It’s a modest place, tucked away on Route 7 South in Falls Village, CT. Clean white building, ample parking with overflow across the road, a simple sign and a warm welcome. Mountainside Café is one of those unique places where the community inside the building welcomes and builds the community outside the building. During the seemingly endless repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic, the café was forced to resort to carry out service, only. The community didn’t seem to miss a beat. Not getting the “Johnny Cash” breakfast inside didn’t deter loyal fans who had grown to cherish the clean, bright, friendly café with the wonderfully comforting menu. Now open with limited service, the café looks, optimistically, to a full schedule of days, times and service in the months ahead.
It’s that good!
Andy Ignace has been head chef at Mountainside Café for six years. He’s built a menu that provides such engaging choices that the often grumpy, picky and cynical TripAdvisor reviewers overwhelmingly applaud the food choices, the quality of the ingredients – many of them sourced locally – and, always, the genial staff. It’s interesting to read reviews from travelers who have happened on Mountainside Café in mid-trip and express the longing to return to try more or to have the same breakfast or lunch, again. It was that good.
Local sourcing is far from a mere motto for the café and the chef who prepares new menu items based on the fresh ingredients available and the encouragement and suggestions of the staff. Hurlburt Farms in Goshen, CT, sources the beef on the menu. Sugar Shack in nearby Litchfield, CT, provides maple syrup and honey. Litchfield Locker is the chef’s source for chorizo, sausage, and short ribs. “We’ve had rabbit on the menu when the Locker has fresh rabbit,” offers the chef. Few local eateries are offering rabbit, but when it’s fresh and available, seeing it on the Mountainside Café menu will not be a surprise.
Ignace became intrigued with cooking at an early age. Graduate of Mt. Everett High School in Sheffield, MA, where he advanced his interest in cooking, Andy continued his chef’s training in Lincoln Culinary Institute in Hartford, CT, then returned to work his way up in the kitchen of The Bridge in Sheffield.
When Mountainside announced the opening of the café and the extraordinary program that provides the genial, helpful staff, he was ready to make his move. It was impossible to not embrace the affirmation of community that one can find prominently placed on the Mountainside Café website:
“Community – In addition to supporting local vendors, we are proud to provide a safe and supportive space for individuals in recovery to practice critical life skills as they embrace a sober lifestyle.”
Community, lifestyle and rebuilding lives
The inclusion of lifestyle in the community paragraph is directly related to the reason Mountainside Café exists at all. Under Chef Ignace’s direction, the full-time employees of the café are talented, energetic individuals who have become part of the Mountainside Treatment Center and are eagerly rebuilding their lives. From their own descriptive language, “At Mountainside, we believe in caring for the client’s total needs, beyond the addiction diagnosis. With this holistic wellness treatment philosophy, we identify a client’s personal strengths and goals and care for our clients to facilitate change and empowerment for a healthier life.”
It’s that spirit that also attracted Sarah Winkley to join the Mountainside Café team some four years ago as Café General Manager. Also a local, having grown up in nearby Millerton, NY, Sarah had spent the early part of her career working in the Region One School District as a Special Educational Paraprofessional. With some additional experience in the food service industry, the opportunity to build and be part of a positive community was a real attraction. “We’re committed to making the surrounding community a part of our personal and professional lives,” she notes with a justified sense of pride. “Whether its being an active part of the ‘Trunk or Treat’ outreach or having Santa make a stop at the café so the neighbors can have a personal visit, it’s a real part of who and what we are. And, besides, this is a great team. It’s a bit non-traditional, but creating a peaceful environment in the kitchen goes a long way to building strong relationships.”
But, back to the food. One recent reviewer (from Kingali, Rwanda … not just around the corner) spared no praise when recommending at least one stop at the café in their five star review.
BEST BREAKFAST EVER!
“Do not pass go – head directly to the Mountainside Café for the most delicious breakfast I have ever had. The goat cheese omelet was sublime and everything we had was amazing! We were visiting from out of town for the weekend, and after a wonderful breakfast on Saturday, we had to go back there for breakfast on Sunday too! Why go anywhere else when the food at Mountainside Café is spectacular! When I walked in the second day, I was greeted by name and they even remembered my prior order. Lovely indoor or outdoor dining and the nicest proprietors!”
The menu at Mountainside Café is both encouraging and comforting. For those who are simply looking for a traditional café meal, there are abundant choices. If there is a bit more imagination in the palette, then departures from the tried and true beckon.
With the permission of the chef, one of his unique recipes is included, below. Normally found atop a classically prepared hamburger, the Bacon Onion Jam is a café staple and well worth the investment of time and ingredients. Even the novice chef should be able to follow Andy’s recipe to amazing result.
Bacon Onion Jam
2 pounds, diced bacon
4 diced yellow onions
¼ cup brown sugar
1 tsp salt
¼ cup red wine vinegar
2 tsp thyme
¼ tsp cayenne
½ cup of water
2 tsp balsamic vinegar
Directions: Render bacon until crispy, drain and use the grease to cook the onions. When onions turn translucent, add sugar, spices, and red wine vinegar. Scrape the bottom of the pan. Add water and turn down the heat. Reduce until 95% of the moisture is gone. Add back the bacon and the balsamic vinegar.
The Mountainside Café website brings up-to-date information about the opening days and times, access to the menu and concise information about the café, the support program and the reason the café has become a local gem during its seven-plus years of operation. It’s doubtful that most restaurants have well articulated Mission Statements, but since Mountainside Café is profoundly and proudly on a mission, their Mission Statement brings a real focus to the dining experience.
Mission: Our mission is to nourish and nurture our community by providing fresh, wholesome and delicious foods made with ingredients from local farmers, growers and producers. Through our efforts, we strive to promote healthy lifestyles and sustainable ways of living.
So important is the statement, that it appears on the wall behind the counter that itemizes available beverage items, bakery goods, and services provided by the staff.
The hopes of the team are wrapped in the notion of being able to offer their unique table service in the near future and to look forward to a seven-day-a-week service offering come summer when the roads are filled with locals coming by for a wonderful dining experience and travelers happening on one of the happiest, most welcoming restaurants for miles around.
For more information it’s always best to check at www.mountainsidecafe.com for the latest hours, offerings and updates.