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    Sunday, May 19, 2024

    Review: Sit and savor the scene at Simon’s Marketplace in Chester

    A display of baked goods at Simon’s Marketplace in Chester (Marisa Nadolny)
    Keep Calm and Curry on at Simon’s (Marisa Nadolny)
    The exterior of Simon’s Marketplace in Chester (Marisa Nadolny)
    The interior of Simon’s Marketplace in Chester (Marisa Nadolny)
    The CBR Wrap at Simon’s (Marisa Nadolny)

    There are many reasons why it’s fun to hang out in downtown Chester. Main Street caters to an eclectic set, with boutiques and galleries alongside a brewery, fine dining establishments and casual eateries.

    In the heart of the Main Street district is Simon’s Marketplace, where breakfast, lunch and fresh coffee bring in a steady stream of locals and visitors. You can try to bypass the fabulous gift items displayed throughout Simon’s, but why deprive yourself of a new pair of kitschy socks?

    If the gifts don’t turn your head, the case of baked good probably will. Daily cookies, muffins, bars and other assorted treats will make any coffee better, but if cake is more your speed, wander down to the next refrigerated case and observe the fancier confections. On a recent day, Key Lime Poke Cake ($6.95) called out to me, and this refreshing dessert should be the official taste of summer. With a moderate zing of lime custard and pillow soft vanilla cake, the sweet-tart balance was delightful and the lovely whipped topping added richness and depth.

    The bulk of Simon’s menu is sandwiches and wraps,, with 16 described on a chalkboard menu behind the counters. (Try not to get distracted by the deli salads and fresh foods of the day. More on that in a minute.) Sandwiches run a wide gamut, from veggie-licious options like The Bandwagon (roasted veggies, spinach and feta on a grilled wheat wrap) to sturdier fare like the CBR Wrap ($11.39), a chicken-bacon-Ranch combo in a wheat wrap. Paired with lettuce and tomato, the CBR package is savory and satisfying and easily shared by two people. We doubly appreciated the even-handed application of Ranch dressing — just enough for a pop of flavor.

    The Keep Calm and Curry On ($10.35) falls somewhere in the middle of Simon’s sandwich spectrum, but it emerged our standout. The starring curry chicken salad was so light and fresh, we felt instantly nourished. The bits of apples and raisins throughout added great texture to the curry-chicken-salad base, which was neither too gooey nor too chunky. Lettuce and tomato brought it all together and added yet another layer of crispness beneath the surrounding wheat wrap.

    Among my favorite sandwiches in the world is a Caprese — fresh mozzarella, tomato, basil and some salt and pepper or other seasoning. Simon’s uses a delicious white balsamic dressing, lightly applied to the mozzarella and tomatoes. Simon’s typically serves its Caprese sandwich ($9.88) on its spectacular salted baguette bread (something we’ve literally driven to Chester to buy) but the bread’s popularity rendered it sold out the day I visited. We went with sourdough bread as a substitute, and it worked very well in balancing the cool freshness of the thick tomato slices and the toothy, tasty mozzarella cheese.

    Other than sandwiches, Simon’s runs daily specials from the counter and among its rotating deli salads. We couldn’t resist the sweet-chili-glazed meatloaf slices on a recent day ($7.23) and it was as delicious as it sounds. The sweet-spicy crust added some brightness and a little texture to the hearty base meatloaf. We ate it as is, but it would be terrific on a hard roll (or baguette).

    The veggie potstickers ($9.36/pound) I spotted in the deli case were another happy surprise. I don’t think I’ve ever encountered potstickers that feature corn as part of the filling but I have now, and it’s a wonderful combination. Plus, the dumplings were tossed with a light sesame dressing, sesame seeds and julienned bell peppers, which contributed to an enjoyable package of flavors and textures.

    I’m still in soup season and grabbed a cup of the Beef and Vegetable ($4.11 for a cup) listed on the specials board and found it to be a great bridge between the stews of winter and the chilled soups of summer. The light tomato broth infused the generous serving of carrots, celery, onions and small bits of beef with bright, spring-y flavor with a boost from pleasant seasoning. Consider it a taste of what’s to come when the summer veggies come in.

    Chester’s Main Street district is getting busier by the day, and the Sunday farmer’s market is starting soon. Pop in the café or visit Simon’s table at the market and see what Chester’s local flavor is all about.

    Simon’s Marketplace

    17 Main St., Chester

    (860) 526-8984


    Cuisine: Breakfast and lunch with nearly 20 specialty sandwiches plus daily specials; deli salads; and a hypnotizing array of baked goods.

    Hours: 8 a.m.-6 p.m. Mon.-Sat., and 8 a.m-5 p.m. Sun.

    Prices: Not super cheap, but not the priciest café in the area. Sandwiches run from approximately $9 to $11.

    Service: Friendly and accommodating, but you’ll have to wait a bit if it’s a busy time of day.

    Atmosphere: One of the best things about Simon is its set-up; it’s part café inside, with soul-charging levels of sunlight, and part gift shop with a revolving selection of local items, including dishware, candles, stationary, and, oddly, many choices of novelty socks. A handful of outdoor tables offer spectacular people-watching.

    Credit cards: Accepted

    Accessibility: As an older institution in Chester, Simon’s entrance of a few shallow steps appears to be grandfathered in.

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