It was one of those menus where everything was so original, creative, and tempting that I just couldn’t decide what to order. There are restaurants like that — few and far between to be sure, but a pleasure to encounter when one comes along.
Was it to be the “PLT” ($14), a riff on the classic summer sandwich with a Parmesan crisp replacing the bacon? Or maybe a Hoodoo Brown smoked turkey sandwich (14) with kimchi and bomba on black raisin bread? The grilled cheese (12) with Shelburne cheddar and smoked strawberry-onion marmalade was also making a strong case.
At the ADK Norwalk Art Space Café, they don’t make it easy.
There are all-day breakfast eggs with tempting sides, overnight oats, fresh berries with granola, and much more. Salads include cauliflower, green goddess, beet, heirloom melon, or panzanella, all with carefully chosen original garnishes. A selection of toasts — cinnamon, strawberry-chocolate, almond butter, and chocolate bread pudding — round out the picture.
At the counter to order, I presented my dilemma to manager Kelly Clement. I had thought about going further afield for a bowl of wild rice and eggs ($12) with pickled chilies, avocado, and cabbage. Her eyes lit up when I mentioned it. “Are the chilies hot?” I asked. “I’m a wimp too,” she said. “You’ll be fine. The crunchy cabbage with lime on top is delicious.”
With that endorsement I was all-in. Marsha ordered the Hoodoo Brown turkey (14) with the caveat that we switch halfway through.
Served in a bowl, the rice and eggs were scrambled together with a handful of green peas. Fanned slices of avocado lay across the eggs under a haystack of shredded cabbage with a lime half at the peak.
The sandwich was a marvel. The kimchi, with just enough kick to offset the rich bread and turkey, was complemented by the bomba (Calabrian crushed red pepper aioli). The black raisin bread alone, from micro-bakery Idyllwild Bread in Northern Westchester, was worth it.
Craving a sweet, I went back for an oatmeal-raisin cookie (3). Rich and cakey in the center with a crisp lacy edge, the flavor was excellent.
After lunch we had a chance to chat with Kelly. “Did you like the cookie?” she asked. Turns out she’s the cookie baker with Kelly’s cookie of the day listed on the menu.
Kelly introduced chef Caitlin McGowan. Both worked with Chef Bill Taibe before taking on the cafe. Taibe, the operator of the cafe, is the driving force behind some of the area’s best restaurants including The Whelk, Kawa Ni, and Don Memo in Westport. He’s brought his signature creativity and originality to the menu along with strong support for local suppliers.
McGowan explained that in keeping with the community-based arts mission of the ADK museum and gallery, the cafe works with local providers to source many of their ingredients and raw materials. No less than four area bakeries supply breads and sweets: Idyllwild Bread, Flour Water Salt Bread, Cloudy Lane Bakery, and K is for Cookies.
Coffee, a key element in any café, is locally sourced from Ilse Coffee. The House of Knipschildt supplies the chocolate. Cheeses on the menu are from the Darien Cheese Shop. And that tasty turkey came from the BBQ pit at HooDoo Brown.
Heirloom tomatoes and local peaches were lined up to ripen on the counter. “These came from the Westport Farmers Market today,” McGowan said.
The cafe, in the former choir loft of this repurposed church, overlooks the gallery in the high-ceilinged converted sanctuary. The menu advises, “Small Kitchen + small staff. Go enjoy the art. It may take some time.” Our service was very prompt, but it’s good advice.
The current show, Adger Cowans / Jahmane: A Dialogue In Styles, is a colorful display of painting, mixed media, photographs, and sculpture. The gallery exhibits local artists, chosen for their excellence and potential for growth. Exhibiting artists teach after-school art classes to local high school students as part of the Art Space educational mission.
The ADK Norwalk Art Space was the vision of Westport resident Alexandra Davern Korry who wanted to create a center that would serve as a free hub for the arts including exhibitions, teaching, and creating community. The gallery and cafe are open Wednesday through Sunday 9 to 4 at 455 West Avenue.
As we toured the gallery after lunch, the volunteer docent filled us in on the exhibit and upcoming events. Another couple chimed in, “We come twice a week and just love it.” Lucky them.
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Frank Whitman can be reached at NotBreadAloneFW@gmail.com.