We recently dared to cross the Wellesley border into Natick because we’d been hearing great things about The Common Cafe & Kitchen, a new breakfast, lunch, and early dinner place located at 9 South Main St. in the former Bakery on the Common space. A couple of neighborhood college kids had been working there over their winter break, and they reportedly were enjoying the part-time hours, the tip jar proceeds, and the excitement of being in on the “it” factor a new place in town always breezes in with.
The premise of the place is simple: you take a look at the breakfast menu of eggs offerings, oatmeal, french toast, bagels, scones, muffins, croissants, breads, and, of course, coffees and teas or the lunch menu made up of sandwiches, salads, soups, and quiches. From there, you place your order at the register, they hand you a number, and then staff brings your order to your table or seat at the counter. The restaurant has table seating for about 36, and the sleek counter area sits around 10. That counter area is sheer genius, allowing the solo diner to relax without the guilt of taking up an entire table. It also serves as a bar area. The Common Cafe was recently granted a beer and wine license.
The decor is au courant minimalist, with white subway tiles and white tables and chairs. The tin ceilings in the historic building remain, thank goodness, freshened up with a coat of white paint. The whole place is clean, clean, clean.
The first time I went, I tried out the Fancy Pants Grilled Cheese made with Taleggio cheese, fig jam, escarole, grilled on country white bread ($10). The cheese was perfectly melted, the bread was grilled evenly and without excessive butter. The escarole didn’t appeal to me, however. There was a certain slime factor that the heat from the grilling imparted. Next time I will skip my greens on that order.
My companion ordered the Pollo, a sandwich made of roast chicken, mozzarella, Vesuvius tomatoes, and basil on ciabatta ($11). It disappeared in no time, so there’s a ringing endorsement. Lunch came to $28 for two for lunch including drinks, not including chips, for sale separately in a display near the register.
On my second visit I tried out their Vegetarian sandwich made with roasted eggplant, pickled red onion, arugula, shaved Manchego on a baguette ($10), which I am still dreaming about. If you ask, they’ll put it through the panini press for you, which I highly recommend. The mild heat warmed it up the eggplant just right, melding the flavors perfectly, and the arugula didn’t suffer in the slightest from the panini press treatment.
Drinks available include Tower soda, Deb’s Lemonade, juice boxes, and Italian sodas. There’s also coffee and tea, of course. A few of the offerings: brewed fazenda cofffee; cappuccino; caramel macchiato; Tea Pigs Teas; cocoa; iced coffees.
Some other offerings for lunch were The Cure (Italian meats and cheese with olive salad on focaccia bun); Patty Melt (ground beef, special sauce, grilled onions, American chesse on rye); Romaine salad; Nicoise salad. There’s also pig in a blanket or grilled cheese for the kids.
There’s a case of baked sweets and one of prepared foods. On hand in the prepared foods case when I was there: Macaroni and cheese ($10); Turkey meatloaf ($12); braised chard ($7); potato leek gratin ($12).
The Common Cafe & Kitchen hours: Tuesday – Friday, 7am – 6pm; Saturday – Sunday, 8am – 3pm; CLOSED MONDAYS.
Judging from the steady stream of customers, The Common Cafe & Kitchen appears to be a welcome addition to Natick Center, an area that has been quietly developing a cool factor. You could easily spend an entire morning poking around there. Have breakfast followed by a visit to Natick’s year-round farmer’s market open Saturdays 9am – 1pm in the Common Street Spirituality Center during the winter months, and on the Natick Common during the warm-weather months. You could then take the kids over to the beautiful Morse Library, where they often have a Saturday morning craft, or Lego event, or story time going.
There’s also plenty of interesting indie shopping such as Renew Arts & Industry, a gallery shop that features mid-century modern design, vintage furniture and decor, tableware, pottery, original art, and vintage fashion and jewelry; Gallery 55, which features hand-crafted jewelry, original art, and exhibition space; Iron Horse Fiber Art, which sells fiber products, yarns, fiber art equipment, and offers classes and workshops; Robjets D’Art Vintage Store, vintage jewelry, books, vinyl music, curios and art; This & That, a trendy and eclectic mostly resale shop offering women’s clothing and accessories, and home decor; and many more shops and restaurants.
Here’s the fun mid-century modern-vibe necklace I got at This & That, a bargain at $5 (I’ll wear it tonight to the big Think Pink basketball game at WHS tonight — Raiders vs. the Natick Redhawks — so if you see me, don’t let it pass unmentioned):
“The gentrification of Natick,” sniffed my companion, perhaps feeling nostalgic for his formative first four years living in the town, back when everything was simpler. But maybe he’s right. Bustling restaurants, an artsy vibe, indie shops…that’s how gentrification gets its Tod’s loafers wedged in the door, after all. Natick’s even gone tear-down. Construction of a new building is underway, right across the street from the Natick Commons. Could it be Natick’s very own, far less pricey, version of Bel Clare? Suddenly, Wellesley’s next-door neighbor is starting to look rather worth crossing the border for, in many ways.