A vase of fresh carnations and quartet of mini pink and white iced cupcakes sprinkled with red candy hearts greets diners stopping by for lunch at the Green Room Café. “Help yourself,” the hand-lettered sign reads amid the hominess of a favorite aunt’s country cottage kitchen.
Jean Simpson has been running this charming lunch café weekdays in Middletown since 2000 — first on Broad Street alongside the former Nest Egg antique shop and now here on College Street next door to the Ladybug Boutique.
Before that, the café was in Haddam at Goodspeed Landing.
“The people who owned the Nest Egg convinced us to move when they bought the building. There, it was a totally different thing, pastries, tea and coffee. Since then, we’ve expanded our menu greatly. When we moved up here, we became a full-fledged European-style café,” Simpson says.
“We serve a lot of teas and do different types of lunches — things you don’t get anywhere else,” Simpson says.
There’s salad, quiche of the day and fancy sandwiches, like roast pork with peach chutney and gorgonzola on a croissant; Tuscan melt with basil pesto, arugula, tomato, provolone and parmesan on a rosemary focaccia; or roast turkey with cranberry horseradish on a croissant.
A sunny table near the kitchen entrance showcases a lemon Bundt and chocolate cakes under domes with sliced strawberries and orange tulips.
In springtime, fresh, edible flowers garnish the sandwiches.
Dot, who’s sitting by a window flanked with green wooden shutters, is a decade-long customer. “It’s like home everything about it — the drinks, coffee, meals are out of this world.”
Much of their business is catering showers, weddings, birthday parties and events at Wesleyan University. A local book group meets there regularly for lunch and literature — today, Simpson’s booking a table for 12.
“We serve the best food you can get,” Simpson says, “We do an awful lot of catering at the university … word of mouth is the best ad there is.”
With just two employees, Gretchen and Dot, Simpson keeps the place running smoothly. “The food is amazing,” says Dot, who’s been there “forever.” “Just the utmost. It’s quaint, quiet, a nice place to meet with friends, comfortable and consistent.”
Gretchen, who's been working here a year, cites the amiable atmosphere as her favorite element. “I think people look upon us three not only as staff, but friends. Many people have been coming here since we were on Broad Street and we know so many of them on first-name basis.”
The Green Room, 124 College St., Middletown, is open weekdays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Call (860) 704-6999 for reservations or takeout orders.
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