Let’s face it: For all the challenges our region faced in the days after Irene, the storm humbled us more than it hurt us. By the time it reached our corner of Connecticut, Irene had weakened from a hurricane to a tropical storm, and the damage left behind amounted to an expensive inconvenience, but hardly the deadly devastation seen in other states. In fact, the conditions most of us lived through this week were probably much more comfortable than what millions of Americans endured on their summer camping trips.
For example, I suffered the hardship of swimming in my parents’ pool because I couldn’t shower at my house. When I needed electricity to write this column, I had to sit in an air-conditioned library. And when I needed to put gas in my car, I had to drive to an oasis of electricity—all the way to Groton—to do it. While I was there, I sought relief for my tattered spirit by eating lunch at the Village Bake House on Long Hill Road.
The Village Bake House, which also has a location in Niantic, is a wise destination for breakfast and lunch in pleasant or stormy weather. The restaurant makes several salads for around $7 or $8, soups for $3.99 a bowl, and more than 30 wraps and sandwiches on fresh bread for $6.99 with a pickle and a side. Half sandwiches are only $3.69, and on Saturdays all sandwiches are $5, which makes the Village Bake House a great place to pig out on delicious food cheaply.
The Grilled Hamilton is a smart investment at any price. Grilled on eight-grain bread, it contains layer upon layer of ham, enough layers that it requires effort to count them, like the rings in the trunk of a tree felled during a hurricane. The sandwich includes still more layers of roasted red peppers, purple Bermuda onion (a bit too much of it), melted Swiss, and mayonnaise. Ham sandwiches are always good, but the Grilled Hamilton takes it to another level.
A friend of mine recommended the Chicken BLT Melt, which also comes on grilled eight-grain bread, although I ordered mine instead as a wrap. Thick slices of chicken breast and ample bacon join lettuce, tomato, mayo, and gooey American cheese inside the wrap, which would be better if it were softer and stuffed fuller. The sliced tomato in mine was extra sweet and fully ripe, however, and its juice mixed with the mayo to put an acidic exclamation point on the classic BLT flavor.
When I called in my order—the Village Bake House is a perfect choice for take-out—I asked for the chef to surprise me with my third sandwich. He responded with the Chicken Salad Melt. It’s hard to tell which is the star of this sandwich—the chicken salad, which is worth asking for the recipe, or the Indian grain bread. Dark brown, a touch sweet, and so fresh that it’s pillowy soft, the bread is studded with sunflower seeds and oats.
The chicken salad, meanwhile, plays it safe down the middle—not too peppery, not too oniony, and no surprises like mustard or curry, although it is rather wet. The chicken is chopped finely, the onion more coarsely, and bits of scallion add more color than flavor. The best part, though, is the occasional sliced red grape, which bursts with juicy sweetness. Thin slices of tomato and green pepper add heft, and melted American cheese holds it all together and helps it stick to your teeth.
I tried not to eat all three sandwiches in one sitting. I thought it would be wiser to save some food for later, after surviving a natural disaster and all. But then I remembered my refrigerator would be lukewarm anyway until power was restored, so I forced myself to finish all three. Oh, Irene, the suffering you have caused!
Village Bake House
500 Long Hill Road
Groton, CT 06340