A lone line-drawing of a garlic bulb hovers on the awning above SimpleGourmet. Housed in a stout brick building hugging a green courtyard, the gourmet catering company and food store would fit gracefully in any North Shore downtown—except its own. The buildings surrounding the Simple Gourmet are grungy and underdeveloped, but don't be turned away; the service is "Leave It To Beaver"-friendly (it might even include a hug from bubbly owner Debbie Karhanek) and its food is prepared fresh. "When you eat something, you should know what's in it right away," says Karhanek. "In the spring the two of us will look like peasants coming back from the market [carrying fresh produce]," she says of her and SimpleGourmet's head chef, who collaborate on the dishes according to what's in season.
Just like its food, SimpleGourmet's interior is elegantly plain with Easter chick-yellow walls, welcoming pastry and food cases and wooden freestanding tables filled with pre-packaged goodies. The prepared foods like grilled salmon salad and fava bean, asparagus and sweet pea salad ($10.95/pound) change daily, and the set everyday menu that includes sandwiches, wraps, salads, paninis ($5.95-$7.50) as well as soups, stews and chilis will keep flavor-boredom far away. Morning snacks like muffins, scones and cakes are prepared and served daily, along with desserts like cupcakes, cookies and pie (try the colossal seasonal deep-dish strawberry rhubarb pie at $3.95 per slice). Two sheets of catering menus mimic the in-store menu, highlighting the variety SimpleGourmet is capable of in its dishes. It's not a full-service catering business yet, but the platters presented at events are very country-chic: adorable lightweight wooden rectangles veiled with diamond-shaped parchment paper.
Average cost: <$10
Centerstage Reviewer: Kate Puhala