Buttercup 13 West Central St., Natick, MA 01760 (508) 545-1506
I just went for it and ordered the most expensive entree on the menu, Maine halibut, Yukon potato, fennel, peas, pepper lemon cooked with white wine ($30). Loved everything about it, the plentiful portion size, the creaminess of the Yukon golds, and the pure spring-time pop of the fennel and the peas. This was the entree that most beckoned “spring!” to me, and made good on its promise. My companion’s fish tacos arrived at the table beautifully presented with pico de gallo and chipotle aioli. She expressed surprise that the fish was deep fried, but got over that once she tasted it, and happily kept going. Some other entrees on the menu: vegetarian risotto with spring vegetables and parmigiano; beef short ribs with mashed potato and baby spinach; and chicken with haricots verts, mashed potato, baby carrots, and lemon. See our full review here.
Charles River Coffee House 57 Eliot St., Natick, MA 01760 508-655-3238
This independently owned coffee house also offers muffins, scones and other breakfast food, and lunch including falafel wraps, sandwiches, homemade soups, stews, and salads. We’re partial to their BLT on thick slabs of whole wheat bread, toasted. It’s a great place to go after a visit to Elm Bank reservation, whether you’ve been Nordic skiing, visiting the gardens, or just walking the dog. The outdoor seating area is popular with cyclists coming out of the Dover and Sherborn countryside. The historic Bacon Free Library is across the street, and the Natick Historical Society Museum is in the basement of the library. Check for hours before visiting.
Frescafe 158 East Central Street, Natick, MA 01760 (508) 647-0200
This table-service breakfast and lunch spot is open every day, 7am – 2pm. Frescafe offers all the breakfast classics such as eggs served any way you want, pancakes, waffles, breakfast sandwiches, and more. A kids menu will help the little ones grow big and strong on smiley face pancakes and french toast. For lunch they have sandwiches such as steak bombs (shredded steak, onions, peppers, mushrooms & Swiss) and Avocado Chicken Wraps (lettuce, tomatoes, avocado, bacon, and ranch dressing), as well as soups, salads, and burgers. I tried out their oatmeal and fresh blueberries, which arrived steaming hot with a generous portion of fruit sprinkled on top. The service was excellent. That and the food keeps a crowd of regulars coming in to sustain themselves with a meal and some early-morning socializing.
89 Pleasant St., Natick, MA 01760 (508) 651-1539 April 2021: We wanted a venue that felt safe and where we could celebrate our half-vaccinated state on a chilly spring day. The Greenhouse with its high ceilings and enormous dining area that holds 37 well-spaced picnic tables fit the bill. The big win of the night was the Nashville hot jumbo shrimp with Vermont cheddar garlic bread. The “hot” refers to the sauce that had a solid kick but didn’t overpower the cheddar cheese. This one’s a winner paired with the farmer’s baby greens salad with cranberries, goat cheese, pepitos, chives, and butternut squash. Wash it all down with a Hay Bale Belgian Golden Ale and go away happy. MORE: Our visit in Dec. 2020, when the space was in its early days.
Renée’s Kitchen 148 East Central Street Natick, MA, 01760 (508) 545-2971
Renée’s Kitchen opened just over the Wellesley line in 2017 with the goal of providing families with a home-cooked meals made with fresh ingredients so that they can enjoy time together without the stress of deciding, “What’s for dinner?” Walk into the spotless space and it’s likely you’ll be greeted by Renée herself, who was on hand to explain to me how her prepared-food business works. The menu is updated every Saturday for the next week, and meals are ready to go by 3pm. I stopped by at around 1pm and there was plenty on offer in the huge glass refrigerators, but if you have your heart set on a certain thing, stop by at 3pm or after. The chicken and linguine with kale was a big hit with my family, and it came with a Caesar salad and bread. I also picked up some blueberry muffins, which were the size of muffin you would make at home, not a gargantuan piece of cake in disguise that is common at other places. Some other meals on rotation: Curried Shrimp with Noodles; Veggie Stuffed Eggplant; Veal Parmesan. And of course, there’s a Wellesley connection. Renée is the adult daughter of Wellesley’s own Barbara Flaubert, tireless Recycling and Disposal Facility Reusables area volunteer.
Shanghai Tokyo 54 East Central St., Natick, MA 01760 508-651-0818
In a nondescript strip mall (is there any other kind?) resides sushi greatness. If you are looking for super-fresh sashimi or maki that’s made with attention to the rice as well as the fish filling, and some nice house specialties, all at a decent price, give Shanghai Tokyo a try. Located about 2.5 miles from Wellesley Square, a straight shot down route 135, consider it your alternative to Yama when that standby is too crowded but you still need a casual Asian restaurant for lunch or dinner. Last time we went, I ordered the hamachi sashimi, an order of salmon maki, and an order of tekka maki, all fresh and delicious, as usual. As I sat sipping my Sapporo, a man picking up his take-out order greeted the sushi chef. “You made my order, right?” he asked, holding up his bag. “Excellent, I know it will be good, like always.” My companions ordered the chicken fingers, which they were satisfied with, but really, it takes a certain palate to get excited about them. It all looked like a lot of deep-fried dough to me, the type of dish that only adolescents can get away with eating without later repentance. Steamed ravioli made it to the table, too, hot and with a couple of good sauces on the side, and the chicken wings were crisp and plentiful.