When my friend Shel invited me to join her for lunch at the Bell Hotel, I thought there was a typo in her email. The Bell Hotel? That Bell Hotel? On Main Street?
As a customer of Mitchell’s Fabrics and a regular at MAWA’s annual art auction, I am no stranger to that stretch of Main Street. Still, it’s not the first place I think of going for lunch…especially since the Tallest Poppy vacated their spot in the New Occidental. I had heard a bit of buzz about what they were doing at the Lunch Bell Bistro, but I still wasn’t sure what to expect.
When I arrived at the bistro, I was pleasantly surprised. No, make that blown away. The interior is bright, clean and welcoming, and the smell of fresh cinnamon buns nearly knocked me off my feet. It truly is a wonderful space. Gleaming white subway tiles line the walls, a beautiful wood ceiling is overhead, and you can tell that very careful attention has been payed to detail – from the red/black logos on the wall to the engraved wood condiment stands on the tables. It’s nostalgic without being old-timey, and at the same time completely modern.
Once seated with my friends/fellow bloggers, we met the manager, chef, and a few of the staff members. Decor and food aside, the real story here is the social enterprise. The bistro provides training to adults with cognitive and intellectual disabilities – basically, people who might not have a chance to be a part of the workforce otherwise. After several weeks in the classroom, participants in the program are put to work in the bistro to receive real, on-the-job training in front- and back-of-house. They are taught everything from knife skills and making salad dressing, to taking and serving orders. Towards the end of their time at the bistro, they are given job placements and given opportunities to find real, meaningful employment in the food service industry.
Of course, what’s a restaurant without good food? The bistro’s chef sums up his food philosophy: “simple food, done well.” The menu at the Lunch Bell isn’t extensive, but still offers a wide range of fresh salads, hearty sandwiches, a burger, homemade soups (two per day), irresistible desserts, and hot lunch specials offered on Thursdays and Fridays.
I am a sucker for tuna sandwiches, so my decision was easy – curried tuna on multigrain with sliced apple? Yes, yes, and yes. The sandwich was hearty, but not huge, and the tart/sweet apple was the perfect compliment to the lightly spiced tuna filling, Along with a house salad, it was a perfectly satisfying lunch. And, just virtuous enough to allow for dessert. Or should I say “desserts”? Ahem.
The chef put together a few dessert platters for us to share, along with samples of those incredible-smelling cinnamon buns. (I had almost considered having just a salad and cinnamon bun for my lunch.) We tried apple/raspberry crisp, old fashioned butterscotch and raisin tarts, and an assortment of cookies, including the chef’s “famous” chocolate chip. Everything I tried was delicious, although I had to try the crumble twice, just to be sure.
The Lunch Bell Bistro is located at 662 Main Street and is open Monday to friday from 10am until 2pm. It’s a great place to grab a quick snack, a sweet treat, or a healthy lunch. The coffee is excellent and the people are wonderful. You’ll leave with a full belly and a full heart.