Our Gourmet: Great place to fuel up before hitting the trail

August 16. 2017 12:28AM
Colorful paintings and mosaics are everywhere at the Gypsy Cafe, including the tabletops. 
Colorful paintings and mosaics are everywhere at the Gypsy Cafe, including the tabletops.
Gypsy Cafe
117 Main St., Lincoln; 745-4395; gypsycaferestaurant.com

Lunch: Wed.-Sun., 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Dinner: Wed., Thurs., Sun., 5 p.m. to 9 p.m., Fri.-Sat., 5 p.m.-9:30 p.m.

Cuisine: Eclectic.

Pricing: Appetizers, $8.99-$10.99; soups/salads, $3.99-16.99, plus extras; lunch, $7.99-$10.99; entrees, $7.99-$25.99.

Scores for Gypsy Cafe
Atmosphere: 18/20
Menu: 18/20
Food: 18/20
Service: 18/20
Value: 18/20
TOTAL: 90/100

This colorful mosaic bear keeps an eye on the dining room at the Gypsy Cafe in Lincoln.

When the Dining Companion got the idea that we should go hiking one Sunday, we saw it as an opportunity. Now, we’ve never been a big fan of walking up mountains, even if the view is magnificent at the top, but if that was the excuse to get to Lincoln, we weren’t going to turn it down.

We’ve had the Gypsy Cafe, located on Lincoln’s Main Street, on our list of dining destinations since the DC went to a plant-based diet more than a year ago and we found the place on the internet. We hadn’t headed towards the Notches in ages, but, as always, when the mountains came into view, we kicked ourselves for neglecting the northern reaches of New Hampshire.

The Gypsy Café was almost as spectacular. Smack dab in the middle of Lincoln’s downtown, the restaurant is housed in a former home, and appears plain from the outside. Inside is another story.

Tables of blonde wood in various sizes fill the main room. Walls are a light orange color, but fade into the background thanks to the café’s artwork, which is everywhere. There are paintings and drawings and mosaics everywhere: on the bar front; on the walls, on the lightshades; even on the table. The color combinations give the Gypsy Café a festive feel.

It being a beautiful summer Sunday afternoon, however, we chose to sit at one of the café’s outside tables, where we could enjoy the weather, the mountain views, and the sight of all of the Massachusetts cars heading out of town.

Like the place itself, the menu at the Gypsy Café is worldly. Dinner options include dishes inspired by the cuisines of Peru, the Caribbean, Tunis, Ethiopia, Thailand and Argentina, to name a few, and include stir-fries, as well as beef, lamb, pork and duck dishes. We were here for lunch, however, where the menu was simpler, but just as eclectic.

We started with an appetizer of Egyptian Brussels sprouts ($8.99), which took some time to prepare but were worth the wait. When the small wire basket filled with sprouts not much bigger than marbles arrived, we dug in. Finished in fire, the sprouts were scorched on the outside, each encapsulated in a charred, papery crust surrounding a tender middle. Perhaps by having been inverted into the basket, the first few tasted decidedly of cooking oil, but as we dug deeper we found the spices and honey they’d been cooked in had settled and were much tastier. A hazelnut-feta dipping sauce brought this app over the top.

The 7-year-old Fussbudget, whom we were bringing on his first hike, stayed away from the sprouts, keeping himself busy filling up on Coke and watching two little girls at the next table each enjoying a bowl of slurpy ramen noodles (the menu said they came with sautéed crab, corn and kale in a tomato broth…something to try next time at $9.99). For his lunch, he opted for a personal pizza off the children’s menu. It must have been “good,” as he described it, because he ate all of the 10-inch pie except the crust.

Usually a huge fan of falafel ($8.99), served at the Gypsy Café in pita bread, the Dining Companion instead opted this afternoon for the café’s “San Francisco,” ($7.99), a pannini of Portobello mushroom, marinated and then grilled and topped with red onions and Havarti cheese. Pressed tight and grilled but not greasy, the mushroom’s earthy edge was muted, and the DC offered that there was a nice balance between the ’shroom and the cheese, with the cheese not overpowering. In Our Gourmet’s opinion, the sprinkling of balsamic vinegar that topped the sandwich made the meal, its tangy goodness the perfect counterpoint to the mushroom.

Plenty of the more exotic options had caught OG’s eye, particularly the interestingly named “Moroccan Bus Station Lunch” ($9.99), described as two lamb meatballs baked in tomato sauce with two eggs, but the call of the Tao Black Bean Burger ($7.99) proved too strong, and was the right choice given the strenuous walk to come later. Bean burgers can really be hit or miss, but Gypsy Café’s was a winner.

Of hefty size, the burger was filled with beans and held together well. It wasn’t dry, as such burgers can be. Held together with mashed beans and likely mashed lentils, it was moist without being mucky, and was well spiced, with cumin coming to the fore. Lettuce, tomato and red onion completed the dish and played well with the burger. Given the goodness of the burger, a side of chips was almost an afterthought, though interesting. More than mere potato, these chips included zucchini and carrot as well, and would have been wonderful on their own.

Properly fueled for our hike to Arethusa Falls up in Crawford Notch, we headed out, but not before marking the Gypsy Café on our map so we can make a return visit someday for dinner. Next time, we won’t need an excuse.

Our GourmetLincoln

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