until 10pm Sunday through Wednesday; on Thursday, Friday and Saturday they’re open until 10:30pm. A delivery team can bring the goodness to Montclair, including Montclair State, Glen Ridge, Bloomfield, Little Falls, Cedar Grove and West Orange.