Sometimes a cursory glance at a restaurant isn't quite enough to tell you the whole story about the place. For instance, a dark bar that may look a tad sketchy from the outside might actually be a friendly gastropub, a place that looks like a basic sub shop might feature outstanding Sicilian pizza or steak tips, or a little diner-like storefront that looks like a typical greasy-spoon breakfast spot may actually offer more than just breakfast. And this last category describes an eatery in Newtonville just about perfectly, as the Newton Village Cafe on Washington Street, while perhaps looking like a place to go to for bacon and eggs and little else, is definitely more than meets the eye.
The Newton Village Cafe (which is also known as The Village Cafe and is more of its official name) is located on a section of Washington Street that is a bit of a speedway, as the stretch of road between the heart of Newtonville--which is just west of the eatery--and Newton Corner is wide, straight, and runs parallel to the Mass. Pike, giving it the feel of a thoroughfare that is meant to be driven fast. Because of this, it is very easy to miss the restaurant, and its small storefront doesn't help matters much, either. The signage out front reflects the fact that the Village Cafe had once been strictly a breakfast and lunch spot, as one sign says "breakfast, lunch, takeout" while the other says "breakfast, lunch, dinner," but the word "dinner" has a different look to it. The setup inside feels decidedly diner-like, with a tile floor, wood-paneled walls, counter/bar seating in the back, a handful of tables in the front by the entrance and the front windows, more tables scattered about closer to the counter, and a tiny patio set up out front during the warmer months. A narrow walkway leads from the entrance, and on weekends this space can get crowded with people waiting to be seated, so the tables that line up by the walkway can get a bit claustrophobic, making the counter area and the front window area better options for a more peaceful meal when it is busy.
While formerly a diner that focused mainly on breakfast, the Village Cafe has evolved since it came under new ownership several years ago, but breakfast is still king for many regulars here. Included on the breakfast menu are all the basics, including omelets, pancakes, French toast, waffles, muffins, delicious house-made corned beef hash, and yes, bacon and eggs, but there are also some less-common dishes here, including a nap-inducing strudel berry French toast with strawberry ricotta, tangy lemon ricotta pancakes served with blueberries, and a crunchy granola-dipped French toast. Lunch offerings at the Village Cafe focus on sandwiches, (burgers, pastrami, French dip, grilled chicken, and an array of panini options), while the dinner menu features a mix of American, Italian, and Greek specialties, with the latter including a Greek salad with creamy dressing and lots of feta and an outstanding scratch-made moussaka with layers of ground beef, potatoes, eggplant, and rich bechamel sauce. Other dinner highlights include steak tips in a zingy house-made marinade, a traditional turkey dinner with all white turkey meat and scratch-made stuffing, an old-fashioned house-made meatloaf, tender baked scallops, and a hearty spinach pie. A small beer and wine menu is offered at the restaurant, and cocktails are available as well, including a few martini options. [Ed note: As of this writing, dinner is only offered Wednesday through Friday.]
The Boston area has its fair share of diners and old-fashioned family restaurants, and the Village Cafe in Newtonville can certainly be included in both of these categories. The fact that it is nearly completely unknown outside of the neighborhood also gives it a true "hidden gem" status, and for those who lament the fact that there are few good casual Greek sitdown restaurants in the region, this place--while not a true Greek dining spot--has enough dishes to make it well worth seeking out if you like Greek fare. It may still look like a humble little breakfast place even after having some changes put in place, but the Village Cafe is definitely much more than that, and a must-visit for anyone who likes independent ma-and-pa type eateries.
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