It's difficult to imagine the space at 12 Church Street as anything other than a diner - though restauranteurs have certainly tried. Formerly Tapastry, previously Market (and for a hot minute The Honest Dog), Manny's Diner moved into the Church Street, Montclair, earlier this year.
Manny's Diner is a comfortable, down-scale place to have classic diner fare. Outside, Manny's offers casual sidewalk seating which has always been pleasant on Church Street. Recently, the outdoor scene has become all the more fascinating by the arrival of Fresco, where the Maserati and parade of Italian-American personalities, offer more to talk about than the cuisine - but I digress.
Back at Manny's, Mr. Hot, Things 1 & 2 and myself were seated in a booth and pleasantly surprised by the transformation that had taken place inside. Much brighter than it has been in years, the walls boast flat screen televisions and art of local buildings. The most noticeable change is that what was the open kitchen is now a dinner counter.
The wait staff at Manny's is good-natured, attentive and keeps water glasses filled and coffee refreshed. The menu is nothing out of the ordinary; a long wire bound, laminated view-book as you would generally expect at any diner.
On our visits, we ordered standard fare: a BLT, two eggs over with hash browns and corned beef hash, a Spanish omelet, a Cobb salad, and a side of sweet potato fries.
The BLT was passable, but had a very good pickle. The side of sweet potato fries (note, the BLT does not come with fries) were lackluster, required salt and pepper, and benefited from the side of hot sauce that I requested.
Most unsatisfying, the Cobb Salad, priced at $13, arrived undressed, because the server did not ask our dressing preference - so, we did not receive any! The general presentation, particularly the unappetizing hard-boiled eggs sliced in half and roughly thrown on top, was underwhelming, uninspired, and bland, even with the additional blue cheese dressing we subsequently ordered.
During our breakfast visit, the eggs were cooked perfectly, but the hash browns were absolutely flavorless and the corned beef hash, that accompanied two eggs, potatoes and toast, could certainly have used more beef to justify the $9.99 price tag.
The Spanish omelet, was plentiful at $7.99, but was more Italian than Spanish, with peppers, onions, and a thin tomato sauce. A kick of smokey paprika or sausage would have done it up nicely.
Manny's might be able garner enough foot traffic to survive on Church Street if vast improvements are made to the food presentation and flavor (use of salt and pepper in the kitchen would be a great start). If not, Manny's will be swiftly outclassed by other well-entrenched, nearby eateries like Raymond's and Toast.