A Northern Catalpa tree was planted outside the grand red-brick Lincoln Public Library in the early 1900s and something unusual happened to the trunk as it grew: it wrapped around itself in a spiral pattern. Locals call it the Twisted Tree.
Everyone in town knows the Twisted Tree, and as of last fall, townspeople have been gathering down the road at a spot named for it: the Twisted Tree Cafe in the Mall at Lincoln Station. The little place, with its 25 seats and patio tables, is around the corner from an MBTA commuter rail. Cafe management thought initially that it would mostly serve commuters. But it’s become a neighborhood hangout, with moms, construction workers, office assistants, and friends gathering for breakfast and lunch, until closing time at 3 p.m.
The cafe makes every effort to serve the entire population — vegetarian, gluten-free, dairy-free, and vegan — but no one here is out to reinvent a cafe menu. Similar sandwiches might have been served at a lunch counter in the 1950s, except everything here is homemade and you can taste the freshness of the ingredients.
Cheerful general manager Ash McLaughlin is trying to use what’s made or grown in her area, so sandwiches are layered on ciabatta rolls or white sourdough from Nashoba Brook Bakery, salad ingredients might come from Drumlin Farm, eggs and bacon from Codman Community Farms. She’s also teaching the young staff the importance of hospitality, so your sandwich might be delivered by the person who made it, and it’s set down on the table with a sense of pride.
Nashoba Brook’s ciabatta rolls are soft and floury, ideal for the nice homemade aioli that comes on some sandwiches. Charlie’s BLTT (the extra T is for turkey) is pleasing in every way and the sort of sandwich you might put together at home, except you may not have this delicious bacon or aioli on hand. Chickado is another sort of BLT, but with poached chicken, avocado, and more of that very good mayo.
Drumlin Farm salad right now is tossed with lots of fresh peas, pea tendrils, radishes, goat cheese, and red onion. Housemade berry muffins have a light crumb, and crusty tops covering blackberries, raspberries, strawberries, and blueberries in just the right proportions.
Also on the menu are chicken tacos with pico de gallo, Buffalo cauliflower wrap, a roasted beet and pickled fennel salad with quinoa, avocado toast (called millennial toast), breakfast burrito, and Tat-er-waffle sandwich.
The cafe, owned by Lincoln residents C. J. and Christine Doherty, is in the spot that used to house Trail’s End Cafe. It’s around the corner from a Donelan’s Supermarket, where there are plenty of grab-and-go options for breakfast or lunch.
But Donelan’s isn’t where you get to chat leisurely. In the tables around me I heard concerns about a boyfriend’s cool parents, two women discussing an itinerary that starts in Nantucket and ends in Virginia, an Eileen Fisher mom bonding with her teenage daughter, who had zero attitude (OK, she was on her phone most of the time), and a middle-aged man telling his friend about returning to his parents’ homeland to find a wife.
Those conversations are not happening in the produce aisle. The Twisted Tree Cafe, 145 Lincoln Road, Lincoln Station, 781-330-6007, www.thetwistedtreecafe.com