IN THE KITCHEN The big farmhouse at 529 King St. in Littleton has housed a few different restaurants over the past decade, and the latest incarnation is The Gallery Café, which opened in mid-April.
The cafe shares the space with Gallery 529, an artists’ cooperative that’s been there since 2014. The idea of combining a restaurant with an art gallery is a wonderful concept and a win-win for everyone involved. Patrons can stroll around with a cocktail and check out the artwork that adorns the walls. Local artists get the opportunity to showcase their masterpieces to a wider audience. And the restaurant itself benefits from all of the foot traffic.
The cafe serves lunch and dinner six days a week, and brunch is offered on Sundays. Chef Don McHale’s menu features soups, salads, sandwiches, steak, and seafood, as well as quiches.
THE LOCALE The building was constructed in 1830, and it’s bigger than it looks. The main dining room has high ceilings and plenty of large windows that let sunlight pour through, brightening the whole space. The tabletops in the dining area feature images of artwork by Andy Warhol, Jackson Pollock, Thomas Hart Benton, and other famous artists.
When you visit, don’t be surprised if you see adults coloring at these tables. You, too, will be tempted because the placemats are like pages from a coloring book. Every paper placemat features a black outline of ornate design, with blank spaces that are begging to be filled in. And guess what? You’re in luck: sets of colored pencils sit in vases on every table. Each pencil is topped by a colored pinecone — painted yellow, red, green, blue, purple, or orange — to match the hue of the pencil. In each vase there are pencil sharpeners, too.
More than 30 local artists sell their work through the gallery. Paintings, photos, and drawings hang on the walls. Handmade soaps, jewelry, pottery, and glass are also on display. Gallery 529 also hosts a juried art show every two months, and guests are invited to vote for their favorite piece. So go ahead, take a look around, and cast your vote before you leave.
THE MENU When we sampled the brunch menu on a Sunday morning, the breakfast buffet ($9) was strictly continental — small boxes of cereal, mixed fruit, yogurt, and assorted danishes and pastries. The fruit was fresh; the blueberries were very plump and sweet.
My companion Katie ordered bacon ($5), two eggs ($4) and white toast, but we were told there was no toast of any kind available. Thankfully, our waitress located an English muffin, which Katie accepted as a substitute. Katie’s daughter Maddie ordered the Belgian waffles ($8) and was very happy with how they turned out. They were thick and fluffy and cooked just right, and served with a generous dollop of whipped cream.
The cafe does offer daily specials. When we went to dinner one evening, the chef prepared a plate of bite-sized hors d’oeuvres of goat cheese wrapped in roasted red peppers, which were delicious. For our main meal, we shared an order of steak tips ($18) with sautéed onions and peppers, accompanied by sides of summer squash and mashed potatoes.
The dinner menu also features several choices of small plates, including chicken wings ($9), bruschetta ($8), spinach and artichoke dip with toasted pita chips ($9), and arugula and goat cheese flatbread ($10), made with fig marmalade and caramelized onions and topped with goat cheese and baby arugula. Entrees include baked haddock ($20) in a white wine lemon sauce and topped with Ritz and oyster cracker crumbs; roasted mushroom ravioli with grilled asparagus in a light spinach and sage cream sauce ($16); and 12-ounce rib-eye steak topped with roasted shallot-merlot butter ($22).
The lunch menu features soups, salads, and sandwiches. Choices include the turkey club ($7), fried haddock sandwich ($8), Mediterranean veggie wrap ($7), and chicken Caesar wrap ($7). There’s also a quiche of the day ($9) that comes with a salad.
On another visit, I tried the black bean soup, ($5 at lunch; $6 at dinner) and it was exceptionally tasty — the broth was neither too thick nor too thin. It was one of the best bowls of soup I’ve ever sampled, and I look forward to returning for more.
The Gallery Café is open Tuesday through Thursday from 11:30 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Friday and Saturday 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.; and Sunday 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. It is located at 529 King St. in Littleton; 978-486-8529; www.gallery529cafe.com.Emily Sweeney can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @emilysweeney.