There are few areas more distinctly 18th century New England than the countryside of Russells Mills Village.

From the old library (now the Dartmouth Historical Society) to Alderbrook Farm to the recently refurbished Davoll’s General Store, it’s like a 200-year-old throwback.

We often drive through the area on our way to some of our favorite DNRT trails — Slocum’s River Reserve, Frank Knowles/Little River Reserve, Destruction Brook Woods — and Demarest Lloyd State Park.

Of course one of the genuine treasures of this area is the Parson’s Reserve, where around this time every year the daffodils are in full bloom and plentiful, creating perfect photo ops and a true sense that spring has arrived and summer is around the corner.

 

So when the Wild Honey Cafe opened late last fall in the same building at Davoll’s, we hoped it would be a great place to grab a sandwich or salad before or after a nature hike.

We first visited a couple of weeks after it opened, on one of the last warm days of the fall. We returned this past weekend on our way to check out the daffodils — taking your nine-month old there for photos is basically a rite of passage — and both times enjoyed this quaint cafe stocked with fresh, down-home flavors.

Owned and operated by Jillian Martin, a family friend of Davoll’s owners Kim Arruda and Jim Chouinard, the Wild Honey Cafe is located in a small room on the North side of the store. The community cafe only features about seven tables and a few seats at a small window bar. The back of the room is a flower shop, Fresh Foraged Designs, run by Jillian’s brother, Joshua Duclos-Rickard.

Thanks to tall ceilings, exposed beams and light, honey-colored walls, the 1,000-square foot restaurant doesn’t feel cramped, but instead cozy, with country touches like the sliding barn door you enter through, quaint curtains and farmhouse-style lanterns on the lazily circulating ceiling fans.

The counter-service menu, posted on chalkboards to your left as you’re ordering, isn’t overwhelming, with a half-dozen breakfast options, a handful of salads and several sandwiches. While we’re not coffee drinkers, there’s a large selection of hot and cold brews and teas, as well as some homemade bakery options.

On our first visit last fall, I tried the chicken salad sandwich ($7), and it was a light mixture of tender chunks of white meat chicken, mayonnaise, celery, cranberries and walnuts, all topped with lettuce on freshly made, fluffy white bread. My wife, Becca, had the Thanksgiving panini ($9) with fresh-roasted turkey, stuffing, spinach and a cranberry aioli on that same country white bread.

On Saturday, we got deeper into the menu, ordering the Wild Honey club ($8), grinder ($7) and the fresh foraged salad ($9.50), along with two Nantucket Nectars ($2.50 each).

(I should note we’ve never been for breakfast, but the sweet and savory stuffed french toast paninis ($9), one made with sweet cream cheese, seasonal fruit and maple syrup and the other with egg, bacon and cheddar have always tempted me.)

The salad stood out for its fresh, light flavors. A homemade maple vinaigrette brought just the right touch of mellow sweetness and vinegar bite to a bed of baby spinach topped with dried cranberries, diced apple, crunchy walnuts and creamy feta cheese.

The grinder was a classic Italian hoagie stuffed with generous portions of salami, ham, pepperoni and provolone. What made the sandwich was the crunchy bite of the pickled red onions and banana peppers, all barely touched with some oil and vinegar. (I ordered it without tomato, but I’m sure many would enjoy its inclusion.) There wasn’t any reinventing the wheel here, but it did everything well.

My wife enjoyed the house club, featuring fresh-roasted turkey, bacon and lettuce with a homemade honey mustard on fresh-made country wheat bread. Normally it comes with avocado and tomato, I suppose making it a Californian club.

The thick-cut turkey was tender and the mustard, which I thought tasted more like a stoned ground or spicy brown, brought the sandwich together.

Along with the fresh foraged salad, the two desert pastries we ordered — which in truthful chronology may have come prior to our sandwiches — highlighted the meal. I enjoyed a Mexican chocolate “cookie pie” ($3.75); two cinnamon and cayenne pepper cookies smashed around a dulce de leche (think caramel) filling.

The cinnamon came through strong and the faint resonance of heat was perfect with the slightly bitter chocolate. The texture was the clincher, with a crunch on the outside giving way to chewy insides.

The same was true on Becca’s house chocolate chip ($1.50), which looked thinner, crispier and darker than it was. It turned out to be what I consider a perfect just-a-smidge-undercooked moist in the middle, with melty semi-sweet chocolate chips, even though it wasn’t warm. (I’m not a baker, so I don’t know how they make these things happen.)

It was a big lunch, a sandwich or salad would be enough to fill most anyone up, and our bill came to $39.33 after tax and before a tip, which we left since they hand-deliver the food, including the cookies, to your table.

The Wild Honey Cafe brings throwback fresh flavors to one of the most pristinely preserved historic areas on the SouthCoast, a fitting neighborhood cafe that should serve locals and daffodil seekers alike.

 

Dine Out's reviewer visits restaurants unannounced and at his or her discretion. The Standard-Times pays for the meals reviewed. The reviews merely reflect one diner's experience. Ratings range from 1 to 5 stars.

 

 

 

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