[Sidebar] April 1 - 8, 1999
[Food Reviews]
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Ginger's Cafe and Bakery

A place to ratchet up the self-indulgence

by Bill Rodriguez

333 Main Street, Wakefield, 789-0914
Open Tues-Sat, 7:30 a.m.-5 p.m., Sun, 8:30 a.m.-noon
Major credit cards
Sidewalk access

Like its predecessor, Main Street Bakery, Ginger's Café and Bakery has become an institution in Wakefield. One person I know drove out-of-state visitors all the way from Providence to have lunch there. Even before you get to the food, it's clear why the place has acquired so many regulars. Tables are well-spaced in a large, high-ceilinged room, cheerily lit during the daytime from the stretch of street-side windows. Tall potted-plants abound. Tasteful photographs are on the walls and cloth is on the tables. Wine is available, by the glass or bottle.

I started to go to Main Street Bakery for weekend breakfast when I wanted to ratchet up the self-indulgence. One thing that set the tone was the crock of raspberry jam placed before you with your croissant. That remains, and an accompanying touch has been refined: the rosette of butter is now whipped butter -- no more smooshing your scone to crumbs.

The breakfasts, too, are still superb. The thick slices of French toast ($5.25/$3.50) come slathered with strawberry butter. A "mixed berry" version ($6/$4) comes with sour cream. The huge, oven-baked banana-walnut pancakes ($5.25/$3.25) are a favorite. There are fluffy omelets you can stuff with optional items, and a pesto omelet ($5.50), filled with fresh tomatoes and mushrooms, plus goat cheese ($1.25), if you like.

Breakfast frittattas are also on the lunch menu, in both a vegetarian version and one that adds Italian sausage (each $5.50). My lunch companion had one of them on my last visit, and while he enjoyed it, it was cooked too long for my taste, the cheese broiled so brown the provolone could have been cheddar. The house bread that day was herbed, and nicely compensated.

The grilled portobello pizza ($8.95) we shared was a pleasure. The crust was tasty and not greasy, the garlic not overpowering, and red onions and bell peppers joined mushroom slices under the mozzarella.

The best deal at lunch is the half-sandwich with soup ($5.25). The soup that day contained salmon with Jamaican jerked spices ($2.50/$3), which tasted like a spicier version of Manhattan clam chowder. There are more than a dozen sandwiches. One of my favorites -- and probably the most popular, from the frequency you see them passing by -- is the pesto chicken salad ($5), with celery mayo. Proprietor Ginger makes another mayonnaise, with cranberry, ginger and mustard, for the turkey Rueben ($5.25). Everywhere these days you find grilled portobello sandwiches (thank heaven), with roasted red peppers de rigueur. Here additional elements are spinach, for extra earthiness, and Boursin cheese, for a buttery, triple-cream complement.

For lunch three pastas are on the menu. I chose the gnocchi ($8.95/$6.50) and found the "Lite" portion plentiful enough. The little potato pillows were delicious, accompanied by chicken and sun-dried tomatoes in a loose pesto sauce.

Let's not forget that the place is also a bakery. To end a meal there without having dessert is like leaving church and forgetting the holy water font. From brownies (with or without cream cheese baked in) to lemon torte and fruit tarts, they certainly looked appetizing. I had a house specialty, tiramisú ($4) with a difference -- it is made in a cake pan with ladyfingers on bottom and sides, a traditional ingredient many places have dropped. Under the coffee-flavored whipped cream is both a layer of chocolate and Italian zabaglione, that exquisite custard made from egg yolks and marsala wine. Truly decadent.

Ginger's will open for dinner Wednesdays through Saturdays come mid-April. Some items that caught my eye on that prospective menu are rack of venison and three varieties of risotto. It looks like out-of-towners with hungry houseguests are going to be driving down to Wakefield in the evenings soon, not just at midday.

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