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    Sunday, March 26, 2023

    Review: All good to go at Gourmet Galley in Niantic

    A small bowl of beef chili (large also available) from Gourmet Galley in Niantic (Marisa Nadolny)
    The Crispy Sesame Chicken entree from the refrigerated prepared foods case at Gourmet Galley in Niantic (Marisa Nadolny)

    Foodie heaven has set up shop in Niantic. Along just a few local roadways, dozens of fine eateries give visitors and residents alike a bevy of dining options. Sometimes, those fine eateries are all in one building, such as 185 Main Street, where a branch of Mystic’s Sift bakery AND a new Gourmet Galley outpost reside.

    I know a sign from above when I see one, so like any good pilgrim, I traveled to Niantic to sample the goods at what is formally called Gourmet Galley at Home. (I’ve been to Sift in Mystic many times. Recommended. Eventually, for the sake of science, I’ll have to run a comparison to its Niantic sister shop.)

    Gourmet Galley is well known for its catering services, but now we needn’t book an event to enjoy the culinary delights created by its crew. The shop in Niantic serves lunch daily, and an abundance of fresh and frozen dishes by GG are ready to go home with you. (Shopping baskets available.) Good luck choosing from the many, many available apps, salads, soups, entrees, sauces, desserts and more.

    The lunch menu makes one’s choice a bit easier with a slimmer slate of items – mainly sandwiches and salads with some fun surprises in between, including the small bag of house-made potato chips ($4.99) we grabbed for a lunchtime side dish.

    The crispy, medium-cut chips proved a good salty partner to our lunch starter, the house chili ($9 for a small; $13 for a large), which is available every day along with a soup du jour. Along with a side of cubed focaccia, the chili comes with small sides of sour cream, onions and shredded cheddar to augment as needed. To me, it didn’t need any help, but shredded cheese makes most things better, so in it went. The cheese was a nice touch, adding a bit of sharpness to the chili’s bold flavor courtesy of sweet then zesty spices and rich ground beef, but the chili also stood easily on its own.

    We each chose a sandwich to sample and share and hit two ends of a culinary spectrum – the Dutch ($10; served with pickled veggies) and the Melanzanna ($16; served with pickled veggies). The Dutch pairs smoky Gouda with a thick slice of bacon, accented by a bit of apricot preserves, and served on sourdough bread that was grilled to perfection. It’s a fabulous (and filling) combination, with the sweetness of the preserves pulling it all together and amplifying every other ingredient at the same time.

    The Melanzanna combines eggplant, breaded chicken, mozzarella cheese, tomato sauce, broccoli rabe and, according to the menu, crispy prosciutto, served on a very good ciabatta roll. We were hard-pressed to locate and taste the prosciutto, but then again with a heavy flavor hitter like broccoli rabe in the mix, it could have been easy to miss. Was it a tasty, hearty sandwich? Yes indeed. Was it possibly too many things at once? Also yes, at least for me. However, the tomato sauce was excellent and the portions of chicken and eggplant quite generous. The mister had no complaints and gladly ate his leftover half-sandwich for dinner.

    For dessert, we selected a raspberry Linzer tart square ($3) from the handful of fresh-baked goods available at the counter. From its soft and uber-buttery base to its bright and fruity star player, we found the tart as delightful as it was pretty. We suspect our fellow diners agreed, since we were lucky enough to grab the last tart of the day.

    For tasting number two, we selected way too much food that became lunch and dinner, and we will also enjoy those leftovers. We made a lunch of GG’s cold sesame noodles (a generous portion for $7.99), and we hope you will too. Where some iterations of this dish can be too heavily drenched in thick peanut sauce, GG tosses its noodles with a silky, flavorful peanut-soy-ginger dressing that is quite pleasant and delicious. The flavors lighten the sense of carbo-load and would be an excellent picnic food.

    It would have made sense to pair our second dish with lunch, but we were nicely filled by the noodles and waited for dinnertime to sample the Crispy Sesame Chicken ($13.99). This is another hearty and tasty dish, with four large strips of tender chicken and sides of white rice seasoned with scallions and bok choy, plus a sweet/spicy/sour dipping sauce. The thicker cut breading on the chicken added a toothy, flavorful layer thanks in part to the dash of dark and light sesame seeds on each strip. The sauce elevated each ingredient with an additional zesty kick, and it even went well with the rice and bok choy.

    Our MVP went to the Guinness beef stew, an extravagance at $17.99 for a quart but worth every penny. When you enjoy the veggies as much as the beef, you know you’ve got a good batch of stew. Carrots, Yukon gold potatoes and chuck roast go gourmet in this recipe against a backdrop of deeply savory broth, accented with bacon, bay leaf and more. Our batch was loaded with beef and it presented just the right amount of carrots, but we could have used a few more potatoes for balance (and because they were delicious). Grab a loaf of crusty bread and you’ll have an exceptional, seasonally perfect meal ready to go in no time.

    Remember when take-out food meant compromised quality in exchange for convenience? Me too, but those days are gone. Take-out can create an outstanding culinary experience now, and Gourmet Galley at Home will easily become a dining destination for those in search of a terrific lunch or a next-level meal at home.

    Gourmet Galley at Home

    185 Main St., Niantic

    (860) 850-4049


    Cuisine: Per its website, Gourmet Galley at Home offers “fresh and frozen eco-friendly packaged meals including salads, entrees, soups, sauces, hors d’oeuvres and desserts, as well as locally sourced food products and specialty food items.”

    Atmosphere: Sunny and chic with tasteful decor and a fabulous view of Niantic Bay. Gourmet groceries add a nice village-market vibe. The space for dine-in tables and counters is well planned and very comfortable, even on a busy weekend day when foot traffic was heavy. The dedicated check-out counter near the refrigerated cases for folks just shopping for to-go items is a smart, considerate move.

    Service: Very pleasant. Be aware, this is not a fast-food venue. If you go for lunch, the wait time for your order might be more similar to that of a cafe, depending on the crowd.

    Prices: Appropriate for the quality, but not cheap. Lunch sandwiches start at $10 and top out at $16; salads run from $12 to $16; a small cup of beef chili is $9.

    Hours: Daily from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Lunch is served from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.

    Credit cards: Accepted

    Handicapped access: Plenty of parking available at the rear of the building; no stairs to enter. The dining area is on the smaller side but laid out thoughtfully.

    Reservations: N/A, but catering services are available

    Note: Take Grand Street to access the large parking lot behind the building at 185 Main St.

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