Middletown’s Main Street, a quaint strip of Victorian houses, steepled churches and storefront shops, served as the suburban community’s main drag for many years as its commercial center and a slow-down, look-around opportunity for traffic on the old U.S. 60.
Then came the age of the suburb. Middletown got a four-lane “bypass” that sped traffic around the old town center and that quickly sprouted with shopping centers and strip malls, and Main Street settled into a quieter, gentler place.
It was a perfect setting for boutiques and consignment stores and lots of antique shops, and like nature abhorring a vacuum, in they came.
And as surely as night follows the day, the crowds of antiquers were followed by a squadron of luncheon spots and tearooms standing ready to serve them. Some might describe this sort of place as designed for “ladies who lunch,” but to be honest, I have yet to dine at one without finding at least one other certified male on hand, apparently enjoying his meal as much as I do.
The neighborhood is just about awash with them, and many have stood the test of time. This time we dropped in on what may be the grandmama of them all, Cottage Cafe, located in a charming little yellow house – okay, cottage – at 11609 Main St., where the proprietors happily confided that they’ve been on the spot since 1977 and serving lunch from 11 a.m.- 3 p.m., Monday-Saturday.
Proprietor Susan Stivers is justly famous for her homemade pies and cakes, and indeed, when we entered (through the rear door, please – there’s also parking back there), we were offered tastes of strawberry, dense chocolate and “Dreamsicle” cakes before we even got to sit down and look at a menu.
“It’ll spoil my luuuunch!” I whined, but how could I resist? All three tasted great, and they didn’t spoil my lunch at all. In fact, we still had room for a hefty, creamy wedge of coconut pie ($4.50) after lunch, and a box of strawberry cake with whipped cream ($4.95) to take home.
The menu contains just about what you’d expect: 18 sandwiches (from $4.75 for BLT or benedictine to $7.50 for a burger, club sandwiches or a “Super Sub”) and more than a dozen salads (with homemade dressings) from $6.50 to $8.50; most are $7.95.
Two soups are available daily: $2.50 for a cup, $3.50 for a bowl or $8.50 for a full quart. Or go wild and have your soup in a homemade sourdough bread bowl for $8.50. But wait – there’s more! Hot Browns are served Thursdays and Saturdays, and a soup and half-sandwich special (chicken salad) is $6.95.
Both soups of our day were fine, $2.50 cups of thick, comforting tomato-dill and intensely creamy, chowder-like potato, sausage and chopped kale soup.
The day’s blue-plate special ($6.95) brought a very generous, inch-thick slab of coarsely chopped beefy meat loaf baked with a light tomato topping, tangy-sweet steak sauce on the side. It came with rich, hand-mashed potatoes, long-simmered wide green beans and a dinner roll.
The Veggie Supreme sandwich ($5.95) was good and good for you: thick layers of crisp green peppers, cucumber slices and red onions layered with plum tomato slices, black olives and a schmear of roasted red-pepper cream cheese on whole wheat. All sandwiches come with chips and pickle.
The aforementioned desserts were fine. With iced tea and water, a delicious and filling lunch came to $35.68, plus a $7 tip.
11609 Main St.
Robin Garr’s rating: 88 points