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Village Café in Niantic offers mighty fine sandwiches, breakfast wraps and more

The building is tucked in along a strip of mini-malls and gas stations on Route 161 in East Lyme. It seems a little impersonal, but the restaurant inside is anything but.

Village Café, which opened in mid-2020 is a small, hole-in-the-wall place — but it shouldn’t be overlooked.

During the winter, even on chilly days, I would see customers swaddled in jackets sitting at the tables lined along the outside walls of the café. The big heaters set up near the tables obviously shed warmth, but I figured the food must be enough of a lure to draw folks in, even in the cold.

(It should be noted that, as of now, the place only offers take-out and outdoor seating. The interior is relatively small and basic, but here’s hoping the pandemic eases enough for us to dine in there this coming winter.)

Village Café’s menu doesn’t feature exotic mixtures and “never heard of that before” dishes. This is breakfast-and-sandwich place, with a few Greek specialties.

But the key is, they make everything so well. Even a turkey grinder I got ($8.75) was just right: fresh lettuce and tomatoes, tasty turkey and provolone, all inside a crispy-outside-and-soft-inside grinder roll with sesame seeds on top. The oil and salt and pepper were allocated perfectly.

On a recent sunny, warm day, two friends and I stopped by Village Café for lunch. Several of the tables were filled, but we settled into an empty one and figured out what we wanted to nibble on. I went inside to place our order. (Although Village Café is on a busy road, sitting at the tables outside was a pretty relaxing experience.)

A waitress brought our dishes out, and I, being a lover of good deals and of having enough for leftovers, was happy to see just how much was piled on these plates.

We split up each of the three items and all dove first into the heap of hand-cut French fries that accompanied our chicken sandwich. The thin fries were irresistible, with seasoning that might have had some garlic and some salt but was, for certain, delicious.

Village Café offers breakfast even at midway, so we tried one of the grilled three-egg omelet wraps. All I can say is: yum. We ordered the Village Wrap ($7.95), which featured egg, sausage, spinach and feta. The proportions were just right, and the sausage had a subtle flavor that thankfully didn’t overpower everything else.

This was the favorite of all three of us, and when I return, I’ll undoubtedly order another grilled three-egg omelet wrap (who knows, maybe the Western Wrap, with ham, peppers, onion and American cheese).

I suggested we get the spanakopita ($9.95) because, well, I love spanakopita, the traditional Greek spinach pie with feta and phyllo. Village Café's version is quite good, and the mystery seasoning on top provided a nice additional zest. A little more feta would have been nice, but that's a quibble in an otherwise excellent dish.

That comes with fries or salad, and we ordered a salad, which boasted fresh greens, and we selected creamy garlic dressing. Truth be told, we gave short shrift to the salad because we couldn't resist drifting back to the main dishes and fries.

Which brings us to our grilled chicken pesto ciabatta ($13.95). The chicken was wonderfully moist and nicely accented by the mozzarella and roasted peppers, even if the pesto made it a little on the messy side.

Here are quick hits about some items sampled on other occasions. The gyro was fabulous, and I would use the tzatziki sauce as salad dressing every day if I could. The roast beef cheddar melt with sauteed onions offered plentiful roast beef.

And the bougatsa? This Greek pastry, consisting of creamy custard inside phyllo dough and topped with cinnamon and powdered sugar, knocked my socks off -- and I'm a sweets snob. 

The Village Café sells a lot more, too: fresh muffins, bagels and pastries for breakfast, along with breakfast sandwich options including two egg and cheese; and the Village Egg Sandwich, with choice of meat, cheese, and homemade hash browns.

What does all this mean? If you're driving down Route 161 in East Lyme, don't just speed past Village Café. Drop in and nosh.

If you go

Village Café

190 Flanders Road, Niantic

Phone: (860) 739-3000

Hours: 8 a.m.-3 p.m. daily

Atmosphere: Simple; it’s all about the food

Outdoor seating: Dining is only outdoors at this point, with tables lining the sidewalk that adjoins the building; you can also get takeout

Service: Prompt and nice

Prices: Sandwiches range from $7.25 for a grilled cheese to $13.95 for a grilled chicken BLT or grilled chicken pesto ciabatta

Handicap accessible: Yes



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